A Conversation for A Place to Call Home
Array Started conversation Nov 30, 2020
Michel chafed against his enforced idleness. As soon as he was well enough, he walked round the farm and realised that, although Henri had escaped the violence, the war had taken its toll on him too. The horses had been requisitioned by the Vichy authorities and there were only a few cows left. The fruit trees remained but some of the fields had been left fallow. Henri himself looked gaunt, Cecilie had lost her curves, and there were none of the big meals he remembered from his childhood. Michel helped with picking the purple plums, which were the last of the fruit, but his shoulder still hurt and he had difficulty lifting his arm to its full extent.
He took an old bicycle out of the barn, pumped up the tyres and rode into Caillac to find a cafe the maquisards frequented. When he entered, there was a burst of applause and everyone wanted to buy him a drink.
Charles Maziere, Antoine's father embraced him and said “You're quite the local hero. I don't suppose you'll want to work in that garage now...”
Michel smiled. “I'll still need to earn my keep.”
Until that moment, it hadn't occurred to him that he was no longer just a local farmer's son, but a man of some importance. The local men listened to him, when he argued that a liberated France needed a less authoritarian government. However, when he asked if anyone had seen a woman meeting Danielle's description, all the men shook their heads.
He learned that the maquisards were preparing to leave, to join the French army, so he begged a lift on a trip to the old farm buildings in the hills. Even here there was change, but it was of a different kind. The practice of keeping a look out had been abandoned, because it was no longer felt necessary. However, the men were practising handling some new weapons and there was a lorry load of uniforms for the men who meant to join up. Many of the younger men seemed excited, even jubilant, but this was a mood he couldn't share, as many of his former comrades had been killed or injured.
The men who were keen to join up were sent to a field hospital at Castelnau for a check up. Michel went with them and stood in a line of men in the late summer sunshine. He had mixed feelings, having seen enough of war to have no illusions, and his heart told him to stay in Caillac, in the hope that Danielle would return. At last, it was Michel's turn to enter the medical tent and strip to his pants. A tired looking doctor looked him up and down, examined his shoulder and asked him to move his arm and hand.
He shook his head. “You've had a couple of nasty injuries. You haven't got full movement in either your shoulder or wrist. You'd better take it easy.” Michel was not surprised by the verdict. He took some time finding all his former comrades and saying goodbye. Although he slapped them on the back, and spoke to them cheerfully, his heart was full of sorrow. He knew that he might not see them again
A few days later, Michel returned to the garage. He had half expected it to be completely run down but Charles Maziere had kept it in decent order and done a bit of repair work for the few customers who turned up. The petrol pumps had been dented, and some of the tools were missing, but the big lathe still worked. Michel set out to repaint the walls, sharpen some tools and mend others. He preferred being in the garage, because the work kept him busy. The house made him sad.
Charles told him the Vichy police had turned everything upside down, thrown drawers on the floor and taken away documents. Charles had tidied up after the raid, so the furniture was as Michel remembered it, including Jeannot's little cot. The place reminded Michel so strongly of the times he had spent there with Danielle that he stood in the living room and wept. He had lost so much.
However, there was work to be done, not only repairing farm machinery, but working on the lorries and weapons of the maquisards, to make sure they were in good condition before the group left. Michel made sure he was among the residents who lined the street and cheered as the group of maquisards passed: a marching column of men and lorries loaded with supplies and flying the French tricolour.
One afternoon, Michel was changing a wheel on a farmer's lorry when he got up and stretched. He was struggling to loosen the nuts, despite dousing them in oil, and his right arm was hurting. The work strained his wrist and shoulder and he wondered if he could continue doing it. Michel walked to the garage and looked out. He knew he wasn't dependent on the garage work for his livelihood, as there would be people who would employ him and other things he could do, including standing for election. He needed to think of his future, but the past was still weighing him down.
As he looked along the road, he noticed a woman walking in his direction, with a child sitting on her shoulders. For a moment, he watched her, telling himself not to hope, as there were plenty of women taking their children home. Then the autumn sunshine touched her hair, making it shine like copper. Danielle. He gave a gasp and ran towards her.
Caiman raptor elk - Escaping the Array Posted Nov 30, 2020
Saved it till the very last moment... But finally reunited.
Thanks for your story. I enjoyed reading it.
Dmitri Gheorgheni - Post Editor Posted Nov 30, 2020
I actually knew someone who had a similar experience. After walking through East Prussia - losing her newborn on the way - she got on a ship in the Baltic Sea and miraculously wasn't sunk on her way to Hamburg. She ended up in a refugee camp outside Bonn.
One day in spring, she was walking to town and saw a soldier washing his face in the stream. It was her husband, who was in the POW camp nearby. Their son asked her to tell me the story.
paulh, the apocalypse is coming, it's just late Posted Nov 30, 2020
I wish this could be shared with the world. It deserves it.
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