Poppies and Poems 

by KT

AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series

Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.

Note: This fic marks Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, which will be marked this century on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year. Betaed by Sue M with additional editing by Nancy.


The day after Halloween, Vin and JD had been watching a documentary about dinosaurs, while their fathers made supper. When it ended JD slid off the couch and trotted to the kitchen. Tired after a long day, Vin just lay there and began flicking though the channels when, for no particular reason, he stopped on a popular weekly magazine show. All the people on the show had an identical red flower pinned to their clothing. He thought it odd, but then forgot about it as Chris called him to the kitchen to eat.

Over the next few days he noticed that almost everyone on the TV was wearing the red flower. Then he saw Mr Green in the park with Hamish and he had one on. He was intending ask his father about it, when Ieuan turned up the next morning wearing one.

“Ieuan?” he began, as he helped to clear the breakfast dishes.

“Yes?”

“Why are you wearing that?”

The tall Welshman didn’t look around as he loaded the dishwasher. “Wearing what?”

“The red flower?”

Ieuan stood up and looked at his coat, hanging on the back of the door. “My poppy?” He pointed to the paper flower.

“Yeah, everyone is wearing them, ‘cept us.”

“It’s for remembrance. Next week is Armistice Day sometimes called Remembrance Day, when we remember all the people who have died fighting for us.”

Vin thought this through a moment. “Veterans day,” he announced.

“Sounds like they are the same thing.”

“I’ve never seen anyone in America wear a…”

“Poppy.”

“Yeah.”

Ieuan frowned. “Really? That’s interesting, red poppies for remembrance started in America.” Ieuan smiled at him. “I had to research it for a book only last year.”

Just then JD came running into the kitchen, announcing in one long sentence that the bathroom was free, and he couldn’t find his school shoes, and did Ieuan know how to make pumpkin pie.

“You’s ‘posed to have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and that’s real soon; but Da says he can’t make it and there isn’t none in the supermarket.”

“There aren’t any in the supermarket,” Ieuan corrected.

JD made a face as he paused for a second or so, then threw his arms in the air. “Tha’s what I said.”

Giggling, Vin left Ieuan to deal with JD and headed to the bathroom to get ready for school.

<><><><><><><>

It seemed as though the poppies really were everywhere. In school there was a box of them in the school hall. At assembly Miss Grant explained that they were permitted to wear them on their uniform until Friday of the following week, the 11th.

“You have to make a donation,” she explained. “Some of the year 6 children will bring the collection box to your classroom every morning. How much you put in, is up to you and your parents.”

She went on to explain that the poppies were made by men and women who had been disabled when they were wounded fighting for the country and the money raised from selling them went to help ex-service men and women. Vin thought it was a very good idea. He wasn’t sure if JD understood, but he too was keen to ask Buck if he could take some money in to school the next day.

“Dad?” Vin began that night.

“Mmm?” Chris was trying to read up on UK firearms related crime statistics; it was deadly boring which made reading it hard going.

“Can me and JD take some money to school tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” JD sat up, from his customary position of watching TV lying on the floor.

Chris put his papers down. “Why?”

“For poppies,” Vin stated.

Buck came into the room. “Poppies? The ones for Veterans Day?”

“’Ar’istice day,” JD told him.

“Right, Armistice Day,” Buck corrected.

“Can we?” Vin asked.

“I don’t see why not.”

“Shall I get you one?” Vin asked.

“No, me and Buck have one each already, we left them at work,” Chris explained.

Their British colleagues had been wearing poppies on their uniform for some days, and they had followed suit.

“Actually, come to think of it, yes, get two extras, then we,” he glanced up at Buck, who smiled his encouragement. “Can have one to wear around here too.”

“What about Uncle ‘siah and Uncle Nafan and Uncle Ezra? Can we send them one too?” JD asked.

Buck made a quick mental calculation, if they sent them air express; they would get to the US before the 11th. He knew veterans organisations in the US did hand out poppies, but clearly the boys wanted their uncles to be part of their Veterans Day experience in the UK.

