Private Lazarus

This is a short story that came from two things: the rediscovery of how my great grandfather died in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 and the poem “Last Post” by Carol Ann Duffy Text and Audio recording of Last Post

“If poetry could truly tell it backwards, then it would.” Carol Ann Duffy

Private Lazarus

It wis dark and the mud wis runnin’ under ma collar. Christ ah wis tired but ah wisnae for moving. Ah wid lie here an let the cauld run through me, let the wee bit o’ heat still in me run out. But what in the name o’God was that pain? It wis sair and getting sairer so ah wanted tae coorie intae the cauld mud tae get away fae it. The damned pain widnae let me but. It wis pushin’ me up and pushin’ out ae me at the same time.

Then ah wis oan ma feet like a daft puppet loupin’ about on a string. Ah wis wobbling like a wis steamin’, felt like a man wi’ jeely for bones. Somethin’ ripped out ae me, like a wasp, but bigger. A hun bullet burstin frae ma chest and ma tunic fixin’ itself back thegethir as it goes out. Ah’m letting out a big tearin’ rasp o’ a breath.

Then ah’m fine. Ah’m breathin’ a bit heavy fae the weight o’ the the pack, but ah’m fine.

“Private Graham! Private Lazarus Graham!”Sais this big Sergeant Major, loud but awfy hearty like. Kinda smilin’ as he barked ma name. He tapped ma chest where the bullet had been.

Is that me? Is that ma name? Ah think it sounds right.

“Yer faither or yer grandfaither or somesuch wis a pal ae mine a lang time ago. Ah’ve lost ma runner. Drap yir kit an tak this letter back tae the fat major in the base. Ye know the wan wi the rid face? Aye ye dae! Get a move on laddie!”

 

Ah take the message. It’s a heavy bit ae paper an’ looks right official. Ah wis just about tae ask what this Major wis called but the big man wis away.

Ah drop the pack a bit reluctantly, that last time ah loast kit the bastards fined me a week’s wages. Ah start tae trot back. Ah’m no messin about wi’ orders fae that big RSM, smiles or nae smiles.

It’s awfy quiet about the field now an’ ah mak my way careful like, o’er the mud an’ the wire an’ the deid. The grun clears afore our wire. Ah see mates fae the squad, but ah keep gaun. Ah try no tae look at them an’ a wish ah knew a prayer but ma voice is stuck as far as praying goes, even inside ma heid ma voice is stuck.

Ah’m runnin’ past the stretcher bearers. Ah try no tae see the faces o’ the wounded. Ah let ma legs and feet roll under me an afore long ah’m at the command post in Aubigny, coupla miles behind the front. Ah’ve remembered the officer’s name, he’s cried Campbell, cousin ae some Duke ah heard, an a carnaptious auld sod tae go wi’ it. Dae’in the biddin’ o’ the big RSM sae readily might no’ have been a good idea efter aw.

“Runner for Major Campbell!” gets the sentries out o’ ma way an ah’m led up tae a grand big hoose. A wee corporal wi’ a neb like a craw takes the letter. The paper is a creamy white against the clattiness o’ ma haun.

“Yer name an’ section?” sais the wee corporal, an he writes ma answer “Graham, L. 274874 1st and 7th Argylls”
“Whit’s the L for?” he nebs in.

“Lazurus”
He just smirks, an’ a sais nothin’ as he taks the letter awa’.

Lookin in the windae o’ the big hoose ah see stewards in white jaikets pourin’ wine intae crystal glasses. “The blud red wine”. This wee phrase fae the school starts tae knock about in ma heid. Some auld ballad about Sir Patrick Spens that Susie Sharnley, infant mistress in Campsie tried tae knock intae ma heid wi’ her scrawny auld knuckles. Ah could dae wi’ a glass o’ the real stuff right now but ah find the cook tent and get some tea that’s in danger of nearly being warm.

