Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (2)

The more I re-read, the more holes I see. Everything's a bit too simplistic, isn't it?

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - Part 2

“Hey boy!” one of the soldiers yelled at the boy, struggling toward the washing line with a basket piled with washing.

“Yes?” the boy asked, putting down the heavy load with a sigh of relief under the line.

“Not ‘yes?’ you ignorant little brat! It’s ‘yes sir’!” the soldier stumped over, kicking the boy down and causing him to knock over the large basin of washed clothes.

“Yes sir?” the boy asked, struggling up right.

“Now look what you’ve done, you oaf!” the soldier yelled, slapping the boy in the face. “Go and redo the washing again. If my shirt’s not clean and dry by tomorrow, you know what you’ll get!”

“Yes sir,” the boy said glumly, rubbing his wrinkled fingers on his scarred face while picking up the fallen clothes.

“Once you’ve finished doing that, I want you to run down to the artillery tents and call Leanders. So be quick about it.”

“Yes sir.”

The boy rinsed and hung up the clothes as quickly as he could, not wanting to get into trouble with the big soldier, Albert, again. Then he ran to find Leanders.

The boy had been living with the soldiers for a month now, in the main camp at the border between the two warring countries. The enemy had invaded his country very quickly and taken over his town, whichever one it was, just days after the official declaration of war had been given. These soldiers had found him wandering aimlessly about, having lost all former memory and had enlisted his help as their general camp servant. As far as they knew, he had no name and did not need one. One yell of ‘Boy!’ was enough and he’d come running. He cooked and cleaned for them; sometimes even polished their gear, though not when the officers were about.

This camp was known to the soldiers as Heckler Camp, where the soldiers after being on leave were sent to recuperate in the township of Herrick and get fit again before heading back out to the war front. Heckler Camp was just 30 minutes drive from Thistlowood. The 5th Company were marching out to relieve their comrades at the frontlines in two days and the boy would be going with them.

The soldiers of 5th Company quite liked their boy. He was quiet, didn’t cry when he was hit and did as he was told with alacrity. He could tell good stories, but he never smiled. He wasn’t supposed to be coming with them, but they had decided that they would smuggle him as far as they could. For some of the men, he reminded them of their sons back home.

Captain Isenskowl turned to see a shadow slip off into the dark. He dashed out of his tent with a shout, but could see nobody about. He was sure there was a boy in the camp, who moved silently and like the wind. He had only ever seen this boy’s shadow, and was sure that he must be a spy for the enemy. All the men he questioned always denied ever seeing a boy about.

In Thistlowood, a tall, well built boy with roughly cut hair was busy trying to find enough food for all the children he had managed to save. They never saw him; neither did he want them to. He was ashamed of himself and there was nobody to tell him that he needn’t be. These children were mostly war orphans that he’d saved from their burning houses and taken to the caves in the hills. Most of them were his former classmates and schoolmates.

The children of the caves knew they had a benefactor who was trying to take care of them. Besides the food they foraged for themselves in the town, their benefactor often left them presents of food, clothes, blankets or toys. They had plenty of water, for there was a stream running nearby.

Most of the presents he left them were from the enemy and had the enemy’s marks branded on them. Two days ago, he had left them a basket full of Spyri branded clothes. Since that day, the children all decided that they would call their mysterious friend, whether he was an enemy or not, Spyri.

From a distance, the boy always watched and helped Spyri, although Spyri didn’t know it. The boy travelled large distances during the night quickly and could move as silently as Spyri. He often visited this town during the night and sometimes during the day, when he thought that the soldiers at Heckler’s Camp would not miss him. There was something about this town that drew him although he didn’t know why. He had seen all the children that Spyri had saved and knew where they all hid. He watched all the goings on in town and his eyes and ears missed nothing, but he kept all the town’s secrets to himself.

It was getting late. The sun would be coming back up soon. The boy ran back to the camp to get a few hours rest before being kicked awake by a soldier.

