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Homecoming 2 of 3

by scamp 

Posted: 10 February 2009
Word Count: 937
Summary: This is my second 'Homecoming' story. I am sure most know that Scotland is celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns as well as golf, whisky etc, Our local writers group have been asked to contribute to an evening with this heading of stories, poems, music and song. I would appeciate any comments.

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Homecoming 2

Staff Sergeant Andy Mackay quivered like an excited puppy as the plane touched down at RAF Brize Norton. He and his war-worn comrades filed off, every one desperate to be united with their loved ones after the hell of Iraq. The Army had arranged for the family reunions to take place in a block of adjacent offices far away from the clicking lenses.
It had been a very tough tour and several of their fellow soldiers had returned home earlier, but in body bags. Andy’s sniper platoon had done a magnificent job protecting the base from their positions on the rooftop. They had stemmed, then defeated, wave after wave of fanatical, at times suicidal, attacks from the Mahdi’s Army who outnumbered them hugely. They were nearly at the end of their reserves of strength and ammunition when the enemy decided enough was enough.
During the long siege they were each allowed one short satellite phone call home weekly. Of course it was no substitute for the real thing but their new Commanding Officer, a rather effete Colonel from Sandhurst, was not sympathetic. He seemed to place higher priority on rules, regulations, reports and his own reputation than welfare or the bloody, at times hand to hand, vicious fighting. The Colonel increasingly assured the men that the families were being very well looked after by Service support staff and wanted for nothing. He even said that they should relax in the knowledge that for centuries the British Army had cared for its own like loving parents.
Andy pushed open the office door as his wife Sam, crying and screaming his name, grabbed him, hugged and kissed him, nearly bowling him over. He noticed then, as he held her familiar body, how thin she was. When he was able to go and give a hug to his daughter Chloey and son Davy, again he noticed how thin, pale and stressed they all looked compared with his fit, tanned physique and blamed himself. No doubt this had all been caused by watching the TV night after night, worried sick about him, as more and more casualties were reported from the fierce battle for Basra. He decided there and then that his family had suffered enough. If he did not get his well-earned promotion and a secure position in the nearby barracks then it would have to be Civvy Street.
He did not even taste the welcome dinner at his home when a very different truth began to emerge. Andy went into the kitchen to help serve the meal and startled Sam in the act of stuffing a handful of blue pills into her mouth. Just as he began to confront her the doorbell rang.

‘Mr Mackay?’ said the senior of the two uniformed policemen.
‘No, Staff Sergeant Mackay to you officer. What do you want, you are interrupting a family reunion?’
‘I’m very sorry Sir, but we have an arrest warrant for your son, he is charged with armed robbery.’

Just then there was a crash as the back door flew open and the sound of fading running feet in the back lane.
Andy sat and listened in disbelief as the tale emerged. He noticed for the first time that his daughter was over-made up and looked like the hardened women of the night about whom his troopers joked. It transpired that the Civil Servants in the Ministry of Defence had messed up pay arrangement due to faults with a new computer system and his family were soon deep into financial trouble.
Sam had contacted army welfare who were only too ready to help with emergency funds but had to seek clearance from Andy’s CO in Iraq. The Colonel’s response was – ‘certainly not, the family can at least get jobs while we are fighting out here in their behalf.’ He also insisted that no further contact should be allowed that might lower the morale of his troops.
First Sam, then, to her horror and dismay, Chloey had to take to the streets to earn money. They both were soon taking drugs to blur out their hateful lives and fell into the vicious spiral of needing more and more cash to pay the pushers. Davy, frantic to find a way to get his mother and sister out of this mess, started on petty crime and burglary then became involved with more serious crimes.
It took months, with huge support from social services, drugs clinics and a sympathetic judge, for Andy to sort things out and see his family start to return to the lives they used to lead. He did confront the Colonel who was uninterested, dismissive and was clearly more concerned about the Parade to welcome them home than his soldiers’ welfare.
Crowds turned out to cheer the troops in full dress uniform marching up the main street and into the town square. The Colonel strode briskly at the head of the Regiment, turned, took the salute, then marched smartly up the steps to the platform. The Mayor made a very good speech welcoming the brave soldiers home, not omitting to mention those who had fallen. The Colonel then stepped forward to present the scroll giving the Freedom of the town to the Regiment. As he reached to receive it he looked up at the Union Jack fluttering proudly on the Town Hall.
The Colonel gasped as he noticed the familiar sight of a sniper rifle and scope protruding from a window. The Mayor leapt back at the loud crack, then looked down in horror at the blood staining the scroll of freedom.

Ian MacMillan 931 words

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Comments by other Members

Hilary Custance at 10:07 on 11 February 2009  Report this post
Ian, I think this is well written and touches on important current concerns. I think the ending is very effective.

There are a couple of things you might like to look into. You have piled on the disasters in such a way as to stretch credulity. I think, if I were tackling the subject, I would take one major disaster e.g. the non-arrival of money and one consequence e.g. the wife or daughter or son’s disastrous attempts to deal with the problem. You could then go into more depth, so that you show their distress rather than only having the space to list a series terrible events.

My other thought was that, although there is a lot wrong with the army, you are getting a bit close to a stereotype with your effete Sandhurst Colonel. I think there are soldier’s blogs that could give you a flavour of how they see their COs. I always find it fun to think of the obvious stereotype for a character and try and go the other way.

Look forward to Homecoming 3

scamp at 18:04 on 11 February 2009  Report this post
Hilary , thanks very much for your comments. I take your point completely about 'effete Sandhurst' types and also realise I have added nothing to the story. I understand the second point very well but am not sure I wish to change it.
Thanks again, 3rd story ready when site allows submission.
All the best Ian

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