(One Shot) Strongly based on The Ghost Of You video, its Gerard reliving the war basically. R&R please? D: xo
Love Jodie xo
“Go on It’ll be a laugh!” he had said to me.
Ha! A right old laugh it really turned out to be...
That ‘laugh’ had ended with me sitting next to my own dead brothers grave, stroking the small white cross with his name engraved in it, wondering if I’d walk properly again, never mind the burning pool of guilt and trauma I was swimming in.
Well done Frankie my boy. Well Done.
See, it started with me and my brother and our friends Frank, Ray and Bob, when I was eighteen.
We had been bored one day, in the middle of summer, in 1944 and had resorted to wandering the streets of New Jersey.
Then, after passing dull house after dull house, there was a flash of colour, seen from the corner of my eye. I found myself staring down a main road, leading off into the town square where there seemed to be a great number of people making a lot of noise and ruckus.
The others had seen it too, and were curiously wandering towards the display.
As we drew near, I saw there was a stage, with a man dressed in military uniform marching about.
I focused on what he was saying.
“-And so the nation needs YOU men, combined, we can gun down the Fritz and end this god forsaken war once and for all! Sign up now, and be forever seen as a hero!”
Then, men started to walk up on the stage and sign their names on this sheet of paper, when they had done that, they were handed a small white leaflet.
I turned to my friends, raising my eyebrows.
You had to be sixteen to fight in the army, and the youngest of us was Frank, who was fourteen.
“Come on then, might as well go find something to do” my fifteen year old brother, Mikey, suggested.
I was just about to nod in agreement, when Frank diverted my attention.
“Let’s sign up.” He said, deadly serious.
“Are you stupid? You’re not even old enough!” Ray snapped.
“It’ll be a laugh, c’mon!” Frank said, bouncing up and down excitedly “We just have to lie about our age, think what our parents would say if they knew we were fighting? They’d be so proud,”
I gave Ray and Bob a “What on earth is he saying?” look
Ray returned it, but Bob was agreeing with Frank.
“Sounds good, I’d like to fight for America and all that jazz...’
Then Mikey opened his mouth.
“I wanna fight.”
Then before I knew it, Bob, Mikey and Frank were joining the queue of people signing the ever growing list of names.
I looked to Ray, who sighed and moved with them.
I laid a hand on his shoulder.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
“We always said we were in it together. So I guess we have to stick with one another, and if that means me risking my life watching out for my friends, I’m in.”
And he walked away.
And I stupidly followed him.
Six months later
The boat was making me feel sick. We were on our way to one of the beaches, I didn’t know which one, but I knew there would be more guns, fighting and death. We were told this would be the last fight, and if we could do this, the war might leave America.
Our lieutenant was giving instructions, but his voice was distorted and fuzzy to my ears.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. Turning, I saw Frank, who seemed to be actually attempting to reassure me? Like that would work.
We hit the beach and a whistle blew, I grabbed my gun and sprinted up the shores, I launched myself down behind a fallen comrade, using his corpse as a shield. It sickened me that this was what I was resorting to. I got up again and raced towards the bank, and I reached it in no time, dodging bullets, I threw myself down next to Bob, and waited for the others, and the next signal.
Frank raced over, and was safe; I clapped him on the back and looked for Ray and Mikey.
I saw Ray quickly, desperately trying to patch up some lost soul, and from the look in his eye, I saw he was failing. I turned and searched for my brother. He was emerging from behind an old crate, which he’d been using as cover. I knew what was going to happen before it did
‘MIKEY!’ I roared.
I tried to get up, but Frank and Bob held me down.
‘Gerard, NO!’ Frankie grunted, straining against me.
There was nothing I could do as the bullet hit my brother, right in the gut.
I screamed his name over and over again.
Bob and Frank were crying.
Ray was pushing a cloth to the wound, but Mikey only screamed more.
His screams were like torture.
If he carried on yelling I was sure I’d end up going insane.
Why had the fighting not stopped?
Why had the men not laid down their weapons in shame of Mikey’s injury
Then, to my horror, Mikey’s eyes went wide and...Dead.
I screamed into Frank.
I pulled away, and ran for Mikey’s body.
I couldn’t leave him here.
Not in this hell hole.
Bob grabbed me.
Then, there was a searing pain in my leg, like it had been hacked at with a blunt knife.
Next thing I knew, I was coming round in a hospital tent.
‘Nurse...’ I groaned.
The woman didn’t turn round.
I lifted my head up and Felt bile rise in my throat.
