by Mark Dalligan
So I pick up Katie after her Saturday morning shift at the munitions factory. She’s tired from making cannon shells for Spitfires, though by rights she shouldn’t have told me. I buy her a cup of char at the Oxford Street Lyons and then we take a tram to London Zoo for a look around.
We’re watching the monkeys. Ugly, hairy brutes with no decorum. Still, Katie likes their antics and I like Katie.
It’s a blinder of a day. The sun pours down on the park like cream from a jug. I can’t be happier. Two weeks leave and with a girl on me arm.
I’ve known Katie since we were kids. ‘Grown up in the same gutter’, as we say back in Bermondsey. She’s a stunner. A face like an angel and a film star figure.
“Can we get some ice, Stan?” she asks. So off we go to the little Italian man and soon we’re feasting on lemon-ice. My, but it does cool you down.
We sit on the grass, backs to the canal.
“Do you like monkeys?”
“I can take ’em or leave ’em,” says I.
“I think they’re beautiful,” she says, “like furry babies.”
Well, I don’t want to get her on to thinking about babies. Not yet, anyway.
“Time enough for that!” I jests.
“What you going to do with your life then, Stan?”
“Don’t rightly know.” I scratch me recently cropped head. “There’s a war to fight. Got to get that out of the way before I can think clearly like.”
Katie lays her head on me shoulder and I put me arm around her waist, pulling her close.
“You know I might not come back again?”
She pulls away as if scalded.
“That’s the sort of line I’ve heard before!” Katie rises to her knees, brushing picnic crumbs from her dress.
“You don’t understand,” says I.
“I think I do,” says she, standing.
“Wait.” I’m down on one knee, reaching for her hand.
She takes mine, instinctive like, and from me tunic I take the box. One handed I flip open the lid to show the pale gold ring.
“Will you be mine? Will you wait for me to come home?”
“Oh yes! Oh yes!” she cries and I know I’m on to a good thing tonight.
The brass won’t start to turn green for a while and by then, in this topsy-turvy world, she’ll have found another beau.
I’ve got half dozen more rings, and when me leave’s over I’ll be off to France. I’ve seen me own death and know I shan’t be coming back. I want to leave something behind.
Mark Dalligan has been writing for the past two or so years and his work can be found at Every Day Fiction, The Beat, Twisted Tongue, Ranfurly Review and other places.