Flanders Fields – Part one
The roar of the bus echoed dramatically, as it ached and yearned across the city. Janet felt the force change as it turned every corner and was mesmerized by its very power and noise. But in reality she wasn't, she had two white earphones in her ears and a nonchalant expression regarding her apathetic stance on to the world.
To increase her dissatisfaction she had to take the train all the way down from Stirling to clear out her grandfather's home in Nedlands, for he was going to a nursing home soon, in a small city just south of Perth. A bad case of Dementia had hit the old man and the doctors diagnosed that he was incapable of looking after himself, hence the reason for the sudden relocation.
Janet found it quite depressing that someone she loved had disappeared so quickly. She remembered the last time she saw him, gazing into those milky uncertain blue eyes, denoting a feeling of nonrecognition towards her, this made her feel uneasy. She tried everything, be it photographs, gifts and even his favourite songs. Janet tried it all just so that a flicker of his memory could flourish. But all these methods appeared to occur in vein, and just left Janet all the more unsettled with the fact that she lost her grandfather, Arthur Williamson.
The bus was approaching the stop; as it had now reached the wealthy suburbs of Nedlands, where most of the ancient houses of a previous era gone by had been redeveloped by real estate moguls or rich mining magnates. Whatever the case, Arthur Williamson's home stood out from the rest of street, with a rusting gate welcoming any passers-by. The broken path had been smashed into tiny shards so chaotically that it had a pattern resembling an insane abstract painting.
With one million more weeds and insects occupying the concrete shrapnel, this house stood against the tide of cultural change, perhaps even time itself; resisting the cultural furor of an ever-changing society. Janet pressed the bus stop button and heard the chime of the bell to mark the bus's inertia. She stepped off her musty seat and proceeded to make her way to the buses main door.
After a chain of events regarding the scanning of her smart rider and bidding farewell to the bus driver for a safe trip, she was greeted by the fleeting sound of cockatoos screeching and the sight of the wealthy classes of Perth undergoing their daily, late afternoon activities, be it the walking of their poodle or walking in spandex to lose weight. For a second, Janet embraced this natural calm, loving the sight of how the light shimmered through the large ancient jarrah trees that emerged from her Grandfathers front lawn, piercing the undergrowth of the Earth and intimidating the blue sky with their natural awe and supremacy.
Ignoring the demographics of the suburb, Janet continued to walk up the road to her grandfather's house. She observed the world as she walked past and was disgusted by the hypocrisy of these suburbs inhabitants. The fake tans or boob jobs of the females or the obvious purchase of sports bikes by the males, it was there, and she hated it. Janet stood in front of her Grandfathers peeling blue old suburban house, its window slats rusting and the old jarrah round the backyard overgrowing above the roof, shading the house from the eternal summer sunshine. She took a step forward and pushed open the gate, it groaned in reluctance but eventually gave way resulting in it hitting the old mailbox, leaving old yellow peeling newspapers of yesteryear strewn all over the unkempt lawn. Janet sighed and rolled her eyes over the resulting chaos. Never the less, she walked on.
Janet was now standing on the concrete pavement in front of the front door, its half cracked frame begging for renovation, with even more peeling blue paint begging for suicide. She fumbled around in her skirt pocket for any keys, she could hear the faint jangle of the aged steel of her grandfather's key ring, a combat symbol commemorating his days in the Second World War, Janet often wondered why her grandfather never talked about it, must have been the atrocities she guessed. She pulled out the keys and placed them inside the door lock. The key slid in snugly to the door with an agreeable thud. She turned the key and opened the flailing front door. Ahead of her she was greeted with a musty scent of air and a hallway filled with unused furniture, covered with dust sheets to preserve them from the invasion of moths.
Janet took a step into the old and aged hallway; she walked slowly into the house. Her leather boots tapped and made loud deep ominous echoes throughout the void of what was the emptiness of her Grandfather's abode. She walked into the kitchen, nothing much was found to be cleared, just old cutlery that had rusted from the mold and damp. After finding nothing fit to clear into her Grandfathers removal boxes, she made her way into the lounge room.
The lounge room was quite different from the rest of the house, Janet instantly thought of it being a personification for the 20th century itself. With Leather upholstery and sofas placed neatly on each side of the room dating from the 1940s. With the TV she knew he had bought it in the 1960's; he would still watch the AFL league on it, despite the fuzzy black and white picture. Janet ran her youthfully smooth fingers against the rough, ancient surface of the coffee table. The table dated from at least the turn of the 19th century, with the staining of coffee and cigarette burns earning the wooden relic an honourable and proud history.
Janet looked around the room, placing clocks and various vases and antiques in the cardboard boxes as she went, past all the furniture and around the coffee table. She cast her gaze past the furniture, perplexed on where to search for the next memorabilia to be cast in the salvation of the cardboard box. Behind the ornate leather sofas she cast her eyes on an immensely domineering bookshelf. It covered the whole back wall of the lounge. Its shelves bore a dark contextual brown from the deep oak, the veins of the wood running down the length of the shelf. The shelves were filled to the brim of old books, each spine representing the literary greats from renaissance Shakespeare to racial issues conveyed by Harper Lee. Janet's Grandfather had a great interest in literature.
Janet ran her fingers along the spines of the ancient books fondly, remembering the story behind each cover; she immediately broke out of her mood of nostalgia and started cramming them into the cardboard boxes ten at a time. As Janet was about to reach for a new set of books to store, her hand brushed against something hard and leathery, she immediately turned to look at what the object was. Right in front of her was a large book made of leather. Janet picked it up and blew the dust off the front cover, the dust emanating into the air she read the words "Private James Williamson -1914" etched into the front wrinkled cover.
Initially confused over the book she had just found, Janet took a seat on one of the dusty old leather sofas. She carefully opened the book, with the first pages containing a few photos showing a group of six soldiers huddled around together smiling in the countryside of France. She proceeded to turn to the 2nd page where she found the following written statement written in the botched ink on the flailing brown paper, as if written in a nervous mood by the author. Janet looked over the grim and melancholic statement:
1918 Northern France - Pvt James Williamson
I remember those days fondly, it seems like another world to me now. Remembering back to those years was always like looking at your own appearance in a smoked mirror. Sure, you recognise the crude outline that shares a resemblance to who you previously were. But the truth is, looking into that reflection of you is a lot like looking into an old friend who's forgotten yourself, no matter how long you look into those complacent, nonchalant eyes. You always get the impression that they are staring right through you, forgotten you. I always get this chilling feeling when i look into my own small mirror: The tousled brown hair, the innocent blue eyes, full of hope and promise, the bronze shade of the sun on my skin. Instead it is replaced by the matted bloodstained mop of hair, the tired and sad eyes, with the only evidence of sun tan being the mud stained across my face because of the crawling for days while freeing from machine guns in no man's land. Gone is the grinning mischievous fourteen year old standing proudly in his olive green diggers uniform, this is only replaced by a melancholic eighteen year old on the edge of a breakdown. The War hasn't only robbed the lives of men, women and children. It has robbed my Innocence and soul.