The last Trolley Bus spat him out at the top of the hill seeming anxious to divest itself of the once smart passenger, smelling strongly of the traditional Saturday night blend of beer and fags mixed with a last lingering whiff of cheap aftershave.
He walked downhill with all the certainty of a Pinball on a Bally table, and into the chip shop to add that last essential ingredient, a bag of chips smothered in salt and vinegar, which he cradled in his cap. A habit since he was young and something his mother still laid into him for every morning after. Where once it was his scout beret now it was his cap. He wouldn't get away with it after tonight though. Scary as his Mum could be there was always a little smile and a lot of love behind the shouting but he doubted the same would be true of a drill sergeant.
Not much of a send off, a few pints and a bag of chips on the way home before he was off to National Service in the morning. He looked about him at the dark terraced houses which looked only less dark but still as grey in daylight and took a deep breath. He failed to notice that clean smell of the first rain after a dry spell due to the steaming chips just inches from his nose as he kept bag close to mouth in fear of losing any.
He'd done his best but still come up short. Played the national hero off to foreign parts, one last chance before he went, no idea when or if he'd return, all with his best stoic expression. Though he stood as much chance of finding Stoic in the dictionary as he did of getting in Alice Randal's knickers.
'Oh push off. You're going no further than Aldershot and you'll be back on leave in six weeks'
He was off to do his bit for his country, not that he'd got much choice in the matter but that wasn't the point. Marching up and down a parade ground and whatever else they had in store for him was going to be hard work. Surely that warranted a last nights tumble but no. Harry was the one. Harry could get stuff. Harry could get silk stockings and make up and Harry could get into Alice Randal's knickers because Harry probably gave them to her. Harry with the flat feet and medically unfit for bleeding service. He wondered, not for the first time, if you could flatten your own feet and if it would hurt.
The van careering round the corner very nearly flattened more than his feet and missed him even more closely with the bundle of newspapers hurled from the back. The bundle skittered to a stop against the door of the newsagent and had he not been busy hurling abuse and a V sign at the departing vehicle he might have appreciated the accuracy of the throw. He went back to his chips, having held onto them with the certainty and dexterity only a drunk possesses and mumbled into them as he walked the last few yards to his front gate.
The bundle lent against the door with the last few drips of rain from the guttering above giving a darker look to the headline on the top copy 'More Troops Committed to Malaya'