For more than 70 years now, he’s preferred to cocoon himself in the security of drapery-darkened rooms. He’s an intractable stickler when it comes to sticking to schedules, and he mulishly refuses to vacation near water.
Ages ago, I stopped worrying that an explanation, beyond reciting a date from the timeline of history, had to be offered as to why he is the way he is. Those who cared enough to look past his quirks, I decided, would be more than willing to do a little homework.
August 19, 1942.
His regiment, bound for the Normandy coast, was supposed to hit the beach at Puys in the unlit hours of early dawn. There were delays. They didn’t land until 5 am. By then, the sun was coming up, and as those boys poured out of their flat-bottom landing craft, they were spotted immediately, and mowed down. Easy targets for German machine gun bullets and mortar rounds. The advancing tide was against them too, washing away dead and wounded alike. He was lucky, for a time, making his way over blood-slick sand to the shelter of the seawall-only to be taken prisoner a few hours later.
To be honest, when I used to disclose the reason for his behavior, it made me sad, trivializing down to a simple paragraph-long narrative, the day that altered his life forever. The day that created demons he’s still fighting, more than seven decades later.
He’ll never change. Not even if he lived another seventy years. How could anyone ever expect him to?
I chose the inspiring prompt to write an unusual back story. This piece was based on the bungled Dieppe Raid of 1942 which involved countless valiant soldiers including the men of the Royal Regiment of Canada.