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Elphinstone Kist   Folk-History, Family and Home

The Aul Sodger     by: Johnston, William

The aul man opened wir shop door n slowly made his wey ower tae the coonter, he pult a teem fusky bottle, aye, the half-bottle size, frae his poach n shoved it ower the polished timmer coonter tae m', "Cwid ye ful aat wi' some meths m' loon?" he speired.

He hid a dreep aat the eyn a' his nib the aul man, a thin, straggly beard, almost grey but stained broon aa roon aboot his moo - probably M' smokin' tabbies. He wis weerin' an aul Army greatcoat, there wis nae buttons on it so he hid it tied roon his middle wi a bit o'tow, it wis, ful o' holes n it wis clarted wi', weel, I widna like tae say fit it wis clarted wi! Bit A cwidna tak m' een aff aat dreep, it wabbled aboot n it got langer as he spake, n jist as A wis seer it wis gaun tae faa ontil the coonter he took up the back a' his han n gave his nib a bit dicht.

A pickit up the bottle n gid thro' intil the back shop far the meths wis stored, it wis keepit in a twa gallon stane pig. It wis an awkward jobbie haudin the bottle wi' a tin filter in't n then poorin the meths frae the hivvy pig intilt, bit weel, weel A seen got his bottlie ful. Fin A gid back wi't the aul man wis leanin ower the coonter haen a read a' a Press &Journal, anither dreep hid githered at his nib! "Aat’s one n six pence please," A said, watchin' the dreep n hopin' n prayin' aat it widna faa antil the paper. He teuk a gey fool–lookin hankie frae his poach n laid it on the coonter, es wis far he keepit his money, weel, fit money he hid aa wrappit up in't, then he coonted oat a heap a' maiks n pennies, "A've got one shuilin n fowerpence haepenny, will ye settle for aat ?” he speired wi' a bit a' a twinkle in his ee as he gave his nib anither dicht.

Bi this time m' Faither hid cam roon frae ahin the Post Office coonter far he hid been wirkin, he hid heard aa fit the aul man wis sayin'. "Aye` said Faither, “Wid’ye settle for aat, n gie the man a pyockie o' broken biscuits as weel laddie, it'll help him on his wey. “Thank ye, sir,” said the aul man, "Yer a gentleman," he continued. "Na, na," said m' Faither, "jist an aul sodger like yersel." The twa o' them lookit at een anither, wirds unspoken, for a fyow seconds their hans clasped ower the coonter, then the aul man pickit up his bottle o' meths an his pyockie o' biscuits, his shooders gid back, n he turned n walkit oot thro' the shop door.

A lookit aat m' Faither, his een wis still on the closed door, bit then, realising aat I wis lookin' aat him, he turned aboot n noisily clattered the lid back ontil the broken biscuit tin. "Fit wye did ye lat aat tinkie mannie hae a penny haepenny aff the meth n gie him a pyock o' biscuits for naethin' asweel?" I demanded. Faither meeved tae the shop winda n lookit oot, then, almost as though he wis spikkin till himsel said, "He's m'brither, laddie, he's m' brither." A lookit aat him wi astonishment, "Uncle Jock n Uncle Rab's yer brithers, aat fool aul mannie disna look onythin like you or them, fit wye cwid he be yer brither?" Still w’ his back tae m' he said saftly, "W' waur aa brithers amangst the dubs o' Flanders," then efter a bittie o' a pause, “Ye see Laddie, fin I cam back frae the War I wis lucky, A hid a job tae ging till n then A met yer Mither, bit aat laddie, fin he cam back he wisna sae lucky?" Faither made his wey back ahin the Post Office coonter - then A heard him gie his nose a guid blaa!

Aboot half-an-oor later it wis time for m'tae ging roon tae the hoose for m' denner, I wid hae my denner then wid cam back n let Faither roon for his, nae sic thing as denner' oors fin I wis a loon! "Tak a look ahin the dyke on the back road afore ye ging roon," said Faither. "Fit wid A dae that for?" A asked him. "Jist deet an cam back n tell m'fit ye see." Noo, biggit up against a bit o'the back road dyke wis the aul stane loadin' bay for the horse-cairt, afore e days o' motorcars n motorvans Faither eesed tae pit oot a horse n cairt twice a wik, deliverin' groceries aa roon the pairish. So A jumpit up ontil the bay n lookit ower the wa', there, w' his back up against it, wis the aul man, the pyock o' biscuits lay aside him, unopened, bit the bottle o' meths, tichtly held in his richt han', hid an orra-lookin' bit o' claithe ower its neck, it wis half teem! For a meenit A thocht the aul man wis deid bit then A heard a snocher n a snore, he wis fast asleep, n then, as A watched him, anither dreep slowly githered below his nib!



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