“Yeah, why not.” He agreed. “So that’s seven we need.” Buck fished in his pocket for his loose change. “I’ve got Ł5, what about you Stud?” he asked Chris.

“Go to my bedroom, bring down all the pound coins from the dish by the bed,” Larabee told his son.

“Thanks dad!”

<><><><><><><>

In the end they purchased a total of thirteen poppies, one each, plus the two Chris and Buck already had at work, the others were replacements for the ones JD kept losing, and the one that Ringo ate. On the 11th, the boys were surprised when Ieuan parked his car in the school staff car park; normally he dropped them off in the lane.

“I’m coming to school today,” he explained.

“Cool,” Vin told him with a grin.

“Why?” JD asked.

“You’ll see.”

That morning they had hymn practice as normal but they only practiced one hymn and a folk song. The folk song was called Love Farewell, and all the boys had to sing the first two verses while the girls sang the chorus. Then the girls sang verse three and boys sang the chorus, before they all sang the first verse again, together. Vin thought about the words for the song as he sat in class, finding it hard to concentrate.

“Looks like you are thinking deep thoughts,” Mrs Schmitt commented as she sat down beside him.

Vin shrugged, absentmindedly picking at the dressings covering the rapidly healing burns to his fingers. Finally he said. “My born dad was in the army, he was killed in an accident.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that. Have you been thinking about him lately, because of Remembrance Day?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Vin, if all this is bringing back bad memories we can…”

“Oh no, Ma’am, I don’t remember my born dad, he died when I was a little baby, but…” his voice trailed off.

“But what?” Mrs Schmitt prompted.

“Dad - Chris, he used to be in the Navy and Buck was in the Army, so was my Uncle Nathan and Uncle Josiah was a Marine.” He looked up at her. “’Cept for my born dad, they all came home and they weren’t… what I mean is they aren’t…” He didn’t know how to explain it.

“They all came home in one piece?”

“Yeah, we was very lucky. “ He looked up at his teacher. “It’s real important not to forget that, isn’t it?”

“Yes it is son, very important.”

<><><><><><><>

After taking off two days to make sure the boys were properly recovered from their Bonfire Night injuries, Buck and Chris were spending the rest of the week working with one of the UK’s few national police forces, the transport police. Today they were shadowing Sergeant Lynch, a very experienced and droll Irishman, at London’s Liverpool Street station, a main line terminus for trains heading east out of the capital.

The concourse was heaving with travellers when an announcement over the public address system invited the public to join the station staff in observing a two minute silence, to honour the fallen. As the station clock ticked over to 10.59 a lone bugle sounded last post and the station fell silent. Buck and Chris, who were strolling under the main departure board with Lynch, came to a halt. They were pleased and a little surprised, to see that almost everyone observed the silence, some of the passengers had even gathered under the station’s own war memorial. After two minutes, Reveilles was sounded and the people in the station went about their business.

At that very moment their sons were also standing in silence.

<><><><><><><>

At 10.40 all the children walked into the school hall for an assembly. Vin and JD glanced at each other and grinned as Ieuan walked out with the headmistress in front of the school. Miss Grant welcomed them and explained that at 11.00 a.m. they would all stand in silence for two minutes. Once they were all sitting down, Miss Grant introduced Ieuan.

“I know many of you recognise Mr. Jones. He’s here today to tell us a little about why this day is special and why we wear poppies.

Ieuan came forward and addressed them. He explained about the First World War and how the poppies grew where the bombs had landed and where the soldiers were buried. He read them part of a poem called In Flanders Field. Miss Grant explained that they were about to pay their respects to everyone who had died or been disabled serving the country. Then they stood up and sang Love Farwell. When it ended Miss Grant stood in front of them to read the Ode of Remembrance. Ieuan had explained about it and that everyone had to repeat the last line after Miss Grant.

“This is when we all promise never to forget their sacrifice,” Ieuan explained.

“…At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”

“We will remember them.”