Ah’ve just sat doon when the wee corporal turns up again. He’s lookin’ soor an’ there’s a big Provost Sergeant behind him. The sharp wee face points in my direction and sais

“Aye that’s him there, that’s Graham.”

“Right Graham, Major Campbell wants you right away”

The big Provost Sergeant takes ower an’ ah’m marched double-time intae the grand hoose.

There’s tiles and doors and mirrors and fine plaster work everywhere.It’s the grandest place ah’ve ever set foot in, but wi’ the sergeant screamin’ in ma lug ah don’t really relax much in ma fine surroundings.

Major Campbell is wee an’ fat an’ angry. The pale white of the letter looks drained o’ life against aw the red on his face an’ hauns. He’s haudin’ a sheet ae paper that’s been crumpled intae a wee ba’ at some time and then opened up and smoothed out.

 

“Graham is it?

“Aye Sir”

“Don’t ‘Aye’ me my man. You will speak the King’s English here”

“Yes Sir”

“Have you seen the contents of this communication Private Graham”

“The what sir?” sais ah, confused by this turn of events as much as his words.

“The letter, the chit, the paper man! Did you know what was on it?”

“No Sir. Orders from the Sergeant Major to make sure it was delivered to you.” Ah sais, bein’ polite as ah can.

“Really… and this Sergeant Major, what was his name?” he sais bein’ aw suave an polite but gettin’ mair rid under the collar.

“He didnae gie himself a name sir, an’ ah didnae ask, havin just been wounded maself.”

“Wounded Graham? Where is this wound? Were you shot man? Are you in need of medical attention? Where is the blood?”

Ah touch ma chest where the Hun bullet came back out again an’ ah just feel daft. Ah say nothin’. Ah cannae even say the word maself: miracle.

“Can you read man? Were you brought up to read scripture from the bible?”

“Yes sir, ah wis” ah reply a wee bit slowly as ah don’t know where this is leading me.

 

“Then read this!” He pushes the heavy crumpled paper to the wee corporal wi’ the smirk who passes it tae me. Nae risk o’ the muck on me touchin’ the major.

“’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:40 “

Ah read it out and ah’m truly puzzled. Ah mean ah know it, the auld infant mistress put in an extra shift on Sunday tae grind this stuff intae our heids when we were weans, but what wis the big Sergeant Major thinkin’ ae? Sendin’ me back wi’ stuff like that?

Ah kept ma mouth shut.

“Nothing to say Graham? Strange. I thought that religious prophets and rabble rousers liked an audience for their fanciful ideas. It would seem that you are neither of those, for both require a deal of physical courage that it would appear you do not possess. You arrive here bleating about a non-existent wound and present my staff with words that have no place on a battlefield. You interrupt the chain of command upon which the offensive depends and waste my time with gibberish. Are you aware of what you are Graham?”

“Aye sir, ah mean naw sir… ah don’t know sir.” Ah’m dead, second time the day, is what ah sais tae maself.

“You are either a madman or a coward and I have time for neither. Sergeant Provost, take this man to the cells and have him examined by the duty Medical Officer. Return him to me along with the MO’s preliminary report at 09:00 tomorrow.

 

He sais this an ah can hear the wasp sound o’ the bullet somewhere in ma heid again…

“Listen to me jock, I’m taking you to see Captain Durrant, the Medical
Officer. He’s another Scotsman, but he can talk proper. He’s a good bloke,
tell him your tale of woe and get yourself sorted out. I don’t want to be
leading another firing party….” sais the big Provost Sergeant.
Ah must be the only soldier who’s double-timed down into the hospital
tent. Ah’m checked over by a wee nurse. The Provost whispers something
to her an she sais
“Well Captain Durrant will be two to three hours yet. He can assist the
porters.”
She’s no the type o’ wumman that ye argue wi’ , an she reminds me o’ my Annie: tight dark hair an’ a stormy face. So, ah spend an hour or so
moving stretchers wi’ the Scot’s lads and Canadians who’ve
been up on Vimy Ridge for the push. Ma heid’s spinning wi’ what’s
happened. That Hun bullet hit square in the chest an ah wis very near
dead when something hauled me up an ripped it back out o’ ma body. Nae
mark in ma tunic, nae blood and the pain o’ it aw gone. As for
the big ba’faced Sergeant Major wi’ the smile and “guid laddie” patter,
ah’ve never seen anything mair real. He gie’d me the letter for God’s
sake!
Ah need to make up my mind, dae ah shut up about it or dae ah tell
somebody? Ah’m no sure, Ah’ll need tae see this Durrant lad afore ah
decide whit tae dae.
Durrant comes in, he’s tall and a wee bit stooped for a young man. He

