A careless hand marches across your stubble sieged chin. Watery grey eyes squint back at you, from an old tobacco stained mirror. You permit yourself a mischievous chuckle. Not bad for nearly eighty six. You still have that larrikin glint. Even with only one good eye. Ha!  It’s a bit dim too these days. Again, you chuckle. This is your night, Burnie Doyle. The Lawn…Bowls…Championship… Awards… Presentation… Night. You staccato the words in a rhythmic parade off your tongue. Shove aside the intimidating pile of medication that dominates your dressing table. Annoy the dust with the back of your hand. Right here will do!

I grasp your ice cold hands, yellow stained from the many years of coaxing sweet scented tobacco into a pipe. I’m ripped by indecision. What point is there in calling the Doctor? This is it. I know it. I think you know it too. You want it this way, at home, in your own bed, with all the dignity due to an old warrior. Damn War. It took your hearing. It destroyed your health.  Now, it’s killing you. Your closed eyes flicker as your mind wonders off into another memory. Desperate, I tighten my hold in a vain effort to keep you with me.

Planes roar. Sharp whines descend from the heavens. The first impact shatters the peace, your innocence, and your eardrums. Shocked, confused. You watch in disbelief. Shards of earth spray into the evening sky. Fall like confetti. Mingle with blood and torn, burning flesh. Your massive anti-air gun is primed. Ready. You fire. The detonated shell cavorts into the humid Darwin sky. An enraged volley of death, it spews its grief upon the world. Its luminous shower of flame decorates the night sky. A battle hungry beast, it vomits blood laden de-brie into the rubble. Smokey fingers curdle down your throat and lay siege to your lungs. A vanguard taking a strangle hold of your breath. You fall beside your mates, gagging on the pungent blend of smoke, gunpowder and death.

I watch your chest rake with unrelenting coughs.  You struggle against the grip of another exhausting convulsion. Fruitlessly, I dab a towel at the sour, blood laced saliva that gurgles from your cracked lips. It joins the growing, already congealed puddle, on the bed-sheets. Damn Emphysema! Not yet. Please, not tonight. One last time, you wanted to see all your mates.  Maybe, you wanted to tell them, goodbye….