As they fell silent a teacher turned on a radio and they all listened to Big Ben strike 11 o’clock. Two minutes seemed to be a long time, as Vin thought about his father, Buck, his uncles and Mr Green. He looked at JD, worried he wouldn’t be able to stand still for a whole two minutes. But JD was standing so rigidly still, and with a frown of concentration on his face, he looked like he was standing to attention. Looking ahead Vin could just see Ieuan; he too was standing tall, looking forward, over the heads of the children. Then all of a sudden there was the sound of a field gun from the radio.

“Children turn to hymn number 42. ‘I Vow To Thee’.”

Miss Grant’s words jolted Vin back to the present as he fumbled to find the right page.

<><><><><><><>

It was two rather sombre boys that Buck and Chris came home to that evening. They were sitting at the kitchen table doing their homework, drawing a picture of poppies.

“Hi dad,” Vin welcomed.

“Da!” JD called.

“Evening,” Ieuan greeted. “Sausage casserole in the oven, potatoes on the hob are par boiled, give them ten more minutes once the water boils and they’ll be ready to mash. Peas in the freezer. Jane dropped off some stewed apples – her sister has a glut – so I made a crumble. It’s in the little oven.”

“Thanks pal, you are our saviour.” Buck patted him on the shoulder as Ieuan picked up his coat and headed out.

“Aren’t you missing something?” Chris asked the boys’ new special friend.

“What?” the Welshman asked.

“Dog?”

“Ah shi…err, darn. Bear!” he bellowed.

Ringo and Elvis were already in the kitchen greeting the return of the men, but Bear was nowhere to be seen. Eventually the chocolate Labrador came trotting into the kitchen.

Ieuan shrugged apologetically. “Sorry, he just loves your hearth rug.”

<><><><><><><>

Saturday dawned bright, sunny and frosty which seemed to lighten the mood considerably. The six of them, men, boys, and dogs, piled into the 4x4 and headed out on a long planned expedition that had been waiting for a clear, sunny day. They drove up to the Berkshire Downs to explore the fabled Uffington White Horse. It was a day of long walks, great views and a hearty pub lunch. After lunch they drove to Wayland’s Smithy, where the boys had wonderful fun daring each other to run in and out of the dark tomb. Eventually Buck produced the small Maglite torch from his keychain and they all explored the tomb, before calling it a day and heading home. By the time they were five minutes into the journey, boys and dogs were asleep.

“I don’t think those dogs are gonna need much of a walk tomorrow,” Buck commented, as he manoeuvred the big car down the narrow lane with the confidence and ease of a native.

“I’d like to think that the boys will sleep late, but somehow I doubt it,” Chris commented glancing over his shoulder at the slumbering angels.

“I vote, we tell them it’s a lazy day. Leave out juice boxes and some muffins and give ourselves a sleep in.”

“Deal, do we have any muffins?”

“No but we can stop and pick some up, along with some pizzas. I'm not up for cooking tonight other than tossing something in the oven to heat.”

<><><><><><><>

The boys were tired, even with their car snooze and so after supper, headed to bed with little protest. At least for an hour. Buck had dozed off in the recliner, while Chris was sending some e-mails from the laptop and half watching TV.

“Chris?” JD's plaintiff voice drew his attention to the small figure in the doorway.

Ringo and Elvis, still tired from a day of running all over the Downs, lifted their heads from the rug in front of the fire, but didn’t move.

“Hey there Little Bit, what’s up?” Chris set the laptop aside and beckoned him over.

“Can’t sleep.”

Chris lifted the little boy up onto his lap. “Well that’s a shame, look likes Buck can.”