looks to be in his twenties but he’s got droopy eyes ringed wi’ black circles. Makes him look auld or ill, or baith.
“Good evening Graham. So, you are the evangelist that has had our dear
Major Campbell turn such a delightful shade of puce? As he sais this he lights a cigarette and pushes the silver case ower the table tae me.

Ah take one, thinking its the only thing ah’ll be gettin’ aff this toff who’s no that tired that it stops him loving the sound o’ his ane voice.
“Aye sir, ah’m Graham. Ah’m nae evangelist, ah ken that, but ah dinnae ken onything about puce.”

He laughs an ah’m on the point o’ saying naught tae him when he answers,
“My apologies Corporal Graham, let’s to your business.”
Ah decide tae tell him the story, the lot ae it.

He listens and nods and scribbles wee notes in his pocket book.
“So, Graham, you are aware that there is no physical evidence of a
wound on you at all? Major Campbell is of the opinion that you are a coward and a malingerer. He’d like you shot. Has you marked as a cool
and calm chancer who is working his ticket home by playing mad. I, on the other hand , see cool and calm in you but it is mixed with a great deal of confusion. In my view you have suffered a major concussion injury from a shell explosion that has left you unable to separate your dreams from the reality around you. You are entirely lucid but your overall understanding of the world is created by neurasthenia, what the press refer to as “shellshock” sais the Captain.
“Aye, right… sir” sais I.”Ah’m no right sure about whit ye just said there.”

“Corporal Graham, you may hear me as an Englishman, but I am a Scot
like you, born and raised in Dunblane and glad to see a man from the Argylls. As my old anatomy professor liked to announce at the start of his
lectures in Edinburgh – if you have a wheesht, now would be a grand time
tae haud it”

Ah stays quiet and nods at him.

“Thank you Graham. Now hear me out for a minute or so. One of the most common effects of shellshock is catatonia. A very long word for a simple idea: basically it means that many men who have suffered the effects of high explosive become mute, they retreat into themselves, they say nothing. Occasionally this is preceded by a manic phase. This is where I think you are right now, in the grip of a mania, a delusion, a strange waking dream. It may be that you will shortly become mute, confirming my medical opinion about your condition. Do you understand me Graham?”

Ah hear him awright. His eyebrows are aw arched up and there’s a wee smile playin’ oan his face. He’s tellin’ me tae keep ma mooth shut and play the daftie wi’ him and the major. So, ah look at him and nod.

“I’ve checked your record, and your name is James Graham. This “Lazarus” business is just another symptom. Have a look at your tags and check the initial. It will be “J”” .

The Provost sergeant takes me back tae a cell, “Alright Jock, the MO got you sorted then?” Ah’m about to reply but keep ma mooth shut an ma heid doon as ah shuffle ma way back out.

 

Ah’m lying in a cell an. Ah pick bits o’ crusted mud aff ma tunic and stare intae the dark. The red an’ green tags are inside ma tunic and right enough, stamped hard and clear, is a “J”. How did ah think ah wis called Lazarus?

James… James Graham fae Milngavie, is who ah am. Ah signed up, ah volun- bloody-teered tae come here. An’ ah start tae think o’ my wife and weans. Ah’m no a man for tears but ah think o’ Annie and say her name oot loud, like a prayer.

