A Big Stone Held in Sharp Claws

hand holding glass filled with beer

Just Because

Before it happened,

I remember seeing him rotate the ring,

the one on his second finger

with the big stone held in sharp claws.

I remember standing there,

talking to him,

thinking that he wasn’t listening to me,

watching him rotate that ring.

Ex-army, he was, solid,

a laugh, most of the time,

but odd. Here, but not altogether.

He assessed you when he looked at you,

detached, as if he was memorising you

so that he could tell someone

the joke of you, later.

Yes, he was odd.

Like now. He just walked away.

Didn’t say a word.

I stood there for a few minutes,

pint in one hand, fag in the other,

wondering if I was really so

insignificant.

I was about to move when he came back.

He was wearing a hard smile,

and his eyes glittered with malice.

He saw me but kept walking.

Kept smiling.

“Got to go,” he said.

“Made a bit of a mess in the bogs.”

I never saw him again.

A couple of minutes later

there was shouting

and running

and powerful swearing.

There was a man in there,

an Irish man, in the bogs,

a spark out man

who seemed to be made of blood.

The soldier had been waiting for him.

I never found out why,

but my guess is it was

just because.

For years afterwards,

I hated myself for having thought

even mildly well

of the soldier.

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