Vera’s Life: Part Twenty-One

This is the twenty-first part of a fiction serial, in 740 words.

Walking into work on Monday morning, Vera felt as if she had been transported into another city. She was exhausted from having had little sleep, but the familiar streets were no longer so familiar. Evie Tyler’s house at the end of the street was gone. It was just a pile of bricks where a house had once stood. In the rubble was a half of a large doll, the clothes blown off, and it sent a chill through Vera to think that little Jessie had been under all that.

Mr Lewis’s shop had wood nailed all over the main window, which had obviously shattered. He had written on the wood with chalk. ‘Open As Usual’.

The docks were still burning, and the smoke rose up so high into the sky, Vera couldn’t see the top of it. As they reached the main road, she heard her mum gasp. The butcher’s shop on the corner was gone, along with most of the houses that had been in the same row. Men were throwing debris into carts next to the damage, and one house at the end remained, like a single tooth in someone’s mouth. Other men were jamming huge wooden beams against the side of it, and hammering supports against them with sledgehammers.

The jam factory came into sight, and appeared to have been spared the worst. From the gate, Vera could see Mr Prentice nailing boards across some windows that had been blown out, but the building looked sound.

And everywhere was dust and ash. It was floating down constantly on the hot morning air, covering their clothes as they walked like light snow. Vera shook her head constantly, hoping to get the worst off her hair. The other people walking into work were not even trying to smile. Everyone looked drawn and tired out, their faces turning in the direction of the docks as they heard more cracking and crashing sounds.

Inside the factory, work started up as normal. The radio played through the speakers, and the women got on with their jobs. Nobody talked about the weekend, or mentioned the devastation that had occurred. There was no point, as they all knew it was going to get worse.

They had to go into the basement during a daytime raid, but it wasn’t too bad. Nothing like it had been over the weekend anyway. Mr Prentice had stayed on the roof in case of incendiaries, and after the all-clear he told them the Jerries had dropped a few bombs on the East End across the river, but been chased off by RAF planes appearing. At lunchtime, Janet told Vera that there was no more news about Les, and that her house had not been hit. Her and her parents had gone down to the arches near London Bridge Station, and sat out the night raids there. Vera said she could stay with them, but Janet didn’t want to leave her mum.

When they got home from work, Albert was sitting at the table. He looked so old, Elsie thought. He told them that Evie Tyler and little Jessie were dead, and their bodies had been dug out of the ruins and brought to the church hall. Evie’s husband Ron was a fireman, and had been on duty all weekend. “I can’t imagine what Ron will do, when he finds out. He’s been out fighting fires all night and day with his crew, and has to come home to no house, and his wife and daughter dead, poor man”. Elsie had tears in her eyes. “I expect he will go to his mum’s in Camberwell, Bert. That will be best for him”.

As Vera was chopping up some carrots, she heard her dad carry on talking. “Did you see the butcher’s? Norman and his missus were in bed when it got hit. What we found of them was barely recognisable, caught up in the springs and bedrail. Their daughter is in training with the Wrens. Someone’s going to have to tell her”.

Vera thought of June Walters in her Wrens uniform, being called in to be told her mum and dad had been killed, and her family home and business destroyed. Then she thought about how her dad had suddenly started talking about what he had been doing all night, and how he spoke as if it was somehow normal.

Some of her tears splashed onto the pile of carrots.

44 thoughts on “Vera’s Life: Part Twenty-One

  1. Excellent Pete.. enjoy my reading tonight.. You have captured the time and all the elements of fear and shock brilliantly.. My mother went through the raids in Liverpool when she went up to see my father whose ship was in for repairs. She lived in Wickham a few miles out of Fareham and the people would flood out of the town and would be put up at night by the villagers. Desperate for them all. As they came back from Dunkirk down from the coast and through the village, they were met with cups of tea and sandwiches with relays of women running back and forth between the lorries and their homes. Looking forward to reading more tomorrow. On my parent’s wedding day they stood in the garden and watched a dog fight between a German fighter and a spitfire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for adding your family history, Sally. Vera’s story is based on the experiences of my mum and her sister during the war, also my grandfather, who kept rabbits in the back garden. I have changed many events and names of course, but as a boy, I would sit and listen to my family and neighbours talk about the war years, and we were still surrounded by so much evidence of the bombing, even in the late 1950s.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When we moved to Portsmouth in 1958 there were still bombsites as we lived near the naval dockyard.. one site was up the road from us in the high street in Old Portsmouth and the local children constructed a den in the rubble.. highly dangerous but we loved it. So lucky to have been given that oral history and you are now putting to very good use in your stories.. Will be back later today for more.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Check out the great John Lanchester. His recent book ‘The Wall’ is a modern take on Orwell’s 1984. I mention it coz you write in a similar style 🧐🐾

    Liked by 1 person

  3. (1) “Walking into work on Monday morning, Vera felt as if she had been transported into another city.” And that’s exactly what had happened. Scotty had finally fixed the transporter beam malfunction.
    (2) Bad citation: “In the rubble was half of little Jessie, her clothes blown off, and it sent a chill through Vera to think that her large doll had been under all that.”
    (3) “Mr Lewis’s shop had wood nailed all over the main window, which had obviously shattered. He had written on the wood with chalk. ‘Open As Usual’.” Vera was prepared to open the window as usual. She had brought a claw hammer with her, and began prying the nails out of the wood.
    (4) The dentist’s office on the corner was gone, along with most of the houses that had been in the same row. … One house at the end remained, like a lone carcass dangling from its hook in a butcher’s meat locker.
    (5) Vera refused to make an ash of herself.
    (6) “Everyone looked drawn and tired out.” Even Jessica Rabbit. She’d been bed hopping all night…
    (7) We need more news about Les. And less news about Moore. (Oh wait, you haven’t mentioned Tom Moore.)
    (8) “What we found of them was barely recognisable, caught up in the springs and bedrail.” Sounds like a case of marital blitz.
    (9) “Vera thought of June Walters in her Wrens uniform.” June would later marry the Birdman of Alcatraz. However, the marriage didn’t fly. A wave of bad decisions left them unable to further navigate the financial troubles that barred them from happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The period now described as The Blitz lasted for 56 days. During that time, German bombers raided London day and night every dingle day, concentrating on the dockside areas on both banks of The Thames. I cannot imagine it either, Mary, and have had to remember what my family told me about their experiences of living through it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

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