Best-selling author of 'Money Power Love', 'The Little Voice' and 'Occupied'.

JOSS SHELDON

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1901

 

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After another two years of childhood, spent doing all the things which a young-boy should; Alfred is at home again. He is watching his Mother cry, sob-snivel-and-sigh; as if she is insane.

"God is dead!" She shouts out in pain. "God remains dead. And we've killed him, Alfred Freeman. We-have-we-have-we-have!"

Alfred's Father has died, so his Mother is teary-eyed; with teary-pain and teary-grief. Alfred is stroking her hair, with loving-care; and giving her relief.

The year is 1901.

An Australian Judge is inaugurating his nation's first ever parliament whilst wearing a cape, a German Pharmacist is inventing adhesive-tape; and an American Businessman is inventing disposable-razors. In China an anti-imperialist rebellion is being smashed, in America a stock-market has only just crashed; and in Sweden the first Nobel Prizes are being judged by appraisers. Whilst the British have been in Southern Africa for another two years, spreading trauma-torture-and-tears; dressed up in their khaki-blazers.

Alfred's Father was out there dressed up in his khaki-suits, khaki-boots; and khaki-shorts. He was a tall man who had a brown-nose, brown-clothes; and Alfred's eyes of smoky brown-quartz.

He was a proud man who had a perfectly straight back, a patriotic-tattoo which was perfectly black; and a family with proud military-traditions. His Great Granddad arrived at the Opium War by sea, his Granddad fought in New Zealand in 1850; and his Father fought in several African missions.

But Alfred cannot remember their days of paternal-union, before he was capable of communion; and before his Father left for war. He can only focus on his Mother who starts to trip, spin-stumble-and-slip; across this polished-floor.

She lands near this dogskin-glove which still has a label, this coffee-table; and that ivory-flute. These jars which are full of cooking-brandy, colourful-candy; and colourful-fruit.

She is thrown here by her uncontrollable-backbone, which has a mind of its own; and acts as her emotional-guide. It reveals her emotions with each whirl-wave-and-wiggle, jolt-jerk-and-jiggle; spin-shimmy-and-slide.

It whirls her to the left when she feels uneasy, waves her to the right when she feels queasy; and wiggles her around when she feels manic. It jolts her forth when she feels cool, jerks her back when she feels cruel; and jiggles her around when she begins to panic.

So in her heartbroken-condition, her spine bends Alfred's Mother into this foetal-position; as its top curls in towards its base. Vertebrae-kiss-vertebrae, and try to hide her away; out of this cold-hearted place.

"You must always act like the true child of your Father in heaven," she whimpers, and simpers; whilst tears roll down her face. "Look at me. He'll always be by your side, my little-soldier. He'll be with you wherever you go, my terrific-trooper. He-will-he-will-he-will. There. That is all."

"Wa-wa-wa-why Mother?" Alfred begins to stutter.

"Oh, you really are a beautiful boy," his Mother begins to mutter.

"Pa-pa-pa-please tell me! What's happened to Father?"

"And your cheekbones! They're just like the White Cliffs Of Dover!"

"Pa-pa-pa-please tell me! When is Father coming home? Pa-pa-pa-pretty please. Pretty please with a cherry on top."

"Oh, you'll be a mighty-officer, Alfred Freeman, just like he was. Somewhere-somewhen-somehow, you-shall-you-shall-you-shall!"

"Was, Mother?"

"Your Father is in heaven, Alfred, and he's looking down on everything you do. Oh, my wonderful-warrior, he-is-he-is-he-is."

"Why, Mother? What's happened to him? Please tell me. Please-please-please."

"Oh, how persistent you are, my fearless-fighter! I just don't know what I'm going to do with you and all your mischity. I-don't-I-don't-I-don't. But I suppose I really should explain."

So his Mother wipes these tears from her cheeks, before she speaks, shouts-squeals-and-shrieks.

"Look at me. 'Twer in South Africa, Alfred. Your Father had been there since the start of the war. He'd secured victory at the Tall Hill, enlisted child-soldiers in the Besieged Town, and led a breakthrough attack in the Dale.

"My notion, it's such a ghastly thing. It really is a thousand pities.

"Your Father was working in a concentration-camp, when a Zulu who had abandoned the British army, did attack him. Upon my senses! That savage struck your Father with a rock, crushed his brave-skull, and mushed his poor-brain.

"Look at me. Alfred, this is exactly why we need to fight in those countries. Oh, those brutes aren't civilised like we are. And we, as the guardians of civilisation, have a duty to tame them.

"Your Father was providing a service to mankind. He's dead, but his life wasn't wasted; he'll still be a glorious-example for us all to follow. And you, my terrific-trooper, shall follow in his footsteps. You shall be just like him! Somewhere-somewhen-somehow, you-shall-you-shall-you-shall!"

But despite his Mother's confidence Alfred still feels cold, because at just four-years-old; he has become the man of this house. So he cries like a fountain, sits still like a mountain; and is silent like a timid grey-mouse.

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