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Helen Zenna Smith

“See the man they are fitting into the bottom slot. He is coughing badly. No, not pneumonia. Not tuberculosis. Nothing so picturesque. Gently, gently, stretcher-bearers… he is about done. He is coughing up clots of pinky-green filth. Only his lungs, Mother and Mrs. Evans-Mawington. He is coughing well to-night. That is gas. You’ve heard of gas. Haven’t you? It burns and shrivels the lungs to… to the mess you see on the ambulance floor there. He’s about the age of Bertie, Mother. Not unlike Bertie, either, with his gentle brown eyes and fair curly hair. Bertie would look up pleading like that in between coughing up his lungs… The son you have so generously given to the War. Cough, cough, little fair-haired boy. Perhaps somewhere your mother is thinking of you… boasting of the life she has so nobly given… the life you thought was your own, but which is hers to squander as she thinks fit. ‘My boy is not a slacker, thank God.’ Cough away, little boy, cough away. What does it matter, providing your mother doesn’t have to face the shame of her son’s cowardice?”


Helen Zenna Smith
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