A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Patricia Prime

All Clear

When the siren went it was a quick hop, skip and jump to the air-raid shelter in the garden. Dug out from the ground and covered with compacted earth it smelled of damp and stale urine from a bucket in the corner. Dad was fighting for "King and Country" in a faraway place called Germany. While planes droned overhead and bombs dropped in nearby streets we five children were safe with our mum in the darkness, comforted only by the light from a paraffin lamp. To while away the hours mum sang to us in her lilting Irish voice, told us stories about her childhood in Waterford—a sweet-smelling green country where cows and pigs wandered in the fields. She drew faces on her knees or on our fingers and played puppets with us. After a supper of crackers and water we settled down to sleep on wooden planks against the wall, while she nursed the baby.

Imagine our horror one day when the "All Clear" siren went and we emerged into daylight to see the back wall of our house missing. On the kitchen dresser a row of china cups still hung from their hooks. We kids thought it was funny, but it was the only time I saw my mum cry.

emptying slops
the clang of a pail
breaks the silence