I just wrote the date at the top of this page and realized, how fitting. It’s been 11 months to the day since my dad died. This notebook is supposed to be a catalog of all the stories he told me growing up. It’s also supposed to be a type of therapy for me, since I don’t like to talk about my feelings, thoughts, fears. Something I picked up from him. No, for him it was all about the life, the action, the adventure, the song, the gang, and the occasional heartbreak and horror story. Many of his stories were gruesome and sad. He had a gruesome life, lived in gruesome times–but for the most part his stories were carefree and rebellious.
Making trouble, only occasionally getting caught, and, as is fitting for any Scottish Catholic, beating up a Brit (or two) in a pub.
My dad fought for the British Army, a member of the Cameronian regiment. He spent time in Malaysia during the “Malayan Emergency.” At one point, he and some buddies were on leave, or maybe it was right after they got back…anyways they went to a pub to get some food — the first real meal they had eaten in months. They were all skin and bones, small as they were already. You could probably rub two of them together and start a small fire.
So he and his two buddies, they go to this pub and order a huge meal, one for each of them, and they go all out, right. Full Scottish breakfast-like with eggs, pudding, bacon, toast, tottie scones, the whole nine yards. Their plates come and they’re just salivating, sweating with anticipation of the glorious meal they’re about to enjoy. Only they quickly realize that along with their muscle mass, their stomachs have shrunk to the size of acorns. And it’s all they can do to clear a quarter of their plates.
As their stomachs are aching with the rich feast and their minds are aching with the unfairness of it all, they notice a table not far away where a couple of Brits are sitting, having just finished their own meals. So my dad and his two buddies politely offer the rest of their meals to them, explaining they just can’t finish, and the two Brits politely accept, proselytizing ‘waste not want not,’ and my dad and his buddies watch as the Englishmen finish off their meals.
Then they go outside to smoke and wait. When the two Brits come out, after having eaten two meals each with no rumbling stomachs, my dad and his buddies proceed to beat the shit out of them.
“It was the principle of the thing,” he said. “They had put us in the front lines so we could be bullet-catchers, sent us into swamps so we could get malaria, starved the hell out of us.