“Hey Boy, get up!” Albert whispered harshly. “We have to hide you in the truck before the Captain comes. Hurry!”

“Already?” the boy asked sleepily.

“The top brass decided that they need us quickly, so we’re being sent a day early.”


“Here,” Albert said, lifting a tarpaulin. “Hide under here in all that stuff.”

The boy climbed under the tarpaulin and uncomfortably nestled himself amidst the coiled wires.”

“I’ll call you when we get there. We’ll be moving in an hour’s time. Be still or you’ll get found.”

Albert’s footsteps faded away and the boy drifted back into a dreamless sleep. The truck’s engine and jolting woke him up.

The boy lay still a moment, wondering where he was. Then he remembered. They were off, going to a place called Murnabeem at the war’s front. After a lot of jolting around, he fell asleep again. The air was warm and stuffy.

He woke up and fell asleep countless times during the journey. Eventually they arrived at Murnabeem, where gunshots and artillery guns boomed like a never ending thunderstorm.

“Boy! Boy! You can come out now. We’re there!” Albert opened the tarpaulin.

The boy crawled out and fell out of the truck. His legs had been cramped during the journey and weren’t working properly.

He heard footsteps and looked up at Albert. “Someone’s coming.”


Albert came to attention before Captain Isenskowl.

“Who is this boy and what is he doing here?”

“A stowaway found aboard this truck, sir!” Albert answered. “He was hiding under that tarpaulin amidst the wires, sir!”

“Go check the wires and make sure they are all still in shape, then bring them into that classroom over there.”

“Yes sir!”

It seemed that the 5th Company would be spending the night in Murnabeem High School.

“Now you boy, stand up!”

The boy stood up shakily and looked into Captain Isenskowl’s gun point expectantly.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?”


“Don’t ‘sir’ me, you dirty little spy! I can’t believe your government has stooped so low as to use boys like you as spies.”

“I’m not a spy, sir,” the boy replied, seeing Albert’s glare. “I don’t know why I got onto the truck. I think I was play-acting at being a soldier and woke up and found myself here, with that soldier there yelling at me.”

“I see,” Captain Isenskowl scowled at the boy, stroking his small bearded chin.

“I could help with general things about the camp,” the boy offered tremblingly. “Like cleaning or cooking or medical aid or…”

He quailed as he looked at the gun again.

“Or?” Captain Isenskowl repeated menacingly.

“Or you could kill me if you really want, though it won’t be a very nice thing to have on your conscience… sir,” the boy added as an afterthought.

“You are a very brave boy,” Captain Isenskowl laughed. “Since you are here, we will make use of you. You’ll soon wish you never stowed away, pretending to be a soldier. You can be a messenger, a runner, for when we can’t send news over the wire. You will answer to me.”

“Yes sir.”

“But if I find out that you are a spy…” Captain Isenskowl lifted his gun and fired a shot in the ground, making the boy jump visibly. “You know what you will get.”

“Yes sir.”

“What is your name?”

“I-I-I don’t think I have one, sir. Everyone calls me ‘Boy’.”

“Everyone, eh? Even all the other soldiers, hmm?” Captain Isenskowl scowled knowingly at Albert. “Very well then, we will call you ‘Boy’ until we find a nice name to suit you, eh? What do you think, Boy?”

“Um, thank you, sir,” the boy answered, not knowing exactly what to answer.

By the end of the day, the boy knew the whole layout of the school and also where the other nearby camps of soldiers were located. Captain Isenskowl had kept him busy with relaying messages all over the front lines, and the boy soon found that Murnabeem was actually just beyond the front lines. Fifth Company were to hold this school in case of retreat. Soon the surrounding camps all knew him too.

The boy found that he often ended up with a large amount of washing to do for each camp. Wrinkly fingers seemed to be his lot in life. So he sang, whenever he had a large amount of washing.