“Aye, she’s a braw lass is Annie”
Ah very near wet maself. Who wis that? Ahm ah gaun mad here?

“Don’t worry laddie. Ah got the key fae the provost sergeant and let maself in while ye were asleep.”

It’s the big sergeant major fae earlier the day, the wan that gi’ed me the orders to take the daft message tae the major

“A wisnae sleepin’ an I didnae hear any door” ah sais to him.

“Dinnae fret yersel’ laddie, I can be right quiet when ah go about ma business” he replies.

Ah wis feelin’ angry enough to talk back tae him, so ah sais “Aye sergeant major, ah’m sure ye can be quiet. But if ye don’t mind, then a few words about that message that I ran for you wid be appreciated.”

“Aye. Well…I’m sorry about that laddie. Ah wis just tryin’ tae find a way tae get ye back tae the casualty station. Ye were right confused by that shell blast…” He tells me, his big deep voice gettin’ a bit blustery, like a wean tryin’ tae think up a story.

 

“It’s funny that sergeant major, ah don’t remember any shell burst. No’ a lot of artillery at a’ fae the Huns side. Plenty of ours though, even if there wisnae enough tae deal wi’ the machine guns. It wis a bullet that put me down sergeant major an ah think ye’ saw it yersel’. An anyway, how dae ye know about ma Annie?”

“Aye, the nurse at the casualty clearing station must ha’e spoken about her when ah wis there askin’ efter ye.”

Ah know he’s haverin’, ah’ve thought about Annie but huvnae said a word about her. Ah keep quiet, thinkin’ that it’s time tae let him explain himself. His back an’ big shooders block the light fae the lamp in the passageway, an’ he just stauns there. Shell burst or bullet which one wis it? Ah’m beginnin’ tae think that ma memory is mangled in the way that Durrant said it wis. If this is pure imagination, a “waking dream” like the doctor said, then the big Sergeant can explain his biblical message tae the torn-faced Major an’ everything is settled. Nae cowardice, nae insubordination and nae firing party for me. Ah’ll mibbe even get hame for a while. See Annie an’ the two weans.

My mind takes me right back tae the time we’re courtin’. It’s May and the hawthorn is thick wi’ blossom like spoonfu’s o’ cream. The blue o’ the sky is washed out and faded wi’ the heat. A stir o’ midges is hingin like smoke in the stillness. The air is pricklin’ wi pollen and ah sneeze. She tells me a sneeze like a wummin’. Ah’ll need a more manly sneeze than that tae win her she tells me. Snortin’ an’ sneezin’ like ah’ve had pepper blown up its nostrils ah play the fool tae make her laugh. Her tight black curls bounce and her bonnie tanned face splits intae a smile, “You’re a big daftie James Graham”.

She wants tae show me somethin’ near a ferm that she had worked in two year afore. Up behind Blairskaith Muir she takes me, the land quickly gettin harder away fae the

hedgerows. We go up a steep brae and it leads us tae country that’s open an’ bleak; tussocks o’ rough grass broken by muddy hoofprints . The cattle bellow at us, they reckon were a bit strange, ah think. Ah’m an Asylum Attendant in the toon, no used tae bein’ sae close tae the beasts in the field. Ah can tell she knows that Ah’m a bit feart o’ them. She pulls at ma arm and tells me its no long now.

Ah ask her what she’s dragging me away up here for. “It’s the Auld Wives Lifts that ah want ye tae see.”

“The whit?” Ah let this slip out and feel like a real fool this time as she glances at me and tuts.

“See for yerself.” Annie says as the track crests the hill and we walk intae a hollow ringed wi’ what looks like a circle o’ earthworks- auld wans though, like something that ye’d find at a Castle, no freshly dug trenches like out here. The mossy ground is spongy and wet but there’s what looks like a raised grassy path pointing straight out tae the centre o’ the big circle. In the middle there are three huge stanes, each o’ them hauf the size ae a house. One o’ them is sitting across the tap o’ the others an’ the whole thing looks like some great stone altar that’s been here forever.

