Dunkirk. He didnít so much carry the book, he displayed it. It was a political act. Like his shiny shoes. His shiny shoes shouted at the world at the top of their highly polished voice. They screamed volumes about an attempt to impose order on chaos and disorder. His practical Dr. Marten's walking shoe in ox-blood red said childrenís home and social services.
His tattoos spoke about another space and time. Filling time. Killing time, polishing. Porridge. Stir. Stir crazy if he didnít clean his shoes. The polished boot of authority was never his. But he wore the shiny shoe of the controlled withdrawal with all the same perverse pride he carried Dunkirk back from the Red Cross. Let those smart arse middle-class student pricks see it.
He spoke with the spirit of Dunkirk regularly: his father. He was still there. Lying on the beach. Dying. But not dead. He would be in the Botanic Gardens behind the hothouse as usual. He liked the warmth. He also liked listening to the stories of Dunkirk. A triumph of making do. A glorious semi-defeat that he was still living through.
- Whatíve you got today son?
- Went to the charity shop pa. Got this.
He held up The Miracle of Dunkirk by Walter Lord for all the world to see. The world was too busy looking at the flowers to notice the man in the shiny shoes talking to a tree.
submitted at 8:45pm
9 May 2009
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