Author: charli615 PM
One shot. Harry does what he can for the war effort, not that that means he enjoys his job. But someone has to do the job everyone despises. Someone has to deliver the death telegrams...Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 1,378 - Favs: 1 - Published: 01-20-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3093737
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It's nearing dark and the sky is crowded with colourless clouds. I hope it's not going to rain, not before I get home anyway. I cycle round in the evening delivering news to those unlucky souls. Ever heard the phrase no news is good news? That's true enough. I deliver that news. The news that no one wants. You should see their faces when I knock. The Angels of Death they call us telegram boys because they know before they open the door. I'm told to knock on either side to alert the neighbours in case I need help so that's how they know I'm coming. Satchel over one shoulder and gas mask over the other, I must look a sight and an unwelcome sight at that. People know who I am and what I do, it's the uniform that tells them that useful fact. The way people look at me sometimes, well, you'd think I carried the plague.
This cobbled road is really annoying me now; bumpity, bumpity bump. It makes the tin hat bang against my skull, tin hats aren't comfortable at the best of times so you can imagine what they're like when you're riding over such am uneven surface. I wish there was a smoother road surface seeing as this rusting old bike has little to no suspension. I'm nearly at the next address now, just turning the corner. I hope they'll be composed, like most are or else slam the door in my face before I see their agonising reaction. I always ask if they want me to fetch anyone, though normally the answer's no. Too proud most of them, to accept even emotional support, but sometimes they'll break down completely and I'll have to call in the neighbour to help me. I don't want that now or ever, I want it to be a rapid affair. Not like when the woman fainted before I'd even handed her the telegram. Most of them aren't like that, thankfully. Most are composed and rational. Once a woman even offered me a cup of tea. I refused of course but still… a cup of tea? Fancy that!
I'm at the house now so I dismount and walk the last stretch to the front door of the house next door. I knock and exchange a few words with the owner, a frail man who looks even frailer when I tell him. As I walk purposely past the house and onto the other neighbour's residence I catch a glimpse of a little boy at the window. He grins and sticks his tongue out at me. I force out a smile so fake it's a wonder this five year old kid doesn't see straight through it. He sticks his tongue out again. This time I look away; it's such an innocent and childish gesture I want to sit down on the curb and cry. Why does it have to be me to deliver the news? Will he be that happy in just a few minutes? No, not at all. Even if he fails to grasp the meaning of his mother's words he is sure to pick up on the solemn atmosphere. I reach the other neighbour and it's a repeat performance only this time it's a middle aged woman who opens the door.
Now it's time to break the news so I lay my bike down on the pavement and advance towards the door, telegram clenched in my fist. I am just about to knock when… the little boy sticks out his tongue again, he's still watching me. So innocent, so naïve…I stop, step back. I can't break the news in this state. I'm letting myself get too involved and I can't let that happen. I deliver death telegrams! It's what I do, I can't let it get to me, and besides wouldn't they rather know than not know? Still, best leave it for five minutes so I cycle round the block and put it off. It's not the first time I've not done this nor am I the only telegram boy to do so. Ten minutes later it occurs to me that it's got to happen sometime, so with renewed composure and a business-like approach I advance, once again, towards the door. The business-like approach may seem a little harsh but how else can I behave? Eyes brimming with tears would hardly help any situation let alone one as sensitive as the one I know I am just about to enter into.
My hand reaches out and knocks. Once. Twice. A third time. Then the door opens. The young woman who stands behind it is in her early 20s. The little boy has his hands wrapped around her ankle. He's obviously her son as they look so alike: same elfish features, pale skin and intelligent blue eyes. Despite the carefree look on her face when she opens the door by the time she has lain eyes on me she is trembling. I have this effect on people, this aura about myself. The moment people spy me on their doorstep they know. They know for sure the telegram is for them and that their loved one isn't coming home. They can't pretend any longer. This woman is no exception. I know her name, her surname at least, from the address on the telegram: Mrs V. Hawthorne.
"Mrs Hawthorn?" I enquire.
"Oh, no." Is her muffled reply. I hand her the telegram.
"I'm truly sorry," I say humbly.
She stares at it dumbly before grasping it tightly with both hands all the while muttering inaudible sounds under her breath. Without warning she rips it open, fingers shaking uncontrollably. I see her eyes skim through the smudged print. Smudged because tears are spilling out of her eyes. "Oh Tom…" She whispers. I stand there awkwardly because I don't want to leave her in this state.
"Would you like me to get someone?" I ask "A relative? A neighbour? A-?"
"No!" Her sharp words catch me off-guard. "No, I…I'll be fine."
I nod not wanting to push things, and back away. I'm about to grab my bike and cycle away when she calls back through the door which is still wide open.
"Thank you," She says tearfully but with some composure. "Thank you…."
It takes me a moment to realise she wants to know my name. "Harry," I reply.
"Thank you, Harry. Now at least we know he's safe."
I apologise for her loss again, feeling embarrassed. Thank me for what exactly? For telling her that her husband is dead? Yeah, great thing to thank me for. I haul my bike up and sit in the saddle. Only one more to go and then its home for me. I fantasise about a quiet night tucked up in bed which hopefully it will be. A few years ago the bombers came almost every night and the sirens would howl. It'd be night after night freezing my toes of in that dank shelter listening to the sound of whistling bombs falling either side of me. It isn't so bad at night now. I used to think I'd be relieved when it quietened down in the same way that I used to wish Jerry would have the courtesy to bomb us in daylight so at least we could grab a few hours sleep. I've changed my mind about that. Those doodlebugs can fall at any time and I've seen what damage they can cause. It makes me shudder just thinking about it. Thus why I have taken to wearing my tin hat. Not much protection against such a powerful bomb but it makes me feel slightly safer. It can protect my head against shrapnel, I hope anyway.
I cycle onwards for a bit before I pause to check the address on my final delivery. My frozen fingers fumble for the slip of paper in my satchel before I draw it out and peer down at the small typed letters. I freeze, literally freeze. I can't move. My eyes are wide and glued to the paper. My hands are shaking. I think I must be hallucinating because what I see before my eyes is ridiculous,
and above all irrational.
Because it's my address.