The nurse threw a pan at me to be sick in.
She turned around this time
She was a pretty thing, with black hair and big eyes
‘It’s Lindsey dear, Can I help you with something?’ she said
‘Yes, My Brother, Mikey...Michael Way -’
She flipped through a list of names.
‘He’s been taken back to Jersey sir.’ She said apologetically.
‘Gerard.’ I said. I hated being called sir.
‘Well Gerard, is there anything else? I’m rather busy so please...’
‘Yes, Robert Bryar, Raymond Ortiz and Franklin Iero?’
She scanned the list of names again, and shook her head.
‘They haven’t been sent back...’ She trailed off
‘Are they alive?’ I asked desperately
‘I-I don’t know’ She stammered.
She left me to relive the experience in my mind, before I drifted back into an uneasy sleep full of shadow men and Mikey.
I would have terrible nightmares every night. It would always end with me waking, sweaty and screaming. It would always start as a memory of me and Mikes, and then something would go wrong. He would die in hideous accidents or run away and just before I woke up, mom would be standing over me screaming ‘You said you’d protect him Gerard!’
Lindsey came up to see me every day. I asked her if she was like this with other patients. She said she wasn’t.
She snuck me extra food, and frequently asked me if I was a single man.
I of course was.
She too was from Jersey, as I could tell from the thick Jersey twang in her voice.
We talked about Mikey, and She was a shoulder there for me tho cry on.
I told her about all the times we had had, and how we had so many plans for when we were older.
Tonight, she came up, and sat on my bed. She was dressed in normal clothes. A tight, khaki green dress that came about halfway up her shins, with a smear of red lipstick. Her hair was twirled into some kind of knot.
She looked beautiful.
‘Wow, you look lovely!’ I exclaimed loudly.
‘Gerard, seeing as your leg is mending, we can send you back to Jersey.’
My heart jumped.
I would have to face mom and dad.
I would have to sit at a service for Mikey, and I wasn’t sure I could suffer the pain of that.
‘I’ll miss you.’ I sighed.
‘You won’t, because I’m leaving today. I’m going home. I was rather hoping you’d leave with me?’
My jaw nearly dropped.
She handed me a crutch and with some work, I got out of bed.
We left the tent together, and she slipped her hand into my free one.
On the train back to Jersey, We talked together about everything.
Her school, my school, her family, my family, our friends and our hobbies. We talked about Mikey for what seemed like hours.
Then we came onto the most awkward subject.
‘So, you got a girl back home for you?’ she asked.
‘Lindsey, you’ve asked me that a hundred times at the hospital! I haven’t...’ I said sadly.
‘You got a fella?’ I asked
‘Nope.’ She said.
‘Really? A pretty little thing like you?’
‘Oh Gerard, Are you trying to tell me something?’ she winked.
She raised her eyebrows.
‘Just complimenting...’ I muttered hastily.
He shoulders dropped and she looked down.
‘Oh...’ she sounded disappointed. Why?
It was my turn to raise the eyebrows.
The train was slowing down.
I looked through the window and saw a sign reading
‘Kearny, New Jersey’
‘This is me.’ she whispered standing up, picking up her luggage.
‘Lindsey...’ I grabbed her wrist and stuffed a piece of paper into her hand.
She smiled, pecked me on the cheek, and left onto the platform, leaving me clutching my face stupidly.
I hoped she read the note.
It had read:
I know there are plenty of other men out there perfect and un-broken, but I hope as you read this, you come to realise that over the past few weeks of me knowing you, I have fallen for you.
You have dimmed the pain of losing Mikey, and without you, I don’t know how I’ll cope.
Come visit me sometime, I doubt I’ll be going anywhere soon...
69 Salter Place,
All my love,
I once again felt the pain rising as I steadily grew closer to home.
Did momma know I was coming back today?
If she did, would she be waiting?
If she did, would she even care?
If I was a better brother, I would have put my foot down back in the summer, the day that seemed years ago, I would have said ‘No, you’re not going’
But I didn’t. I caved in.
I always did to Mikey.
I just couldn’t help myself with him.
The trained slowed once more and I stood up, grasping my luggage firmly in my left hand, I strode off the train.
As I moved down the packed platform, there wasn’t a glimpse of momma or dad anywhere.
Verging on tears, I span round and made for the exit.
I didn’t bet on running into a familiar face.
A familiar face I’d spent the last three weeks waiting to hear about.
A familiar face with a bandage over his eye and crutches.
‘Frank!’ I shouted, and I grabbed at him, like he was a lifeline.
