19 June 2008

Dai The Lion

In 2003, I had an idea to write several short stories that all featured a bicycle as the driving force of the narrative (not exactly original, I know). This short piece below is as far as I got.

My father's father died before I could talk and I've never been able to get enough information about him to paint a vivid picture. I know he was a boxer with the moniker Dai the Lion (Dai, is short for David in Wales) and his leg was injured in World War Two, where he served as a cycle courier. Anyway, after I wrote this I threw the bike idea out the window and realized I was actually embarking on something far more ambitious...

"You see, bicycles didn’t have these fancy tires, like you have now, during the war. They were rock solid and you bounced all over the place especially if you were riding on the terrain we were on.”

Dai was dying. He was talking to his new born grandson who as of yet was without a name. Baby Llewelyn was his moniker for now and he was drooling onto Dai’s huge wrinkled hands, gurgling some unintelligible baby gargle.

“I remember just before I got hit, the sky…” he coughed decades worth of smoke out of his lungs “…the sky was on fire, so beautiful, like Guy Fawk’s Night, like the fireworks they have these days, lighting up the sky. Oranges, reds and greens flashing all around us. There were columns of smoke, I remember them being lit up. I remember watching the smoke drift off into the cold black sky like orange ghosts, red ghosts. I probably should have been paying more attention to cycling but when you see such things you can’t take your eyes off them. Like when you see your friend lying face down in the mud with bits of metal, steaming with heat, protruding from his legs. You know it is bad, it is pain, it is horror but it is also an awe-inspiring sight. The flesh and the mud, dead and dying bodies, men in so much pain they rip their mouths open so wide but emit nothing save an ungodly silence. An agonizing silence. You see so much from a bicycle. Smell so much, hear so much and taste so much. The burning flesh is what you might taste, and certainly smell. Maybe you’ll taste it one day, god forbid, but maybe you will."