Monday, June 7, 2010

Comes Safe Home

Your big toe on your left foot is itchy.

You look up at the grey sky of early dawn and close your eyes as the rain washes your face. You decide to concentrate on the rain and not on the itch, since you can’t take your boot off right now.

Your pal Charlie is telling the joke about the Irishman and the mule. You’ve heard him tell the story a million times before, but you laugh along with the rest of the guys. You open your eyes and look around the crowded boat. Behind you, you hear Fred talking to his buddy, telling him how this type of weather might play hell with the new plants. Fred’s a farmer and the weather is always on his mind. You hear his buddy asking questions about the planting, about the yield, about anything except what’s going on right now.

Charlie sticks his elbow into you. “What?’’ you yell. He takes off his helmut and cups his ear - who knew being in a small boat would be so loud? “What is it?” you say again. He points over the grey edge of the craft to the waves cresting around you.

“Do ya think it’ll be real cold?” he asks.

“I’d think,” you say, “it’s not exactly beach weather.” He nods. “True enough,” he says, “but look around. It’s a sight.”

You raise your hand over your eyes and squint as you can just make out the silhouettes of the other ships appearing through the dim light and rain. You run your tongue over your dry lips and taste the salt from the spray.

“I reckon this weather might be a blessing,” Charlie yells into your ear, “they’ll never suspect we’d be dumb enough to do this today.”

You raise your eyebrows in agreement as you say “Let’s hope.” Charlie gives another quick glance at the churning whitecaps.

“I hate cold water,” he says, “back home, I was always the last one into the lake. I had to take it slow, you know?”

You nod. “Well, yeah,” you say, “cold water can be scary to a kid.”

Someone behind you taps your shoulder. You turn around. “Cold water ain’t goin’ to be his biggest worry today,” he says.

“Nope,” you say, turning back to see the faint outline of a shore appearing on the horizon. “Nope,” you repeat to yourself, “not today.”

Today is June 6, 1944.

I wrote this yesterday, the 66th anniversary of D-Day.

The title is from Shakepeare's Henry V - the St. Crispan's Day speech:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named..


  1. Thanks for the reminder--we tend to forget the past when dealing with the here and now.

  2. A wonderful post, Elspeth. What a good way to remember the day and honor those who served.

  3. Terry; Since I write in this era, I'm rather aware of certain anniversaries.

    Carol; I'm glad you liked it. It took some nerve to actually post a short piece of fiction - I've never done it before!

  4. Elspeth - This is beautifully written! And thank you for the reminder, too. We owe those soldiers so much.... What a wonderful blog post : ) : ). You really write characters quite well. Now I really, really, really, really, really want to read your book - you've whetted my appetite!

  5. Margot; Thank you SO MUCH for those kind words! This doesn't sound at all like my book - it's a completely new voice.

  6. This is a wonderful portrayal and reminder that our military men and women are not only very brave but also very human. You’ve written a great tribute.

  7. We spent a lot of this past weekend watching WWII documentaries. I cannot imagine doing what those men did (and soldiers still do today). We owe all soldiers so much!

    Straight From Hel

  8. Jane; Thank you. I always try to remember that people are people. I can't imagine that most of them weren't terrified.

    Helen; Nor can I. They are (and were) extraordinary human beings.

  9. Elspeth, a very beautiful piece. Thank you.
    And yet another side to a wonderful talented you!

  10. Maribeth; I feel as if I should be sending you cake. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  11. Oh Elspeth, this is wonderful - every sense mentioned - all in the showing and not one bit in the telling. so many possible bits of stories.. marvelous and touching. Thank you...

  12. Jan; Thank YOU. You've no idea what your kind comment has meant.

  13. How _very well_ written. Beautiful! I was there in the boat!

  14. What a beautiful post. My father was a veteran and would never speak of what he went through. He got a purple heart but never spoke about it. We can only imagine the sacrifice the soliders everywhere make.


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