Digging Up The Past

The old man turned over the soil in his garden, the lines in his face more defined as he worked. His spade, with each thrust into the earth, brought back unwelcome thoughts. Images from a different time and world surfaced – a sandy prismatic compass, a magazine of ammunition and Kit, his old Captain. In that other time he’d been known as Mac. Melancholia and nostalgia coexisted with that name in his memories.
+++++He hesitated, acutely aware of movement behind him. He closed his eyes, exorcising ancient and deadly instincts.
+++++“Are you alright, Granddad?”
+++++Bobby, his grandson, stood by the side of the garden, concern in his eyes.
+++++“Aye. Just havin’…”
+++++Mac glanced at Bobby. Surely he’d understand, he was old enough now.
+++++“Back in the war of ’91, I was in a team of saboteurs.” He crouched down to Bobby’s level. “We’d walked for about ten hours to get to the missile site.”
+++++Bobby’s face softened and he settled down onto a fallen log.
+++++“When we got there, we found a sentry over the hill to the site. What could we do? Go home?”
+++++“Did you shoot him, Granddad?”
+++++Mac looked at him. “I’ll tell you what we did. We drew straws for who had to kill the sentry.”
+++++“So you did shoot him!”
+++++“No, no. Shooting the man would have made too much noise. We had to get close to the missiles. Anyway, I drew the short straw. It was my turn to do the killing.”
+++++“Were you scared?”
+++++“Of course I was. We all were. Fear keeps you alive. It’s good to be scared a little. But do you know what I used to kill the sentry?”
+++++Bobby shook his head, eyes wide.
+++++Mac rose up and brandished the spade like an old friend. “I crept down the hill,” he whispered, “ever so quietly.”
+++++Bobby leaned forward, his mouth slightly open.
+++++Holding the spade like a baseball bat, Mac crept toward the nearby cherry tree. The spade made a noise as he swung it. A moonlit sky flashed in his mind’s eye, the sentry’s head in front of him. A hollow crack resounded as the spade struck the tree, and the howl of appeal from the spade echoed through the cul-de-sac. Bobby gasped. Something flowed in Mac’s veins, galvanising his senses and bringing back a blood lust he’d long thought dormant.
+++++He flashed a look at Bobby.
+++++“He fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes. The spade was still singing though” – the spade’s din fading – “so I put its blade to his neck…”
+++++Mac thrust the spade into the earth and put his foot on it, sinking it further.
+++++“It was just like…” He was lost for words for a second “…well, like digging the potatoes up.”