“Wrinkly fingers, wrinkly skin,
My lot in life are these it seems.
Washing in water,
Hot and still boiling,
Uniform for the soldiers
That itch for clean clothes.
Wrinkly fingers, wrinkly skin,
My lot in life are these,
So it seems.”

This often made passing soldiers smile and laugh as the boy sang and washed, and hung their clothes up to dry. They had to admit that their washer boy did a good job, because when he was done, there would not be a single live louse left in their clothes.

One day, as the boy was thus washing, Captain Isenskowl ordered him to send a message to Major Peneer, who was in the fighting at the very front of the lines. As the message was urgent, the boy was obliged to leave his washing for the day and leave immediately.

It was almost dark when he reached the trenches and handed the note to Major Peneer.

“Damn!” the Major swore under his breath. “The communication lines will be down for a few hours.”

“What are we going to do then, Major?” his lieutenant, Fredric, asked.

“Captain Isenskowl suggests using the boy.”

All eyes turned to the boy, who was looking at the ground, not really listening, hoping the soldiers would not be angry that the washing would not be done tonight.


“Yes sir!” the boy snapped to attention.

“The communication lines will be down for a while, due to enemy bombing. You will be running messages between camps for the next few days.”

“Yes sir!”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Um, sir, there’s a load of washing I wasn’t able to finish before I came,” the boy began hesitantly.

“Washing! Forget it! Those soldiers will have to wear what they are wearing for another day. Go and let all the other camps know that the lines are down and that you will be our main runner for the time being. Then report back to me.”

“Yes sir!”

The boy ran out to follow orders and then when he had breathlessly finished sending all the messages, he rushed to wring and hang up the washing, before reporting back to Major Peneer.

Just before he left, Captain Isenskowl stopped him.

“Tell Major Peneer that the Commander in Chief will be coming to Murnabeem to inspect our progress in person within a week.”
The boy delivered the message.

“Our position is not yet stable! The Commander in Chief must not come.” Major Peneer said. “We must keep the enemy’s heads down. I’ll get someone else to send that message. Go and have a rest, Boy. You haven’t stopped today yet.”

The boy went to a little corner of the trench and slept on a small pile of sacking that was kept there. He awoke to many shouts and the earth shaking beneath him. His countrymen had found the range of the trenches and were giving them a good raking. He ran out to be pushed aside by escaping soldiers, and was pulled into Major Peneer’s hole.

“Come on, Boy, we have to retreat a little way,” Major Peneer shouted above the noise.

They ran through the low ditches to the back trenches that were quieter. There Major Peneer and other CO’s rallied their men to prepare for the expected onslaught from the other side.

“Go tell Captain Isenskowl what is happening,” the Major ordered.

But just as he was about to turn and run, the boy felt an ominous inkling within him and without thinking, he grabbed Major Peneer and pushed him behind a mound of dirt.

“What the-?” Major Peneer pulled out his gun thinking that the boy was attacking him, when there was a great boom that deafened them both and the shockwave pushed them into a trench just beyond.

Breathing hard, Major Peneer peered up over the edge of the trench to see a giant crater close to where they had been standing.

“Thank you, Boy,” he breathed, putting his gun back in its holster. “You’ve saved my life.”

The boy didn’t answer.

Major Peneer turned the boy over and saw the strange angle at which his leg had landed.

The boy woke up in the hospital and looked to his right. A nurse hurried by him. He tried to move, and must have made a noise, because she came back. Searing pain shot up his leg.

“Aah. You’re awake. I’m the ward nurse, Alison.”

The boy tried to reply, but all that came out was a croak.

The nurse Alison, gave him small drink of water.

“How do you feel?”

“Awful,” the boy replied. “What’s happened at the front lines?”

“Aah, yes. They said you’d been the runner in the front while the communication lines were down. Major Peneer had you brought in; they say you saved his life. You’re too young to have been at the front lines though.”

The boy didn’t answer. He just sort of shrugged.

“Our side’s had to retreat; the enemy fire was too strong. They’ve retreated to the High School now.”