Chris pointed over at the sleeping Wilmington. Now that he thought about it, since - although he seemed to be totally recovered, from the effects of the hair line skull fracture he’d suffered the week before - JD was still meant to be taking it easy. He had spent quite a lot of the day on Buck’s shoulders, which probably explained why he was so tired and JD wasn’t. Nonetheless JD was like his father; he could sleep anywhere and once he was asleep, very little would wake him. The two of them were so alike, that sometimes Chris wondered if Buck really was his father. Given Wilmington’s lifestyle it wasn’t an impossibility; except they had different blood groups and Buck hadn’t visited the east coast once during the time when JD must have been conceived. Of course they only had JD’s word for it that he was born in Boston. Chris had even once considered ‘borrowing’ their tooth brushes and having their DNA checked.

“Anything worrying you?” he asked. “Any feel-bad thoughts?”

JD shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Would you like to share?”

“I don’t like the pictures of the war.”

“Oh, well, war is not nice,” Chris commented while trying to think of how to handle this or even what war JD had seen pictures of. “Were the pictures black and white?”

“They were grey,” JD told him honestly.

Chris surmised that they were probably pictures of the First World War. “You know that was a very long time ago, right?”

“I know, but on the TV they says about the war in Af’danistine. “

“Yes they do and a lot of very brave soldiers are fighting a war in Afghanistan to keep us all safe, but Afghanistan is a very, very long way away from here.”

“Is it near America?”

“No, it’s a long way from there as well.”

“Do you got to go and fight?”

“No, and neither does your Da or any of your uncles.”

“Ieuan?”

“No, he doesn’t have to go.” Ieuan was only in his twenties, so theoretically he could give up his job and join the military, but it was too remote a possibility to worry JD with.

Just as he thought JD was going to ask another question the little boy’s attention was taken by something on the television. Buck had been watching Merlin before he fell asleep, now there was some kind of show, live from London, to do with veterans. Chris wasn’t really watching, but there seemed to have been various military bands and displays. Now it had all gone quiet, and a man in a suit, wearing medals, was standing in front of a stack of drums.

“We will remember them,” JD repeated the last line with the audience.

As they watched, poppy petals floated from on high to fall silently onto the heads of the assembled troops as they stood in silent tribute. When it was over JD turned to Chris.

“Was that the Queen?” he asked, having seen her on the TV screen.

“I think it was.”

“Wow, even she has to stand still for two minutes to ‘member.”

JD seemed to be endlessly fascinated by the Queen.

“Of course she does, she’s representing all the people. Was it hard to stand still that long?” Chris asked, realising JD must have done it at school the day before.

“Kinda,” he admitted. JD yawned. “But it’s ‘portant to be s’pectful.”

Chris looked over to see Buck watching them with an expression that told him his big hearted friend was keeping his emotions in check. He winked at Larabee as he stood up.

“Yeah, Little One, it’s important to be respectful.” Chris smiled as JD leaned into his chest. “Do you think you can sleep now?”

“Yeah.”

“Come on Little Bit, time for bed,” Buck told him as he bent over and lifted his son up onto his hip. “Did I tell you today that I love you?”

JD frowned as he thought back on his day, then shook his head.

“Well I do.” With that he kissed his son on the forehead and carried him up to bed.

A few minutes later Buck dropped back down onto the sofa. “Reckon he’ll sleep now.”

“Good. I think they’ve both learned a lot this weekend,” Chris commented.

“Them and me both,” Buck admitted. “Have to say I’m impressed by the way the Brits do their Veteran’s day, really does make you stop and think.”

“Yup.” Chris agreed.

<><><><><><><>

Sunday morning two boys awoke and took themselves downstairs. Vin opened the front door to let the dogs into the garden. While the dogs did what they needed to do outside, he picked up the juice boxes and muffins from the counter.

“You bring the tray,” he told JD as he headed for the living room.

They placed the food on the tray on the floor then lay down and switched on the TV, going straight to the cartoon channel. Once all the muffins were eaten and the tray put back in the kitchen, Vin let the dogs back in. Despite his love of cartoons and Scooby Doo in particular after an hour even JD was bored.

“Dad?” Vin tried again. “Dad?”

“Vin?” Chris asked as he jolted awake.

“Sorry,” Vin apologised from the bedroom door.