“Who built that?” ah sais, a bit glaiket still, “the Romans or somethin’?”

“James Graham, for a reasonably educated man wi’ a decent enough job behind him you know precious little about the land you live in. This place is very near famous. When ah worked at the Galston’s ferm doon there, many’s the scholar and fine gentlemen fae the university came out tae see this place.”

“Oh aye, fine gentlemen and scholars is it” ah sais tryin’ tae embarrass her a bit. Her lips purse an’ it looks like she’s about tae hae a wee silent rage tae herself but she comes back at me.

“Aye, they were fine enough gentlemen, but no for me. Step up fae a tinker, ah know what’s said about me. Ah like their stories and their learning but don’t think for a minute that a clean collar, a fine suit an a posh voice would turn ma heid”

“Ah’m sorry Annie, ah didnae mean tae… Ah mean, its no like a I can talk, there wis nae faither in ma hoose an’ ma grannie never had a man wi’ her either. Whole family were the black sheep o’ the place”

“Ach, mibbe we’re mair alike than ah thought… Your still a dunderheid an’ a big fearty but.” Ah feel ma face go rid at this an she laughs an slips through the gap between the two great black stanes. Ma haun stretches tae catch her but she’s too quick for me. It lands on the cool face o’ the rock an when ah take it away ah see that somebody has chiselled a date, 1796, intae the big stane. Ah got the sudden feeling that this wis nothing, this hundred odd years was just a minute or even a second in the time that these things had skulked here and brooded.

Ah hear a laugh fae the far side o’ the great boulders an skirt round the marshy ground tae the side o’ them; ah don’t fancy gaun inside that crack in the rock that Annie disappeared through. “Shite!” Ah spit out this wee curse as one ae ma boots sinks intae this brown water under the spongey grass an’ the cauld seeps intae ma foot.

“No that way James,. Ye need tae come through the crack in the rocks.” sais Annie. “An’ how d’ye work that out. Have ah no made enough ae a fool of myself already!” “Only you know the answer tae that James.” and ah get treated tae the laugh again.

“Anyway James Graham that was shocking language to use in the presence of a lady! The story goes in this place that if ye climb through the crack a’ your previous sins are forgiven and ye’ll never dies childless.”

Annie teases, an ah push myself through the cool dark ae the gap, twistin’ maself tae fit throught the weird triangle ae the openin’. The rock is wet and there’s dark pockets ae mud under me. There’s a deep cauld in the rock, the air and even the smell o’ the black mud has a chill in it.

“Ah’ve heard that there’s a grand view fae the top o’ this thing. Ye’re supposed tae be able tae see aw the way tae Ben Lomond and beyond. The gentlemen fae the university brought a wee ladder wi’ them tae get up there but ah’ve always reckoned that wi’ a wee bit ae spirit about ye a ladder widnae be needed.” Her head’s tilted so that she’s takin’ her eyes aff me an then aff the rock. Ah feel the wildness in her. Her face cracks wi’ that smile again an ah’m forgiven but ah know an’ ah’m trapped in whatever happens next.

There’s a whirl ae skirts an the scratching sound of boots on stone an she’s planted herself halfway up the boulder, her boots in a gap between a stane that’s like a pillar and the one that’s like a tabletop.

“Ah think that wis the easy bit James. The top ae this thing sortae slopes away fae ye before it flattens out . Ye’ll need to gie me a haun up” She’s matter ae fact about this, nae panic in her voice.

“How can ah dae that fae doon here?” sais Ah, soundin’ like a daftie again.

“Get your hauns under the heel ae ma boot an steady me as ah push up James.”

