The Little Girl, The Soldier and His Shiny Boots
after the war
There once was a normal, happy little girl in an average happy family..She loved her mum and adored her dad.They believed in God and she was taken to church every Sunday. The little girl wasn't so sure about this part of her week but she always did as she was told.
Her dad grew vegetables in the back garden---just one side of the back garden, the other side was childrens' paradise, complete with a swing, soft grass to roll around on and an inflatable pool for cooling off during hot weather.
They were just a normal, happy family, a home full of love and hard work.
The little girl had a cousin almost the same age as her. They played together often, with their dolls or sometimes solved jigsaw puzzles together, or dressed up in their mothers' clothes, trying to walk in high heeled shoes that were way too big for them.
Sally was the name of the little girls' cousin, and Sally had a big brother,very tall (it seemed to them )very handsome, especially when his face broke into a huge grin. A smile that could melt anyone's' heart.
One day the little girl was trying to polish her shoes for school, with a big brush and wax polish from a tin that smelled gorgeous..She did her best even though she had as much polish on her hands, arms, even her face , as she did on the shoes. Her dad opened the front door and in walked Sallys' brother . He'd come to take Sally home but also to chat with his favourite uncle.. In fact he always came to visit her dad, Uncle Joe when he was 'on leave'. The little girl didn't really understand what it meant 'on leave' but it didn't concern her.
She was just happy to see her big cousin, she loved his huge smile, the incredibly shiny buttons on his perfect jacket and his boots, oh boy did she love those boots. Never (she thought to herself)am I going to get my shoes to shine like those boots. It almost seemed she could see her face in them if she looked down at them hard enough. Cousin Johnny and his oh so shiny boots. The little girl loved him very much.
Time passed and soon the little girl became a teenager. Her cousin Sally went to a different high school, so they didn't see so much of each other. Playing in the garden didn't matter now. The important things were the latest fashions, the latest pop music, the latest hairstyles and the good--looking boy at school. She didn't even notice that her favourite cousin Johnny didn't pay as many visits to her dad. Maybe he didn't get 'leave' as often as he used to.
Oh well., back to her bedroom to try some new make-up, and new hairstyles while listening to her music on records, until the inevitable yell from downstairs "Turn that noise DOWN!. You'll be deaf before you're 21....."
One day, the little girl who was now a teenager was searching from store to store looking at new dresses and shoes, when suddenly she thought she recognised a man across the street---- but--- no it couldn't be could it ? 'Is that Johnny?' she thought.?' He looks so messy, so scruffy. It can't be'. Johnny crossed the street towards her and smiled. Wow! It was him The smile was the same around his mouth but his eyes were different, different how??? She didn't know. His shiny boots had been replaced by a dirty looking pair of tennis shoes. They talked for a few minutes , then the teenager walked away to the more important things. Maybe it was time to try some perfumes now..
Less than 2 weeks later she was awakened one morning to the sounds of chaotic noise coming from downstairs. Screaming?? Crying?? Shouting?? She wasn't sure.
She slipped her feet into her bedroom slippers and pulled her dressing gown around her, then made her way down the stairs to see what all the commotion was.
Her mum was sitting on a kitchen chair with her apron pulled up to her face, sobbing uncontrollably. Dad had his arm around mum as if to comfort her but his face showed that he needed comfort himself. It looked as though white--grey ashes had been painted onto her fathers' face.. He tried to tell her as gently as possible that his sister , mother of Johnny had gone to his house only to find Johnny lying face down on his sitting room floor., empty pill boxes scattered around the room, empty beer bottles lying on their sides,one seemingly still in his hand. The teenager, who now felt like the little girl again, heard the word 'suicide' and immediately a big red X covered up the word in her head. Not possible, Johnny was depressed, he missed his army life, maybe, . The doctor said he needed the pills. Perhaps Johnny didn't know he shouldn't drink alcohol with them,, --or he forgot he'd already taken them and took some more... It must have been an accident..........
The little girl ran from the room , up to her bedroom and curled up on her bed in the foetus position to cry and cry until her dad walked into her room. He held her tight and told her that Johnny had been a hero. He said "some heroes are killed on the battlefield., some heroes come home and are always seen as heroes., but some heroes come home damaged., damaged by what they've seen or even by what they have had to do, but they are all heroes.
The little girls' head was swimming with so many different thoughts, what about the last time she'd seen him in the street, looking so unkempt. Could she have done something? That look in his eyes that she didn't recognise. What WAS that look??? The guilt and the fear inside her bubbled up till she screamed out "Why did he have to die alone, daddy? Why did he have to live alone?" "There , hush now , calm down." There is something you can do , you know?" Think of your aunt, not yourself. She's just lost her only son. Think of her..
The little girl listened to her dad, crept slowly to the bathroom and washed her tears away., combed her hair and went to see her aunt. She sat on the floor at her Auntie's feet, holding her hand not knowing what to say, so saying nothing. She just held tight to auntie's hand and thought of her dad's words. "they are all heroes, but Johnny came home damaged"..It's life. It's not fair, but it's life..."
To this day the little girl who is now a grown woman cannot smell shoe polish without thinking of her handsome cousin Johnny, in his perfect uniform and his shiny boots.That is the best way for her to think of him. That is the best way to always remember him.........