Lest We Forget
They didn’t tell me I’d be reading so I hadn’t brought my glasses. I was standing at the lectern in the school chapel, not a clue what the fuck I was meant to be saying, squinting at an old copy of the Ode.
“They shall grow not o-old, as wwwe that are l-left grow old;
Age shall not wwwweary them, nor the years c-c-condemn.
At the g-going d-down of the sssssun, and in the morning
We will forget them.”
Veterans in the front rows adjust their mustard ties scratch at mustard flakes of skin behind their ears daydreaming of whiskey sours. Sergeants Major fluff up in military apparel clucking and chirruping indignantly. Headmaster Glottal stops several times behind me. Boys scratch shoes on the ground looking about uncomfortably. Teachers wobble their heads pondering coffee orders for lunchtime.
“Please bow your heads for a minute’s silence.”
There is a small explosion in the third pew. My friend Charles, well known for finding things funny that everyone else does not find funny and vice versa, who once sat through all of Zoolander with a look of contempt and repugnance on his face and turned to me at the end, announcing, “It’s a jungle out there, Johnston,” but who once saw a dog get run over by a Lexus while we were having lunch and had to lie down for several minutes: Charles detonates. Several mustardy veterans seek cover enduring PTSD relapses.
We all bow our heads for a minute’s silence.
Our heads bowed for a minute’s silence.
Charles has to go outside for some air.
Our heads bowed in silence.
Whispers of Where are you going Montgomery? Shouts of “I’m sorry sir I just CAN’T HOLD IT ANY LONGER.”
Heads bowed in silence.
Creaking of heavy chapel doors a rush of cold air through the socks.
Silent heads bowed.
From the lawn, “DAAAAAAH! WE WILL FORGET THEM!”
Receding into the distance, “JOHNSTON FUCKED THAT RIGHT UP!”
“Lest we forget.”
From a hundred metres away, “WHAT A MORON!”
The Last Post plays on the bugle.
Cover by Australian Air League