Last week the acclaimed novelist and agency client Neil Blower made literary history after becoming the first former soldier to be appointed a Writer in Residence. Neil, a Royal Tank Regiment veteran, hit the headlines after landing the illustrious role at his regional title, SalfordOnline.com. Now the first of his exclusive short stories, The Ring, has been published – and we’ve been given a sneak preview…
By Neil Blower
The hot sun beat down on the remote outpost. Swirls of air made miniature tornadoes on the ground in front of the sentry box. A lone scorpion crawled along the floor.
The young soldier stood in the Sangar underneath boiling corrugated metal and surrounded by sandbags. He watched the empty road and every now and then his finger would skirt the safety catch of his weapon whenever a vehicle rushed past. The insect crawled through the sand, oblivious.
He checked his watch. 26 minutes left until he was relieved. Then he could go back to doing nothing. Staging on. Patrols. QRF and rest. That had been the routine for the past few weeks.
Rest. That was the worst bit. Downtime. Watching 80’s VHS films on the small TV that had been sent over. Or sunbathing on the roof of the villa that had become a military forward operating base, using bottled water as suntan lotion.
He hated downtime. It gave him time to think. Time to dwell. Regret. Sadness. Bitterness.
How could she do that? She said she loved him. They were going to get married. Have kids. Spend the rest of their lives together.
But that was before. Before he had to come out here. Before that letter.
“I’ll wait for you,” she said. Ironically her promise came after he had tried to finish it.
“If we end it now, it might make it easier if I don’t come back.”
It was his idea of being noble, of doing the right thing by her.
“I love you, I’ll wait for you – forever.” And then she gave him the ring.
A 24-carat gold signet ring engraved with the figure of St Christopher – the patron saint of travellers.
“It’ll keep you safe,” she said. What she didn’t know was that he couldn’t wear it on his finger. SOPs clearly stated the policy on jewellery.
But he wore it somewhere else. Somewhere more fitting. He put it on his dog tags, so it rested near his heart. That was where it had been for the past three months…Read the rest on SalfordOnline.com here