Ah cup ma palms under her heel and get a glimpse o’ her calf, feel her muscles and bones flex inside the boot. Ah sense ma face get rid and turn ma heid tae the side. As ah dae this ah feel her weight and power flow through my hauns and intae ma arms. There’s a jolt as we find our balance, then ah push back easily and she flows aff ma finger tips an’ scrambles tae the tap ae the boulder. There’s her laugh again, a silvery rattle, before she steadies herself an’ sais, “Aye, they were right about the grand view. Ye need tae get yerself up here James.” She looks miles away, her face wee an distant, like a wean’s.

 

The first bit is nae bother, ah’m bigger an’ stronger than her, but when ah try tae cross the sloping part near the tap ah realise that there’s distinct lack ae places tae pit ma feet. The wet soles ae ma boots are smearing an’ slipping under me as I haul maself, ma thudding heart and ma suddenly sick belly oantae the top. Ah roll on ma back, gasping for air. Her face is above mine. The sun is behind her an’ its put pale gold round her dark hair. “Ah told ye that we widnae need a ladder, just a wee bit ae spirit, that’s aw.” she sais.

“Aye, right a wee bit o’ spirit or a touch lunacy. Either ae the two would dae it.”

“Ach James, don’t spoil it, ye did well there- getting us baith up. Ah tried this before when ah worked at the ferm but couldnae manage the last step. I needed that shove ye gave me. Onyways, look at that.” Annie has drawn her knees up under her chin and wrapped her arms round her legs. Ah follow the line o’ her gaze and see hills and mountains on the edge of the calm Blane valley below us. “Aye, yer toffs fae the univeristy were right about the view Annie, it’s grand”

“Aye James, it is, mind you ma ain grannie told me as much about this place as the university men. She said that these rocks got here when three auld women had a contest among themselves tae see who wis the strongest. They lifted these rocks up here in their peenies. The winner wis the wan who didnae just carry up her rock but lifted it up on top of the other two.”

Ah laughed an’ told her that there must ha’e been some right strong wummin about tae dae that. “They’re still here yet James Graham” is what she comes back wi an’ I just smile. She goes on, “An’ see that bit at the end o’ the Campsie hills? That’s ca’d Dumgoyne but some folk say its a sleepin’ warrior, lying there waiting tae come back for his last battle. Ma granny told me that tae.” Ah told her that I thought I had heard that story tae but that ah couldnae see it maself, it just looked like a big bump at the end of the Campsie Hills tae me- it wisnae gaun anywhere.

“Ach, there’s aw sorts ae arguments about this place James. Ah like the auld stories maself. Ah told ma grannies story tae wan ae they professor types fae the university when they came up here. ‘Interesting example of folklore’ he called it. Then he went on about this place being the ‘finest example of a neolithic cathedral in Scotland’. Have ye any idea whit that means?

Ah look blank…again.

“Naw. I didnae either… so ah asked him whit he meant. Stone age man, he told me, dragged these boulders up here and used them as an altar for their pagan sacrifices. Sounded about as likely as ma grannies version tae be honest. Anyway, the auld professor who’s tellin’ me this gets interrupted by another toff who sais that this is ‘Preposterous unscientific speculation’ and that the boulders were dumped there at the end ae the ice age. Can ye imagine it James, aw this covered in thick ice? But the two ae them get a bit sulky wi’ each other efter that an Ah made masel’ scarce,,, didnae want the blame for starting a row.

So, as ah’m headin back to the ferm an’ ma heids reelin’; cave men, ice sheets, pagan sacrifices aw jumbled thegither. Ah get tae thinkin’ it could’ve been baith, ye know? The boulders could’ve been dropped there by the ice then the auld yins, cave men,or whatever they were, found them and started using them for an altar. Ah wished ah’d thought of it sooner an told the two toffs about ma explanation…”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, eh Annie” is how ah respond. Ah want her to know that I nearly understand, that ah can keep up wi’ the way her ideas tummel out, that ah’m fascinated. Ah think ah just ended up soundin’ like a pious diddy.