“The doctor said that you were to get out of bed as soon as you were awake. There are other soldiers who need it, so if you’re ok, you can get up now.”

The boy got up slowly.

“What’s your name?”

The boy shook his head and shrugged. “Don’t remember. Everyone calls me ‘Boy’.”

“Well, then Boy, up you get.”

A doctor with a shock of brown hair wired by seams of grey came over.

“Hello there. I’m Doctor Stonehed. I hope you’re feeling much better?”

“Yes, a little.”

“Good, good. I’ll let Major Peneer know that you’re awake and he will send someone to fetch you. I’m sorry we have to kick you out of bed so quickly, but there are so many soldiers that need help at the moment, you see. You’ll be fine. Young ones like you tend to spring back very quickly. I think you’re a bit young to be a runner. I don’t know where they got you from, nor do I want to know. We’ve run out of plaster, so I’ve only been able to give you a splint and some medicine for the pain. There’s a pair of wooden crutches you can use to get around. I must be going now.”

The doctor hurried off to see to other groaning soldiers.

“You’re very lucky to be alive,” Alison said. “Here are your crutches. Just hop your way to the entrance of the hospital and put your foot up on the bench until someone comes for you.”

It wasn’t long before the boy was back at the school with loads of washing in front of him again, singing about his wrinkly fingers again, trying to ignore the pain in his leg. The soldiers laughed to see him swinging about on his crutches while somehow hanging up washing and fondly named him, Gympi. Almost every night, they would call him to come and tell them a story or sing them a few songs. He solemnly told them stories about what would be happening in their homes, animals in the wild, nonsense stories like an argument between soap bubbles and sang songs about anything and everything. He reminded the soldiers of their families far away in their own country.

He was there when the Commander in Chief arrived to inspect what was going on, although he didn’t realise when he had driven in. The Commander in Chief had not been deterred from coming to see the font lines for himself, despite the unstable position. All the soldiers in the school were standing at attention when they heard a clear voice singing about three frogs in a well.

“Are there any soldiers here missing?” The Commander in Chief demanded.

“No sir!”

“Then who, may I ask, is that singing?”

“It must be our washer boy, sir!” Major Peneer answered.

“Your washer boy?” the Commander in Chief said incredulously. “Why do you need a washer boy? Don’t your soldiers have their own hands to wash with?”

“He washes the soldiers’ clothes, sir and kills all the confounded lice for us.”

“I see. Why is he here?”

“Hello sir,” the boy had come up behind the Commander in Chief silently, startling him.

“What? Who-”

“Hello sir, I’m Gympi, the washer boy and former runner in the front lines. I stowed away on a truck to get here and have been helping out ever since. The place seemed rather quiet, so I came to see what was going on. Nice to meet you, sir,” Gympi stuck out his hand and the Commander in Chief shook it firmly, despite his surprised frown.

“I see. How long have you been helping out?”

“Almost 3 months, sir.”

“You had your crutches before then?”

“Oh no, sir. I only just got the crutches three days ago, after I woke up in hospital.”

“And how did you get into hospital?”

“I was acting as a runner while the communication lines were down, sir.”

“He saved my life from a lucky artillery shot, sir,” Major Peneer put in.

The Commander in Chief drew his breath in sharply through his teeth. “You saved the Major’s life? Did you stow away on a truck from over the old border? Are you one of our own boys?”

“No sir. Sorry, but definitely not. I stowed away at Heckler Camp. I think I grew up near Herrick.”

“Then what’s your real name?”

Gympi shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“How old are you?”

“I think I’m 12.”

The Commander in Chief turned abruptly on the Major.

“What were you doing, using such a young boy as a runner? An enemy boy even! He might have sabotaged something. War is no place for a boy.”

“I wouldn’t do that sir,” Gympi interrupted. “Much as I don’t like war, I reckon that helping out is better than starving. Perhaps I could even remind people of home and help to stop the war. Help make peace, you know. I don’t understand what the war’s about, but I’m sure that you’d all rather be safely at home than here.”

