The sky was a crystal clear blue, the sand was reminiscent of a holiday brochure and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. It was hard to believe it was England. Far above the windswept beach a G-BRD 100 spy unit circled surveying the ground below. The occasional person blipped across its monitoring devices like an ant scuttling across a patio, while the waves rippled and lapped against the shore line. On the edge of a weather beaten cliff top, Commander Squall stretched lazily letting the sunlight warm his muscles as his joints creaked and sighed. He felt sensation return to his extremities and sighed contently. His second in command, Lieutenant Grey, was busying himself with the actions of one who knew his supervisor was in the vicinity and wanted to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was earning his keep.
“Lovely day for it, what?” exclaimed the Commander vigorously. Lieutenant Grey was always somewhat confused by the trailing ‘what’ which closed most of Squall’s sentences. He had asked his comrades about it when he had first joined the Air Force. Apparently it was a hangover from an over privileged education, something Grey knew very little about. He had decided not to pursue the issue any further for fear of overstepping his position.
“Yes, most definitely Sir. A lovely day for it.” He paused and turned his eyes towards his Commander slowly. “What exactly is it a lovely day for?”
“What, what?” cried Squall. “What is it a lovely day for, what? Why for a skirmish my boy, that’s what – what!” The last word was added almost as an afterthought of long dead etiquette.
“Of course sir, of course. Do you think they will show today?”
“Absolutely my boy. They can be relied upon that far. We have seen their plans remember, thanks to our extensive ongoing subversive intelligence gathering operation, what?”
“Ah yes, I forgot about that Sir, how silly of me. Can you share any details on what has been found?”
“Simple my boy. They are expected between twelve hundred hours and fourteen hundred hours every day, except for Monday’s of course. Well known fact that the enemy uses Monday’s to regroup and resupply.” The Commander smiled at Grey as if this was a perfectly normal military tactic that the fool of a boy should have known by now. Grey decided not to question this and instead raised his eyes into the pale blue sky to watch the squadron of fly boys loop and curl above them.
Squadron leader Bird rolled right through the air as his compatriots followed in perfect unison, a true testament to the modern military. He loved his job far more than he could ever explain to his comrades. Being in charge of this unit was a calling and he embraced it whole heartedly. He climbed upwards towards the sun lazily before turning ninety degrees and plummeting towards the beach at full pelt. He maintained the descent as long as possible before pulling up and gliding almost parallel to the cliff line. Life is good he thought to himself. His radio crackled and squawked into life, a short burst of static prior to the dulcet tones of Lieutenant Pebble warbling through the airwaves. Pebble had never been top of his class as a recruit, but Bird had taken him under his wing and, after many extra hours and days drilling and training, he had made a first class flyer of him.
“Sir, that was a close one,” said the voice of Pebble, he sounded out of breath. “I wasn’t sure we could pull up in time.”
“Have a little faith lad,” replied the calm and composed voice of the squadron leader. “I won’t take you anywhere we can’t get you out of, don’t you worry.” He smiled to himself and did a barrel roll before arching away from the cliffs and towards the sea. This was very much the life for him. His radio popped and fizzed again before he was presented with the unmistakable voice of commander Squall.
“Squadron leader Bird, this is Commander Squall, do you read me? Over.” Bird was half surprised there wasn’t a ‘what’ at the end of the transmission.
“Copy commander, Squadron Leader Bird reading you loud and clear.”
“Good good, what? The eye in the sky has spotted the target/ Coordinates as follows; CS1014, 2735. Engagement with full force authorised. Proceed at will squadron leader.” The radio crackled into silence and Bird took a breath. While he was a seasoned professional by now, pre-operation flutters were a normal experience for members of the flying squad. He flicked his radio to broadcast to all frequencies.
Peter Simpkins was fed up with the day already, and it was only noon. He had awoken that morning to find a crumpled note on the pillow next to him advising his wife had left him for a latin dance instructor called Phillippe. He wasn’t immensely surprised by the revelation but it had still stung a bit. Up until a year ago they had lived a perfectly happy life. He had spent each evening tending to the cornucopia of train paraphernalia in his attic room, his wife had spent each evening complaining to anyone who would listen about her husband’s dubious obsession. Then, in May last year things had changed; a seismic shift in their domestic setting. She had stopped complaining and instead seemed to disappear most evenings without explanation. When questioned by her husband, she told him she had taken up a dance class at the suggestion of one of their neighbours. The neighbour in question was desperate for Mrs Smedley to do anything but moan at her over the fence. Like any loving husband concerned with his wife’s absenteeism, he ordered another train set and retreated to the loft.
And so time had passed until this morning when the shabby piece of paper had presented itself to his eyes when they opened. He had read it three times, to ensure he was correct in his understanding, and then calmly proceeded to the bathroom and brushed his teeth. He spat, gargled, urinated and dressed before shambling downstairs and out of the front door onto the street. As his soles hit the tarmac he thought back to his honeymoon. They had gone to Bognor Regis for a weekend and spent the entire time in bed. The hotel owners took to leaving food parcels for them in the hallway to be collected by a disrobed Peter in the dead of night. How times could change in twenty years. He turned the corner onto the seafront and felt the breeze whip across his face. Perhaps it was for the best, he thought to himself as he ducked inside the chip shop door.
“Flying V formation chaps, that always seems to put the cat amongst the pigeons – figuratively speaking of course.” Bird swooped across the sea and turned his eyes towards the town below which was little more than a speck. “Pebble, take green section and arc round to the left, Moss, take red section right. Classic pincer movement chaps, I’ll hit the middle. Any problems boys, keep your end up and never forget, for queen, country and carbohydrates.”
Peter emerged from the chip shop with his standard menu choice. A saveloy and large chips. He went for it once a week, although now that he was seemingly single, he might be tempted to increase that frequency. After all, he had an overweight middle age and an early death to plan for now that he had been left alone in the world. Considering he had essentially ignored his wife for the last ten years, the thought of her leaving was really beginning to grate on him.
He sat down on a bench which faced out to the channel. On the plus side, he could now spend as much time as he wanted with his model train set. Not that his wife had ever really stopped him in the past. He had become immune to the scowls across the dinner table, the spit in his coffee and the passive aggressive notes left on the kitchen counter. At least life would be more simple now.
He peeled back the grease soaked paper which was keeping his dinner lukewarm. He lifted the swollen red sausage upwards towards his mouth when he heard a squawk. Before he could move, he saw a seagull perform a perfect barrel roll horizontally across his lap. A shower of chips landed on the floor around him, and then disappeared beneath the wings of a hundred gulls. Within ten seconds they had dissipated into the air and Peter was left with a limp saveloy in his hands. He bit into it slowly. It was cold and greasy. He began to cry.