Once it was all over he did remember.
Justine had just been born and he had been trying to make that monthly selling target at the garage. The new area manager had been on him. A smart arsehole from Stonehaven, up North who had served in the first Gulf War. He didn’t like him. His infantry experience in Iraq and his mention in Despatches (admitted under his sarcastic probing) meant the lanky bastard fed that childhood memory of him being called ‘stick insect’. Break time was his favourite for baiting him.
‘You must have looked like a twig with a rifle in basic training, mate.’
Or gems like, ‘You good pals with the officer class to get the mention in Despatches.’
They had warned him-and seemingly they had done it about a year before that too.
‘Please don’t use a mobile on the forecourt of the petrol station.’
The fire that engulfed the front of the engine was caused by the signal and the small pool left by the tanker that had re-fuelled the petrol station. A freak and unique accident. How lucky.
The severe burns on his legs meant they had him in a coma for five days. And now several weeks afterwards he was still over the bridge in Edinburgh. The physio and painkillers filled his days and the slow turn of time was marked by the nurses who came and went according to the shift pattern.
One, Nicola had been in Iraq with the Territorial Army. She had seen some sights and would come and ask him if it was okay to speak about events which were now more than a decade old.
Peace was sometime shit, he thought. His father was helping with the mortgage. He wondered about how they would cope. And the job. What job, more like torture.
Today his work colleagues were coming in to visit. The cheek of the man. Brian was coming in too. Not able to make an excuse-like taking the blessed twins (both boys) to their swimming. No, he had to come.
Tottering to the toilet. He passed a picture of a surgeon. There were art pieces of different medical staff all around the wards, he had found out. The background to the male figure was black and the poise of the man in scrubs was that of a warrior. The eyes focused and ready reminded of the snipers. They were a solitary bunch and always kept a focus despite their calm demeanour. He felt the pain in his legs etch out runes and markings in that internal landscape only himself was at large in.
The flowers and massive card appeared first as they came past the ward window. Pete was first to just look at his legs lifted up just above the bed sheets. He then looked at Nick’s face. After him Sue, the receptionist came in next to his bed as well as Max and then him.
There was banter about the effect on the five-a-side they always did each Thursday and the annual pub crawls in Prague or Barcelona.
It took about twenty minutes for Brian to speak.
‘I hope you’re no wanting you’re spot on the Target Chart kept now?’
The face of the Iraq soldier with his stomach blown open came to him before he spoke. The man had spoken and blessed Nick as he held his hand before death. Brian had been in and no doubt bullied and dominated his way around including the tours in Norther Ireland.
Next he saw Michelle’s face no doubt in tears when he would tell her about quitting his job tonight.
‘You’ve just got to share the crap you are inside with those outside, eh Brian?’
He said this and pulled himself up slightly on the bed as the others held their breath-or so it seemed.
He left putting down the card he was scanning while barely lifting it from the unit at the end of the short ward.
The hiatus ended as Max, ever the idiot asked if social skills were on the menu for tonight’s menu. And what were the nurses like.
Michelle cried but she was happy. She hadn’t wanted to say but it was killing her how unhappy he had been these past five years. The hours he had put in for little thanks.
He could re-train. Anything. It just wasn’t worth it.