Trafika Europe 1 - Northern Idyll
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119

But Andra also told me about the dysentry. How no-one

was reporting sick. If you did that, they wouldn’t let you on

the train. No-one wanted to stay on that continent any

longer than he had to. You were so desperate to get home

that you’d shit in overflowing buckets for three days and

nights. That was the only hint that something had

happened inside the minds of all these men in tin hats. Not

just those with a story like my own father’s – his escape

from a tank. An armoured vehicle that had been mobile,

just seconds before, became a steel coffin. A smouldering

target. A hatch clanged shut for the last time and he was

outside of it. By a whisker.

We kept hens for a while. Out the back. The daughter,

Anna and me had fun, building the housie with the nesting

box on the side and the run out front. Long before that, I

remembered my granny just lifting a corner of the coop and

grabbing a black one. She disappeared into the shed with it

and we got it to take home in a bag. It might not be worth

roasting but there would be good soup there.

I killed hens after making sure Anna really was somewhere

out of the way. First I listened to advice then I did the twist

thing just as I’d been told, so I thought. But you might as

well have been doing the other kind of twist, chasing it

round the garden when it came back to life. So I put an

edge on the hatchet after that. They still quivered and

moved more than you could think possible but you knew

they were dead in most senses.