Monday, December 29, 2008

Wednesday 10th March 1943

Disappointment! I remarked yesterday that the once listless sailor had become quick, and talkative and alert. Now, I notice he is too quick, too talkative, excited and jerky. He still seemed normally alertful until late last night, about 8 o'clock, when he came across and began talking to me.

“I've been in hospital three months!” he said, “Lost two stones! You wouldn't believe how strong I was when this started.” He went on to tell me, lucidly and clearly about his sporting history (... “That year I cleared 18 foot 2 inches in the jump... and I'll do it again – if they'll just let me stay here another month while I get my strength back"...) But then, an odd inconsequence became discernible in his conversation. “I knew I did wrong – but I've been punished for it, losing my health. Now if they'll only explain to me what it was...” And later he said, “Mind you, it's been a wonderful experience, except for losing my health. I've lived my whole life again in these three months – my childhood, the ships I sunk... I heard them all. I can still hear them.” “Really?” I said, “They all come back in their proper order?” “Yes! Just as they happened.”

He'd previously said he did not smoke, but while he talked, eagerly, he smoked three of my cigarettes. “Getting quite a boy, aren't I?” he exclaimed, as he opened my box (unasked!) for the third time. Then he spoke, in a rational manner, of the many letters which had come from his wife. I couldn't stop him talking. (“And he's got the most boring line of sales talk!” remarked a cynical orderly.)

“Of course, I've been a fool, about the wife, you know!” went on the Killick abruptly. “Have you?” “Yes. You see, the last time I was home I found a man in the house. I came in, dressed in civvies, like this...” (he demonstrated) “...there was my wife, and here, by the fire place, was the man. He was the insurance agent, but I didn't know. So my wife said, “This is my husband, Mr Collinson”. And he said “We've met.” I'd seen him that morning, but I didn't remember at the time. I expect he was trying to find out things about me...” “Yes?” “Yes.” The story petered out suddenly!

Long after I'd gone to bed he was talking excitedly to the night orderlies, about his extraordinary experiences in another hospital – how a mysterious man used to come stealing razors and things; and when Killick looked at the ward windows, they all flew open – crash! crash!; and how he used to leave his bed at night and go out and lie in the grounds; nobody seemed to interfere with him but all the other patients in his ward were not really ill – they were good class people like bank clerks – but were there solely to spy on him. “Yes, it was a queer place,” I heard the Killick saying as I dozed off, “There were two big Raids there – not air raids, but mystery-men. And when I left, the whole hospital was closed down...”


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