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A Boy

John argued, 'But it's my duty to fight.'

'You're not going and that's final. End of discussion,' his father said, with his customary authority.

But two weeks later, John had his own way for once. Within an hour of his parents setting off for market, he'd packed his gear and was heading south, to Trafalgar.

His rucksack was heavy. The guilt weighed heavier. Not so much for defying his father, but more for leaving his young sister distraught at the door. The fear in her voice had haunted him to the trenches.

'Please, John, don't leave us. John, I'm so afraid. If you leave us, it'll break our mother's heart.'

Five months later, at dawn, six soldiers formed a line. Rain lashed into their grim faces, as if punishing them for the deed they were about to commit.

They stood there in those eerie moments, dreading the inevitable. Each man hoped he had the weapon loaded with the blank cartridge.

Following orders they took aim. One soldier's legs shook in his mud-stuck boots. His open mouth sucked in rain, and his eyes popped, as if he'd seen a ghost.

'God forgive me,' whispered another, under his breath.'

John, drugged and weary, had been led from his cell and firmly secured to a wooden stake. From under the soaked hood he was heard to mutter the words, 'Mam, Dad, Ann.'

Just before the blast he mumbled, 'But I' m only seventó'

Story by:

Peter Murphy

26 June 2018