Lost by Steve Goodlad

Dearest Emily, 

Here we are in our tropical kit; shirts and shorts and gumboots. It is 90 degrees and every afternoon we have a thunderstorm and torrents of rain followed by steam. We are never dry. We live in a swamp in a country where alcohol and comfort are prohibited by God. 

If I knew where we were, I couldn’t tell you. The enemy might intercept our mail and die laughing at our incompetence. I am certain that we are not where we should be. We have all the equipment for a day at the beach. A dry match to light a cigarette is our currency. I sleep in a wet hammock in wet clothes with wet boots to look forward to in the morning. I swear I am developing fish scales and will soon be joining the local crocodiles gulping mud. 

Don’t be alarmed, this is only the talk of a man with mosquito lotion on his hands and face with anti-louse powder in the seams of his clothes who drinks highly medicated morning tea from a tin mug with shaving soap around the rim and boots for bedtime slippers. 

It is very green wherever we are. Lots of wild flowers and gum trees with their barks hanging down like tattered lingerie. There is constant insect noise, but above it all I swear I heard a lark yesterday as though we were at Doncaster racecourse on the day I won a tenner on Chulmleigh. We got lost that night as well and woke on a bed of mailsacks in Doncaster Station with no recollection of how we got there. 

Every known kind of delay and disappointment has attended us and I despair most days with a general loathing of mankind and the misery it inflicts on itself. I should be awarded the Spartan Star for Needless Discomfort in the face of Overwhelming Rage. 

I have an acquaintance with a local river boatman, like Budgie the Barge who sold us coal from the powerplant. He smuggles Algerian brandy, so I deserve the next few days of pain and hangover. 

A few weeks ago, we were in Carthage and Churchill turned up to address his Army in the Roman Amphitheatre. He’d forgotten his teeth, but he did all the tricks; hat, cigar, V sign and I remember that day we watched Chamberlain on Pathe news smiling peace with honour and we kidded ourselves there was a chance. Three years on, without a hope in hades I am lost in a muddy wadi somewhere south of hell. 

My dear, you will never read this. I have no intention of posting it. It will be papier-Mache in my chest pocket by the time I reach England. I shall send you the usual postcard with love and kisses saying how much I miss you and how sorry I was so bloody far away and could not shelter and protect you in our own home when the bombs rained down and I lost you. 

Published in Issue #11

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