Harry lifted his head and pointed his chin at the face of the Ferté-sous-Jourre monument. The imposing white Massangis limestone commanded attention in the French town square. It resembled a three-panelled photo frame, its only images letters of sorrow. It glowed peach with the going down of the sun.
There was a jolt in his chest when he discovered the name. It was towards the top of the right-hand column, beside a rust-coloured stain. He laughed, tear-like. In that moment of recognition, he felt an overwhelming need to share the story of John Cokley. To tell with pride and sadness how on the first day of the Great War, during the first engagement with the enemy at Mons, his great-grandfather was missing, presumed….by two o’clock on an August afternoon by the locks along the Mons-Condé canal. Only his surviving comrades would be protected by the Angels of Mons.
But he was alone on grey cold steps. Instead, he bowed in reverence and offered up a prayer, his gaze falling upon the area of his body where the hospital had detected a growth. He feared never being able to father a child, or becoming another bloodstained memory picked out in bronze on some forever garden reminder.
The 3765 names became his generation. Young brothers of equal age, on the brink of adventurous expectations. The not-yet men, mothers’ sons. Lads from villages and farms. Believers and non-believers, with all to live for and little to die for.
Visions rose of grinning faces, marching in chafing khaki collars. Shoulders stiffened, with proud heads high, their studded stamping boots fading into the distance. Some already fathers.
Harry’s thoughts turned again to the growth. Instinctively his hand went to his crotch. With moist eyes he hoped, in that closeness, they might intercede on his behalf from the place where their futile sacrifice had borne them.
Dan Keeble hails from the furthest point East in the UK, and has enjoyed many successes with online and print publications of poetry, short stories, humour, and more serious articles. He has appeared in Fiction on the Web, Everyday Fiction, Turnpike Magazine, Scribble, Flash Fiction Magazine, Agape Review, and many others on a long journey to a stubby pencil.