“Err.” Chris pushed himself up and glanced at the clock beside the bed, it was almost nine. “Don’t worry about it, what’s the matter?”

“Can me and JD and the dogs go play in the big garden?”

JD’s head appeared behind Vin. “Mornin’ Chris.”

“’Morning, JD. Uh, sure, I guess, how come you didn’t ask Buck?”

“’Cause it’s hard to wake him up, Da sleeps hard,” JD told him with a smile.

“Right, well just make sure you leave the back door unlocked okay?”

“Sure Dad.”

The boys turned to go

”And put on your coats and rain boots!” Chris called after them.

“Wellies!” JD’s head reappeared. “Yous have to call them wellies here.”

“Right, wellies, okay.”

<><><><><><><>

It was another frosty morning as the boys pushed open the door to their own secret garden playground. Their dogs pushed past them and raced off into the undergrowth. For a good hour the boys played; today they were Wayland and Thor, fighting some imaginary enemy with their hammers. They had been there for only a short time when Hamish appeared in the garden, rushing over to greet them. Eric Green followed him in and happily listened as they explained their game.

“Well boys I need to go, or Mrs Green will worry we’ll be late for church.”

As if by some psychic connection, the boys returned to the house, just as their fathers were thinking it was time to call them in. Buck was about to lift his coat off the back of the kitchen door, when it burst open, almost hitting him in the face. Boots were toed off; coats, hats and gloves were shed, as dogs greeted men.

“Is it cold out there?” Buck asked.

“Feel,” JD offered, turning rosy cheeks up to his father.

Buck placed a hand on each cheek. “Boy howdy that is cold!” he exclaimed. “So are you up for brunch?”

“Yeah!” both boys agreed.

“What are we having?” Vin asked.

“Well, let me think, we have bacon, bread and eggs, what shall we make?”

“Bacon and French toast!” Vin exclaimed with glee.

“Yup and Buck’s made some biscuits.”

While he watched his father cook, Vin recounted their meeting with Eric. “...And he said Ieuan’s goin’ to church with them. He said he don’t normally go, but today is a special day and lots of folk go to church today that don’t normally go, like at Christmas.”

Chris had a sudden pang that maybe they should have given the boys the option to go to church. While not a ‘religious’ family, they did take the boys to Josiah’s church on special occasions.

“Did you want to go with them?” he asked.

Vin thought a moment, and then shrugged. “Nope, but Mr Green said we can watch somethin’ on TV like he’s going to.”

Buck came back into the kitchen with JD behind him, ready to take his biscuits out of the oven.

“Vin wants to watch something on TV,” Chris announced. “Can we set up for brunch in the living room?”

Buck shrugged. “Why not? Might have to shut the dogs in here if we want any peace.”

<><><><><><><>

They ate a brunch of French toast, grilled bacon, fresh, warm buttered biscuits and hot chocolate while watching the televised Remembrance Day service from the Cenotaph in London. JD didn’t really understand what was going on, but got to see the Queen and he understood it was a quiet thing and that he needed to respect that. The two men found it humbling as they watched dignitaries lay poppy wreaths, and line upon line of veterans pass the monument. Vin found it fascinating and at the end he said a silent prayer for the man that fathered him.

The End
Continues in Football, Turkey and Pie... Oh My!

Feedback to: katyhmason@hotmail.com

Links

Remembrance Poppy

November 11th at Liverpool Street Station – last post at 1:57

In Flanders Fields

Love Farwell


M7 trivia; this song was adapted, arranged and sung by John Tams, to raise money for ‘Help for Heroes’. Tams played Rifleman Hagman in Sharp, alongside Daragh O’Malley as Sargent Harper, who played Francis Corcoran in Ghosts of the Confederacy.

Ode of Remembrance

Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance - I Vow To Thee
Cenotaph Service – edited selection.

Uffington White Horse

Wayland’s Smithy

Downs

Slightly OT but very topical - The Flanders Poppy in popular British culture.
Dr Who
Blackadder