“True enough, Gympi. You can go and finish your washing now.”

“I’ve finished it already, sir.”

“Then run along, I haven’t finished inspecting the men.”

Gympi pivoted about on his crutches, about to leave and do some sewing that needed doing. He stopped a moment, with strange look on his face.

“Sorry sir. I can’t run and I won’t be able to when they get here in a few hours. They’re coming to take the school back. I suggest you leave right now, if you value your life.”

“What’s that you say?” the Commander in Chief asked sharply.

“I knew you were a spy,” Captain Isenskowl snarled, drawing his gun.

“Ears are very useful things,” Gympi replied holding up his hand. It was a gesture of authority one didn’t normally see in a child, “if you use them properly. Listen.”

It was quiet, but for the rustling of the wind in trees. Too quiet.

“They picked a good day to make an advance.”

A watchman sounded the alarm. The alarm sounded louder than usual in the stillness of the day. The enemy had been sighted.
“You should get out now, while you still can, sir!”

The Commander in Chief looked out at his men and shook his head. “I should have listened to the Martial. Never mind, I have been on the back lines for a long time. No good leader leads from behind. It’s about time I showed these men that I can still fight. Fetch me an ordinary soldier’s uniform.”

“Yes sir!” Gympi swung off.

“Men,” the Commander in Chief said. “Today I will be fighting as one of you, and we will hold this post or die fighting. I’m not running off and leaving you to die for me. I’ll not be remembered as a coward. Remember why we are here, who we are and what we are fighting for. Now let’s get ready to meet our enemy!”

Gympi brought back a uniform and the Commander in Chief changed out of his medalled dress uniform into the simple private’s clothes in one of the portable classrooms.

“Gympi. You stay in these portables until the fighting is over. It will be safer in here.”

“Yes sir.”

“You are a very bold and brave boy, Gympi.”

“Thank you sir, I hope you will survive this battle.”

“Thank you Gympi. I hope we will soon have peace again. Perhaps this war was all a big mistake.”

Not long later, the fighting began. Gympi sat hunched up in the most solid corner of the portable he could find, hoping that no stray bullets would find its way in here. How long he had huddled in that corner, he did not know. His mind was off with his imagination, trying to forget the terrifying situation that he was in.

Later that day or was it the next day? Gympi wasn’t sure, that the fighting stopped. He presumed that his countrymen had won this fight, from the sound of banging doors and shouts as if people were searching all the classrooms.

The door to his portable was suddenly flung open.

“There’s a boy in here!” came the shout and Gympi was pulled roughly from his corner.

“It’s a lame kid with crutches.”

“I’ve got a broken leg,” Gympi corrected.

“Did I ask you?” the soldier snarled.

“What are you doing here in the enemy’s camp?” the soldier demanded.

“What have you found?” came a shout from outside.

“A boy with a broken leg!”

Another soldier came in.

“Let me see him, Coombs.”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

“What’s your name, kid?”


What kind of name is that for a kid?”

“They just called me Boy, before I broke my leg.”

“How old are you?”

“About 12.”

“How did you get here?”

“I came with the enemy, I stowed away on their truck.”

“I wanted to see whether we were winning or not. We couldn’t tell, down in Herrick.”

“You came from Herrick.?”

“Yes sir. I got caught and have been working for the enemy as washer boy and was a runner before I broke my leg.”
“How did you break your leg?”

“I fell into a trench during the bombing.”

“Tell me the messages they had you send.”

“There was nothing important. Just things like when the communication was down or fetching something or needing to get something fixed.”

“A traitor. That’s what this boy is. A traitor,” Coombs sneered.

“I’m not a traitor,” Gympi replied stoutly.

“That’s what you say,” Coombs laughed. It wasn’t a pleasant laugh.

“Leave him alone, Coombs,” the Lieutenant said. “He’s just a boy.”

