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Dancing Man

Page 3

Karen Lethlean

Eventually he leans over my shoulder and apologises, saying, ‘…Our digitalised records don’t seem to cover all dates… Your grandfather might warrant further investigation, don’t suppose he ever talked about why records wouldn’t exist, or behind the lines action?’

At least my mini-search in Canberra did confirm that Poppa William received medals rewarded for more than being a soldier fluffing about in regimental HQ, after most battles were done and dusted. ‘Keeping files right,’ as he used to say. Or, if I pushed further, he’d point down at coloured ribbons and say, ‘Gave me this for peeling potatoes.’

Now my ability to get information from Mum is compromised, I can never be sure in what time frame she is operating.

‘What do you think Bill did during the war?’ I decide to ask, after returning from Canberra. Prompted by staff encouraging chats about long past times. Should have known better.

‘Your uncle Bill? He was too young for war service.’

‘No Poppa William, what did he do during the war?’

‘Tried to enlist a few times, kept getting rejected, too old. If he went, Poppa worked as some sort of clerk.’

‘Remember you told me about a big city parade to celebrate soldiers’ return?’

She’s gone, wandering somewhere in a convoluted past. Physically here, yet a shell of her former self. Her mind off on a trip, again.

Streets are suddenly cool. We walked down amid paper rubbish, heels hard on cooling pavement, pulled cardigans to our chests. Early dark lapped at buildings and smiling faces, below deepened layers of sky. An occasional rub of my friend’s shoulder, I caught wheat scents of her hair, consoling as summer grass.

‘Peace time. They will be able to switch on proper streetlights,’ said Dorothy.

Those brown-out barriers on streetlights annoy me too. Create an atmosphere like sea mist, crime fiction scenery.

Page 3

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