By Jane O’Loughlin, Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna
Highly commended, junior Clare Champion Short Story Competition
MARY poured the hot water out of the kettle slowly, took out the tea bag and started stirring in a spoon of sugar. With her left hand she turned the notch to turn up the volume of the radio. She listened carefully, “World War Two bomb found, the army have cleared the area and are attempting a controlled explosion.”
She clenched the top of her wooden walking stick and as slow as a snail, walked over and sat down on her old armchair. She took a sip from her cup of tea and grimaced at its heat and sweetness. She placed it down on a small wooden tea table beside her armchair. She closed her eyes, rocked back and forth on her chair and started reminiscing about the past.
She was 19 again, with long blond locks which she always had pinned up. She wore dresses that came to mid-calf, unlike the dresses teenagers wear today, which are just below their bottoms. She lived in County Kildare. It was the year of 1944.
The war had been going on for over four long years. Mary was an only child living with her mom and dad. Every evening she would go over to her neighbour’s to listen to their very modern radio for any updates about the war. Throughout the years she has heard terrible things about the German leader, Hitler. One cool summer evening whilst visiting, they were all shocked to hear that a German aeroplane had crashed into the river Dereen. The river Dereen was only five miles away from her house. But, there were no survivors.
She ran back to her own cottage where her mom and dad were just sitting down to their supper. Her mom was tall with beautiful blonde hair and had blue eyes. Everyone always said she looked like her mother. Her father had dark brown hair, chocolate coloured eyes and was a well-built man. They were tucking into brown bread, their normal evening meal when Mary excitedly told them about the plane crash. Her mom and dad said not to worry about it and to go to bed.
The next day she got up early and looked out her window. A golden sun was rising up over the meadow turning the whole sky a shimmering orange colour, there wasn’t a cloud in sight. She decided to go down to the barn on her father’s farm. She loved to go down there as it was always quiet and peaceful. Mary put on a blue dress with little polka dots on it. She ran through the meadow picking some daisies and buttercups on the way. The green grass tickled her ankles. She arrived at the large wooden barn and settled herself comfortably on a bale of hay.
She closed her eyes and started humming a song she heard at the dance the previous week. Then suddenly, she heard something, a noise, a choking cough. Through the field she saw a man approaching. He was bent over and limping. He looked around the same age as Mary. He had dark brown eyes, a cut down his dirty cheek, short light blonde hair covered with a grey cap turned down over his ears. He was very tall even when he was hunched over. He wore a grey-green tunic with four front patch pockets, the front was closed with five buttons and it had dark bottle-green shoulder straps. He wore high waisted straight legged trousers which were tucked into his boots. There were blood stains all over his clothes and there was dirt all over his face. There was pain in his eyes. But then she saw the swastika. He was a German soldier!
“No, no, no,” she whispered backing up against the wall “You can’t be here,” she whispered not capable of speaking louder.
“Please just let me explain who I am.”
“You’re a German soldier, that’s who you are.”
“I am a German pilot and I have no place to go.”
“But you’re one of Hitler’s followers.”
“Yes, he is our leader.”
“How could you follow him and know all the horrible things he has done, tearing Europe apart.”
“What are you talking about?”
For the next hour or two they talked. He told her that his name was Fritz. They talked about the war, he felt that Hitler was a hero, restoring German pride. They talked about her life, what it was like to live in Ireland. He explained that he had parachuted out of the plane before it had crashed. He had hurt his ankle landing. He had dragged and limped his way through the fields looking for shelter and had finally spotted the barn. She thought it was so easy to talk to him, she felt like she had known him her whole life. Mary had to leave for dinner but promised she would come back with some food.
At the dinner table she tried to tell her parents about Fritz but she just couldn’t. She stayed quiet and didn’t say anything. She went to bed straight away and when everyone was asleep she took the left-overs from the dinner, slipped out of the house and ran to the barn. He was very grateful. She was very worried about his injuries and didn’t know what to do. This continued on for a few more days. But one morning she went to the barn, only to find her father giving out to Fritz. “Get out of here now!” he shouted.
Mary ran in and told her father everything. Her father looked so disappointed, he couldn’t understand why she hadn’t told them.
After discussing it with her mother her father decided that he would alert the gardaí. The gardaí arrived at the house and told them that they were taking him to the Curragh’s internment camp until the war was over. Mary’s father explained that it was the best for him that he was sick and injured and that he needed proper help. They said their goodbyes and there were tears in her eyes. She stood outside her front door of their thatched cottage and watched as the car drove away. She would probably never see him again.
Six months later a letter arrived for Mary. It was from Fritz. He was getting on fine in the camp, he was allowed out for a few hours a day and for a couple of nights a week, but he was not supposed to have any contact with the locals. However, he had made a secret friend, a friend who would pass the occasional letter for him and would allow Mary to write back to him at his address. Thus, their friendship blossomed.
Mary’s happiest day was in May 1945 when she looked out the window to see Fritz striding through the field, having been released. The war was over! He asked Mary to marry him but explained he had to first return to Germany to see his family and to sort everything out. Without hesitation Mary agreed to wait.
One year later Mary’s father proudly walked her up the aisle and handed her over to her handsome German pilot. Fritz got a job locally but eventually he and Mary took over her father’s farm. To his dying day Fritz continually spoke of his great luck, the day he landed in a foreign field and found the love of his life.