“Did he fight for us? Did he sabotage anything while he had the chance? Ha, boy?”

“No. I didn’t think of it.”

“Of course not. He’d only have thought of his own skin.”

“Stop it Coombs! Leave him alone. If there is no one else in these rooms, let’s go see to the prisoners.”

“Yes sir,” Coombs said sullenly, casting a yellow eye over Gympi.

“Can I come, sir?” Gympi suddenly piped up.

“Well if you want to. It’s not a pretty sight out there. Not a sight for one as young as you.”

“I’ve seen plenty like that before, sir,” Gympi replied.

“Very well then, if you want to.”

“How many prisoners were taken?” Gympi asked as he swung after the Lieutenant and Coombs.

“Only about 15 men.”

“Is that all? Of all the 900 men stationed here, you only managed to capture 15 of them?”

“We killed all the rest of them, didn’t we?” Coombs laughed, making Gympi wince.

“So there were 900 men stationed here. Must’ve been pretty cramped,” the Lieutenant wrinkled his nose.

“It was pretty cramped,” Gympi affirmed, taking care to look only at the ground, not wanting to see any more of the dead and bloodied bodies lying around than he needed to.

The 15 prisoners were only slightly wounded, and looked up when the Lieutenant, Coombs and Gympi came into the room.

“So you’re all right then, are you Gympi?” the Commander in Chief asked. He, the Major, Albert and a few other men had survived.

“Yes sir. I’m fine.”

“Who’s this?” a commanding officer asked.

“A boy we found hiding in the classrooms, Colonel, sir!” the lieutenant replied.

“Well these men did express some concern for a boy that was hiding in the portables. You must be Gympi. The Major here says that you were a washer and messenger boy for them and that you saved his life.”

“Yes sir. That’s right. I’d have done the same for you.”


“I don’t like all this killing.”

Later that night, Gympi was lying awake in the classroom next to the one containing the prisoners, listening to his countrymen celebrating their victory, when he heard someone stumbling into the prisoner’s room, cursing and kicking. Gympi knew that all the prisoners were unable to defend themselves.

Gympi got up and came out of his room, rushing into the room next door.

“Stop it! Stop it!” he shouted. “Isn’t it enough that they are your prisoners? Would you want to be in their position? Stop it!”

Somebody with breath reeking of alcohol, grabbed Gympi, and thrust his face in Gympi’s.

“If it isn’t the little traitor,” Coombs slurred. “Well, if you don’t want them to be hurt, then you certainly will, you little sneak. Hey mates, here’s one turned bad. He helped the enemy, so he’s got to be one of them right?”

“Right!” came the hoarse voices of other men.

Somebody snatched the crutches from Gympi’s hands. Another punched him in the stomach. Gympi fell down. Boots kicked and crunched. The other prisoners tried to stop them, but were just thrown off, kicked severely and told to stay put. Somebody had taken up his crutches and was hitting him with them. Snap! Something broke.

Gympi groaned. His eyes felt painfully dry and everything hurt. He could hear moans around him and a few screams. Sounds like the hospital, he thought. He tried to open his eyes, but it was as if a great weight had been placed on them and it was a great effort to even try. He gave up and drifted back into oblivion.

Gympi opened his eyes and struggled to sit up. He screamed in pain and fell back down on the bed.

“Hello,” said a cheerful voice. “How are you feeling?”

“Water,” Gympi croaked.

“Here you go, dear.”

Someone handed him a glass of warm water and helped him sit up carefully.

“Thanks,” Gympi was about to gulp it down when a hand stayed him.

“Wait. You have to drink slowly or you’ll make yourself sick.”

“Aren’t I already sick?” Gympi whispered, taking the sip allowed him by the hand.

“I’m Alison. Do you remember me?”


“Maybe not? You were here last time when you broke your leg. Since then, this hospital’s been taken back by your own countrymen.”


“Ah. The hero’s awake now, is he?” Doctor Stonehed came bustling up, trying to find the end of a roll of bandages he had somehow tangled up.

