Thursday, 10th April 00:00 BDST: Smethwick, England


“Filthy beasts!”, Amy had once proclaimed, a few years before war, after visiting her friend Maureen Barnes for tea and finding herself having to share the settee in the parlour with Maureen’s dachshund, Fritz. Fritz had been furtively attempting to lick at the back of her hand, as she tried carefully to edge her full cup of tea away from him without spilling it on herself. She tried, all the time, to keep a smile fixed on her face and hide the contempt she felt growing inside. “Oh, yes Maureen he’s a lovely boy,” she’d agreed happily through gritted teeth, while imagining herself booting Fritz off the settee and sending him whimpering for the door. 


Instead, Fritz would keep on licking at her, inching forward to follow her as she edged slowly away, all the time wondering to herself, who’d call their dog after the ruddy Bosche?


“How could those filthy beasts have that animal on the settee?”, she’d asked, incredulously, on returning home, to find around the kitchen table William reading his newspaper and Amy her magazine, “Oh, I can still feel his tongue on my wrist, well, no one wants that do they? Dogs and feet a settee shall never meet!” She was blustering, tying her apron tightly around her waist. “No, love,” William agreed, hidden behind his newspaper, his eyes rolling as he rustled it, pulling it taut, then raising it higher in the air in front of him, like a shield he hoped would protect him from the jaws of needless conversation that was about to snap closed on him. Doreen sighed out a “no mom.” Immediately she wondered whether it should have been a yes mom though, just like dad’s.


Doreen smiled to herself, as the thought of whether Fritz had been interned for the duration entered her mind. But the old kitchen table, back down there in London, seemed so far away now. She rose up a little to look down at her bare legs on the settee. Her head propped up on Amy’s lap, her mother’s hand stroking at her hair as the news started up on the wireless.  Doreen tilted her head back down and looked up at her mother, who was lost in thought: “Remember Maureen’s dog, mom? Imagine her trying to find him during the blackout, shouting out, ‘Fritz, Fritz, where are you, here boy!’”


Amy’s face cracked into laughter and Doreen raised her head up again from her mother’s lap. They both hugged each other and laughed. “Dog’s and feet a settee shall never meet, don't you know!”, Doreen shouted out in a posh accent bouncing her feet up and down on the settee like a toddler in a paddling pool. “Oh, you rotter you!”, Amy shouted back, seeing her bare feet there as they both laughed again, a mother and daughter hugging each other in the living room of their home. Outside, just a few inches beyond the bricks and mortar of their home, the world, gone mad, was full of people busily trying to kill each other through increasingly more devious, yet ingenious ways.


“Come on, let’s go back under the table mom,” Doreen said, standing up and pulling out a section of seat cushion from the sofa to lay under the table, Amy followed, and they lay there together listening to the world outside with all of its thunder. The smell of cordite seeped in, along with the cold and the dull thuds of artillery prodding into the night. The shrill sound of a siren breaking in was audible, and then faded. Amy began to cry. “Don’t cry mom, we’ll get through this, you watch, blue skies all the way,” Doreen responded, pulling a hanky from her sleeve and dabbing at her mother’s face. “I know love, we will. I just miss your dad and the life we had. You don’t really know what you have until it’s gone, do you?”, Amy said, holding Doreen gently by the wrist, if only to stop her from dabbing at her face, as she wondered where Doreen’s hanky had been, then paused to think to herself for a moment and then smiled, continuing,  “you’re going to be such a wonderful mother one day.”  


“Oh mom do you think so?”, Doreen blushingly replied, her hand falling to her face, “you’re going to tear me up too, mom,” she followed up, her hand wafting in front of her face. “You will love - the best,” Amy said, her hand wiping away her daughter’s tears now, and then whispering, “blue skies all the way.”