Paul F. McCann


As he lay in a hospital bed he tried to recall the events that took place the week before. It all seemed so vague now. It was as if he had blocked it out. Somehow he needed to put everything in place and justify why this thing had happened.

The nurse walked into the room and smiled then said, “Hello Jack. Well you’re out of here today and going back home.”

“Oh yea… at last.” the soldier replied.

“A hot cup of tea and sandwich will pick you up Jack.” she said. In her arms she carried a tray with some lunch and placed it on the table near his bed. With a twist and turn of a winder the bedside table swivelled around and extended within hands reach of the soldier who smiled back and said, “Thank you.”

She placed her hand on his back and the soldier slowly sat up in bed. “Will anyone be there for you when you return?” she said.

“I have a room with a phone and a dog back there.”

“What part of the country are you from.”

“Oh it’s a little place called Soultown.” he answered.

“Can’t say I know it – were you never married then?”

“Oh yea – to the army.”

She laughed and he lifted up the cup of tea from the saucer. Suddenly his hand started shaking again and he spilt the tea all over the table and bed. “I’ll get a cloth to wipe this up.” she said.

The soldier said, “Sorry.” and she replied, “There’s nothing to be sorry for.”

A few moments later she wiped the mess up with a cloth and then reaching into the pocket of her skirt she produced a scrap of paper and gave it to the soldier and said, “It might help when you get back home to talk about what happened to you over here. I’ve written down some organizations who council returned soldiers. There are lots of therapy programs maybe you could get involved with. Please think about it. I’ve placed my name and address on there as well if you ever want to contact me.”

He nodded his head and took the piece of paper from her. The nurse smiled and left the room. The soldier glanced around the room and drifted off into a trance. What she said had triggered something inside him and memories of the past returned. He thought about that day when he received his orders to hand out the information leaflets about being vigilant and how anyone could supply information to the authorities. The peacekeepers that day had to project a new image and every one of them were told to create a positive presence among the local community. They had to show themselves as a friendly force instead of an occupying force.

The barrier of ignorance and insecurity was a little too hard to break through. Suspicious of their armed presence local people were hesitant to approach the truce troupers and kept their distance. Jack was determined not to fail he wandered among the crowd outside on the street. He can’t remember who was beside him then. He never heard the bomb explode. He never felt any pain. He never saw any blinding flash of light until he opened his eyes and crawled his way out from the rubble of the demolished building.

He remembers he said a silent prayer for those who had been killed. He was in a state of shock and the next thing he knew he woke in a hospital bed. That was six months ago and now even though he was a prisoner of the past he was also a pioneer of the future.

He tried to hide the torment and did so very well. The name of the game was survival and although still troubled by the past and worried about the future he knew if he was to survive he had to break free from the chains that kept him a prisoner of self. He had to map out a future for himself. He had no idea of where he was going and what he would do. It was going to be difficult.

When the time came to leave the soldier was wheeled into a car by the nurse who had looked after him. She smiled as he waved goodbye from the hospital and in a short time Jack was on board a plane and flying like a bird free from the dark night and its cage of ghosts and fears.

When the plane landed Jack was wheeled through an angry crowd who had gathered to protest about the war. At the check in Jack was met by a war veteran who had been given the job to welcome him and bring him to his home. As Jack was wheeled away the war veteran said, “I am here to help you resettle back into community life. My name is Ian and I will be around you for the next few months. Call on me for anything you need – OK Jack?”

Jack nodded as he was brought from the airport to the car park where he was placed in a large four wheel drive. The drive to Soultown was very quiet and when the car approached the small army style barracks Jack clutched his wooden legs before the car came to a stop. As the Ian opened the passenger door Jack pushed himself up from the seat and slowly stood on his on with the help of a walking frame.

In Soultown there were no guns or bombs. Jack didn’t have to look over his shoulder any longer. The soldier had returned from havoc and in Soultown there were no dictators anymore. Only kind words were present. Soultown was his home for three years after the war.

There are many returned soldiers like Jack who come home but for most people Soultown was, and still is, unheard of.

Soultown is a place of spiritual transition where returned soldiers take time out to soul search and somehow try to determine where they want to go and how best they can get there. This usually is affected by what damage has been done on the way. As far as it goes the future is unseen and unknown.

But in this spiritual transition questions need to be answered… let’s say in this place called Soultown.