The Unknown Soldier

Many moons ago my wife and I (before we were mar­ried) end­ed up in Green Square, Kingston drink­ing at Filthy McFad­dens – the night before ANZAC Day.

 A great start to the night was when my future wife took advan­tage of our table being right near the entrance to the pub, and start­ed telling peo­ple there was a cov­er charge.  It was amaz­ing how many peo­ple reached in to their pock­ets before being told it was just a joke.

 Short­ly after that, the night took a rather strange turn.

 Mov­ing around the pub as we often do, we went from near the door, to the bar, before final­ly end­ing up sit­ting next to a bunch of ex-army guys (who were rel­a­tive­ly tanked – par­don the pun).  One guy in par­tic­u­lar sin­gled me out and decid­ed to tell me with great enthu­si­asm and ever so slight aggres­sion about what the army had done for him.  After much nod­ding in polite agree­ment with his var­i­ous sto­ries of courage under fire, I asked him if he was going to the dawn ser­vice.

 “Nah.” he said.

 “Oh, I guess it’s pret­ty ear­ly in the morn­ing.” I said. 

 Astound­ing­ly, in this one sen­tence I had man­aged to infu­ri­ate the guy and move his aggres­sion up by a few notch­es.

 “How dare you cheap­en the idea of ANZAC day!  Do you know how many peo­ple fought and died for your free­dom!  Rah rah rah… free­dom… rah rah… coun­try… rah rah… rah rah Dig­gers… rah rah… hon­our… rah rah rah… think of the chil­dren.”

 Pret­ty much any­thing I said at this stage just seemed to make him angri­er – and his mates start­ed crack­ing their knuck­les in antic­i­pa­tion.    Amaz­ing­ly, just as he said some­thing about how he ought to smash my face in, my wife exclaimed “Where’s my bag?”

 I said “What?”

 “My bag is gone!”

 As I am look­ing around Ex-Army guy attempt­ed to fin­ish what we had start­ed.  In my gen­uine con­cern for the lost bag I turned to him and said “Can you just hang on a sec please mate, she has lost her bag.”

 “Sure, no wor­ries.” he mut­tered (sur­pris­ing­ly).

 We stood up, look­ing around and remem­bered we had been sit­ting at the bar.  “Back in a sec, we’ve got to find this bag” I said as we walked off to the bar.  Ex-Army Guy even let us squeeze past.  Sure enough, there was the bag.

 “You know, now would be a good time for us to sneak off.”

 “OK, let’s go.”

 Being incred­i­bly proud of our­selves and show­ing excep­tion­al fore­sight, we snuck out and went straight to the Durham Cas­tle Arms next door. 

 For the first ten min­utes we ner­vous­ly laughed about how close I had come to get­ting beat­en up.  Then we prompt­ly for­got about the whole thing. 

 Some time passed by and we were muck­ing around and my future wife did some­thing that could not have been script­ed any bet­ter in an episode of The Simp­sons.  She was point­ing at peo­ple as part of some sto­ry nei­ther of us can remem­ber and ran­dom­ly going “You… and you… and You…!” and as the last point point­ed the smile dis­ap­peared from both our faces.  She had point­ed direct­ly at Ex-Army Guy who had just wan­dered in and was stand­ing at the bar.    

 “So… where were we?” he said as he came up to our table with a phys­i­cal pres­ence that any self respect­ing stan­dover man would be proud of.

 In what can only be described as the most unex­pect­ed­ly appro­pri­ate and ran­dom thing to say, my future wife says “We’re get­ting mar­ried!”

 Upon hear­ing that, our res­i­dent tough guy pulled up a chair and told us the sad sto­ry of his mar­riage, birth of his son, and sub­se­quent break up. 

 “Look at him, he’s got his Daddy’s keys” he sobbed as he showed us a video on his phone of a very cute tod­dler car­ry­ing a set of keys.  “Me keys, he’s got me keys.  Ahh, I miss him.  I miss him.”

 After much con­so­la­tion, he stood up, wiped the tears from his eyes and bid us a fond farewell. 

 “Let’s go home.”

 Lat­er that year my wife and I got mar­ried and lived hap­pi­ly ever after.  One day we may even attend a dawn ser­vice – as long as it’s not too ear­ly.