Tattoo

Time can be cruel. Glimpse an old man's dark memories and bitter thoughts.

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1. A short story

Without really meaning to, he gave her an angry scowl.  It wasn't that he hadn't appreciated the way she'd dabbed the custard from his chin for him with the corner of his serviette, and it wasn't that he didn't like the gentle way she tried to ease the anguish of his dying dignity with her kind words; it wasn't that she patronised or spoke down to him like some of the other nurses, and she certainly didn't ever ignore his needs, or tend to him with anything other than kindness and selfless cheer, even when he'd messed the bed and needed cleaning up, or when his false teeth fell out unexpectedly, all covered in semi-masticated sprouts and peas, and landed in her lap.  No, that look had come from deep within.

  She didn't know he had once been a young man, vibrant and excited about life, strong and brave, gallant and dashing.  She didn't know he had crawled on his belly through the filth of French farmland, silently stalking German officers, and knifing them open in the dark; she didn't know he had single-handedly taken out a Nazi gunnery team who manned an anti-aircraft gun on the outskirts of Paris, before destroying the gun itself, and laying several mines which later tore apart a staff-car killing a prominent Nazi commandant and his henchmen...

  She knew none of this.  To her, he was just a helpless old man, a wreck, a wraith.  But that wasn't what had drawn the scowl from his sagging lips and heavy brow.

  It was the fact that he'd tried to look down her top, to lose himself in the soft, warm cleft between her plump breasts, only to see the tip of a tattoo he'd never noticed before.  This upset him.  He’d thought he knew her.  He’d thought that when she smiled at him, she was giving him a piece of her, opening herself to him in friendship and love, saying, "I know things have gone a bit crap for you recently, but I'm here to take your pain away.  While you are trapped within this body, I'm trapped within these walls, because unless I'm here helping you, making you feel comfortable and cared for, I am nothing."  But she had a tattoo.  A big one too, by the looks of it.  Right on her breast.  He didn't know her at all, and she wasn't a prisoner within these walls.  She was young and vibrant and exciting.  And this was just a job.

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