‘Gee! You survived!’ he wheezed.
‘I’ve waited to hear if you survived... what about Bob? Ray?’
‘So have I... The others are all fine too, Gerard, I need to say, I’m sorry, if I hadn’t mentioned joining the forces, Mikey would still be here...’ he started to cry.
‘Frank, it’s not your fault... Mikey would’ve hated you to think that.’
He wept into my jacket for what seemed like an age, earning us many reproachful looks.
I really didn’t care.
‘You want to come back with me?’ he asked.
‘I think I have to face up to the folks now, or I never will’ I sighed.
We parted ways, but it was only for a short time. I would see him in a day or two.
I got home and knocked on the small narrow door.
I heard about seven or eight bolts slide across, and the door opened a fraction,
‘Please, no more bad news, please, not Gerard too, please, please, please not my beautiful Gerard as well,’
She was weeping into me, apparently unaware I was her son.
‘Momma, it’s me. It’s Gerard.’
She looked up, her already old face making her look closer to ninety than forty five, I was shocked at how she appeared to have doubled in age over the past few months of me being away. Tears streaked down the grime coated skin, making it obvious she hadn’t bothered to wash for some time. I would say she hadn’t taken care of herself at all after she’d heard about Mikey.
‘Gerard! Donald, come quick! It’s our boy! He’s home!’
I heard a shuffling and my dad (who also appeared to have aged about thirty years) appeared at my side.
‘Gerard... My boy...’ and he grabbed me into a tight embrace.
Dad pulled back and looked into my eyes, as though searching for something wrong.
‘Momma, Dad, I’m really sorry about Mikey. I did everything. I honestly did. I guess I didn’t do enough. I’m a terrible brother.’ I bowed my head once I’d said this, and waited for them to agree with me.
Instead, momma gasped
‘Gee Bear, never say that!’ She cried
‘Son, you did all you could. Michael would have hated you to think that.’
They both hugged me tight again, but I pushed them away after a few seconds.
‘Who knows what Mikey would or wouldn’t have wanted?’ I asked and sloped off to Mikey’s room
I didn’t leave his room for four days.
I kept vigil, bathing in all the memories of this room.
Me aged six, him just a three year old, I was tickling him, and he banged his head on the bedpost. I had got such a smack.
Later, He was seven, I was ten. We played with lead soldiers, and fought grand battles against each other.
Later still, he was eleven, I was fourteen. He was telling me about a pretty girl at school that had caught his eye. I was giving him advice on how to win her over.
We had been the tightest brothers ever. Nothing came between us. We never fought or laid a finger against one another. Not even in jest.
There was a genteel tap at the door.
Momma walked in, dressed in black from head to toe.
‘Gerard, there’s a memorial service today in the square. I was thinking you’d like to come?’
I looked up.
‘Momma, I can’t go back to that square, not never ever again. That square was where this started. Please don’t make me go.’
She nodded sadly and left me to my thoughts.
‘Never coming home... Never coming home’ I muttered as I rocked myself back and forth.
Then, a jet of creativity hit me like water from a fire hose.
I grabbed a pen and some paper and began to write.
‘I never said I’d lie and wait forever.
If I did we’d be together.’
‘Never coming home never coming home, could I? Should I?’
I wrote for hours. I wrote until I heard the door shut and Dad and Momma’s voices.
Poem or a song, I still wasn’t sure.
But I was proud of it.
There were parts about Lindsey.
She still never came back to visit me.
There were many, many bits about Mikey.
But more than anything, this was a piece of art that went out to everybody in this stinking hate-filled country who had lost anyone, through fighting, crime or even just age. It was a piece about pure pain and loss.
I got up off of the bed I’d been sat on for days.
‘Momma, I’m going to see Mikey.’ I called and headed off towards the burial site.
When I reached it, I was taken back at the hundreds of small named white crosses.
Every single one of them was men and women who had died for America.
Suddenly, my pain didn’t feel so unbearable.
I knew I wasn’t in this alone.
I walked through what seemed like billions of crosses, a few unmarked, until I found the one labelled ‘Private Michael James Way 1930 – 45’
I sat by the cross for hours, and as you know, I am still by it, as I tell you my story.
The song/poem I wrote, I had put in an envelope and placed on Mikey’s grave, along with a poppy and a small, lead soldier I found in his room.
Now, I stand and walk from my brother’s grave, much more a man than when I first saw it.
I know the dark fear of losing someone.
I know the horrors and the nightmares from war.
No more men should die.