“Here sir, I’ll do that,” Alison smiled, taking the bandages from the doctor’s fumbling attempts, quickly untangling it and rolling it back up neatly.

“Never seem to be able to get it right,” he mumbled to himself. “Thank you Alison.”

The doctor leaned in closer so that Gympi could hear his soft words, “Between us, the Commander in Chief and Major Peneer thank you for stopping your soldiers from killing them that night. You’ve become a real hero in our country. I would like to thank you too, for saving their lives.”

Gympi blinked.

“Oh. Umm.”

Doctor Stonehed smiled.

“Your father would be very proud if he knew you were so brave, Gympi.”

“My father…? Do you know him?”

“No, but I would be very proud of you if I were your father. Also the Commander in Chief and Major Peneer managed to escape back across the border a few days ago, while you were out of it. They got lucky. Apparently there was an accident in Danwick, but they managed to escape with minimal injuries.”


“You’re tired. You’ve been ill this past week. Go back to sleep. You’ll feel better when you wake up.”

“Yes sir.”

“Close your eyes.”

Gympi obeyed. The doctor was a good man.

Gympi’s stomach growled. It growled very loudly.

“Good morning, Gympi. That’s your name now isn’t it?” Alison said cheerfully. “I brought you some breakfast.”

Alison helped Gympi to sit up carefully and gave him some breakfast.

“You eat slowly now, ok kid? I’ll be back later to collect your dishes. I’ve got to feed the other men too,” Alison wheeled a trolley between beds, handing out breakfast to the men that could not get up and walk to the kitchen themselves.

Gympi looked around as he ate. His room contained more beds than it was originally made for. Most of the other patients in his room were other soldiers with various injuries. Some were groaning in pain, some were quiet and still. Still others, like him were awake and thoughtful, munching on the buns they’d been given for breakfast. There was also a smell of dirt and infected wounds, smells that a hospital seldom had before the war had begun.

“Finished?” Alison had come back and was loading trays and dishes back onto the trolley.

“Yes. Thanks,” Gympi replied. His stomach growled aloud thankfully.

Alison laughed.

“The doctor will be along soon, to check on everyone in this room. So sit tight a little longer. You’re not in too much pain?”

Gympi shook his head and winced.

Alison nodded understanding, “The doctor will see to it.”

She trundled off, talking cheerfully to other patients.

Doctor Stonehed entered the room and inspected his patients. Followed by another man and a nurse, he directed changes of bandages or helped patients to sit up in bed. Eventually he came to Gympi.

“Good morning, Gympi. How are you feeling?”

Gympi shrugged. “Sore. It hurts to move.”

Doctor Stonehed nodded to the nurse, who gave Gympi a tablet and a glass of water.

“Unfortunately we don’t have many painkillers, but we’ll let you have this one. I’m sure you understand that we can’t give everyone much pain relief, but this should last you a little while. Now, let’s see how all your injuries are going.”

Doctor Stonehed prodded and poked Gympi gently. Changing a bandage here and there.

“Luckily for you,” he said as he made sure that the plaster on both of Gympi’s legs was not too tight, “that we had just got a new batch of plaster when you came in. You were pretty well broken up, so it might all take a little while to heal.”

After he had finished, Doctor Stonehed smiled, though there was a shadow of uncertainty about it this time.

“You’ll be fine. As I told you last time, young people like you always spring back to shape quite quickly. Now, I don’t want you to lie down or get back into bed for the rest of the day if you can manage it, ok? Well, I must be off now. See you later Gympi.”

The doctor, his assistant and nurse went to the next bed, leaving Gympi alone.

Gympi slowly swung his heavy legs over the edge of the bed and let them dangle. They throbbed and he pulled them back up with effort. He wished he could remember who he was and where he came from. He wished he wasn’t in the hospital and that the war had never started. He wished he was back at home, but where was home? He wanted his mother, but all her could remember of her was a warm presence