“See you and your Sunday School, is it no time that ye started tae dae a wee bit ae thinking for yerself instead ae just quoting scripture at folk? Is it you that’s talkin’ or is it that auld targe ae a teacher, Susie Sharnley puttin’ words in yer mouth for ye? Besides, ye’ll no find

much peace up here if the Professor is right. He sais there’s a circle carved intae the top o’ this rock that channeled the blood intae the gap between the rocks ” sais Annie and then lets her eyes settle on the horizon.

Ah’m sitting on top ae pile of rocks that naebody can explain the purpose ae wi a lassie who ah’m fascinated wi’ and she thinks ah’m a big stuck up ba’head. Ah decide tae tell her how ah feel about whit she said, about how much ah’m taken by her. Ah decide tae tell her it aw, and she decides tae kiss me.

When we staun up ah look at a’ the names carved intae the stane underneath us. They’re no that auld- still sharp edged and clear. “The folk that carved them must hae brought up a good chisel tae make their mark.” ah sais.

“Aye, but look James, underneath them and bit worn, ye can see that shape they scholars talked about.” Annie traces her fingers in an auld groove and Ah see the curve begin stand out fae the newer chipped names. “ The circle for the sacrifices is here right enough.” she sais.

“Aye, a gutter for the blood” Ah respond, thinking ae the cauld black mud in the still air o’ that wee passageway between the rocks.

“Aye, that’s a fine name for it. No a pleasant one, but an accurate one. There was some right dark work done in that place when they tried tae find the faither.”

“For God’s sake, are you inside ma head ya big shite! Can ah no have a thought tae maself.” Ah rage at the Sergeant Major, he’s broken ma memory o’ Annie.

“Calm yersel doon son, ye’ve been bletherin’ away like an auld sweety wife for five minutes now. A man cannae get a word in when ye start that carry on.”

Again, Ah’m telling maself that not one word about Annie has been spoken aloud. Ah’ve been totally silent but ah’m starting tae doubt ma ain mind. The doctor, Durrant, wi’ his talk of mania and catatonia wid be lappin this right up, scribblin’ away for aw he was worth in his wee notebook.

“Bletherin’ Sergeant Major? Ah’m no the only blether in this place . Who’s this faither? Who’s this Lazarus? Who’re you tae be sittin’ here listening tae ma thoughts?” Ah rage at him again.

“Listening tae yer thoughts? Ye’re desperate for the idea that somebody is bothered about yer thoughts” he sais ”Just remember that everything ah know about ye came out ae yer ain mouth laddie.”

He waits a second and rumbles on

“Listen tae me son.” He softens his voice and his shoulders slump, nae anger, just weariness settling on him. “Ah took this out ae ye th’day because I thought it would make a difference tae things.” His big haun opens an there’s a bullet. No the shiny brass cartridge, just the dark metal ae the thing that had been inside me earlier that morning. Ah hear the sound ae a wasp again.

“Ah thought if ah brought one ae ye back, just the one, and sent the right message wi’ ye then it would make a difference. That sort of thing used to impress folk mightily. Ah must have been too near tae some ae they shellbursts maself…addled my understanding of things. I thought it might help us find the faither again.Wherever he went. He’s been awfy quiet this weather…” He sais before his voice rumbles to a stop.

“Sergeant Major, your talking like one ae they religious maniacs ah used tae pit intae a straight-jacket when Ah worked in the Asylum.Oh, for Christ’s sake Sergeant Major, who’s the mental case here? You or me or both ae us?” ah sais.

“Aye, yere right there laddie, both ae us. There’s neither of us should be here. There’s nae sense in it.” he replies

“Ye cannae come back son. Ye have tae forget about this life Lazarus. Nae mair miracles fae me laddie. Nae sleeping warriors returned” He stauns up as he sais this, a big shadow edged in weak light fae the door. Ahm tired an a can hear the buzzin’ ae that wasp again. “My name is James, James Graham, no Lazarus.” Ah manage tae whisper.

“Ah know laddie, Ah know…” He sais as his big haun lays itself oan my chest. There’s a sense of a kick. Something sharp. Oh Annie…

 

 

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