The Windlass of Time

4 Jun

A hundred words for those who are still left and for those who have gone before, based on the photo prompt below. We walk in the shadows of giants. D-Day. June 6th, 1944.


Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.14.59 AM

(Copyright C. Hase)



A stooped and wizened man stands behind a bench at the end of a pier, supporting himself with both hands as he watches liberty boats ferry passengers to the beach from a cruise ship anchored offshore. Long years have extinguished everything in his life except the fire in his eyes. Through them he sees soldiers in a maelstrom struggling in crimson surf beneath a dull gray sky.

A car backfires and he flinches, then squares his shoulders and turns to walk resolutely inshore, sure that today will be his last. Another day, another turn of the wheel. Maybe tomorrow.




Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.29.07 AM


29 Responses to “The Windlass of Time”

  1. Nurse Kelly June 4, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    Giants, indeed. This was so moving – so many layers in so few words. I loved it 🙂

    • dmmacilroy June 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

      Dear Nurse Kelly,

      Thank you for your succinct and sincere comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your thoughts.



  2. Craig Towsley June 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Meditative piece, Doug. Nicely done.

    • dmmacilroy June 4, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

      Dear Craig,

      Thank you, sir.



  3. ansumani June 4, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    I can feel his longing to meet his hero friends. Nicely done.

    • dmmacilroy June 4, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

      Dear Asumani,

      Thank you for reading and commenting so kindly.



  4. Sandra June 4, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    Nicely meditative piece Doug. I’m cruising through some similar ghostlands myself here. One thing I’ll say about the French is that they resolutely remember their honourable dead. In just about every way you can imagine. And it’s lovely to read a piece from you again – you’ve been missed.

  5. June 4, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    A timely and beautiful piece this week. My father and his brother were both at Normandy. Neither would speak of the horrors of that day. They both passed away in their 90’s along with their stories. Thank you for giving them voice today. (Today would have been my Dad’s birthday.)

  6. aliciajamtaas June 4, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    First – Welcome back. You’ve been missed
    This piece tugs at the heart. So many men have been injured by war, physically and mentally. You really brought that out in your writing. It brings back the feeling I had when visiting Pearl Harbor last year – the sacrifice, the pain, the sorrow, and the inevitable call to arms. Alicia

  7. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) June 4, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

    A piece that is so timely… I must say I was not aware of this.. but what I particularly liked was the waiting.. when you are close like the old man, maybe that’s what it feels.

  8. bykimberlylynne June 4, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    Wrenches the heart, warms it, too. May we never forget.

  9. Anita June 5, 2015 at 1:10 am #

    We carry the burden of the past. They determine the present and the future.
    Hope our hero doesn’t do any cowardly act…

    • dmmacilroy June 5, 2015 at 1:32 am #

      Dear Anita,

      He’s just walking home. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  10. lingeringvisions by Dawn June 5, 2015 at 3:04 am #


  11. Jan Brown June 5, 2015 at 7:15 am #

    Beautiful, Doug. You capture the hero in ordinary life with insight and empathy.

  12. rochellewisoff June 5, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    Dear Doug,

    To say it’s beautiful is an understatement. You’ve written a masterful tribute to the ordinary man who put his life on the line and saw his companions killed in battle. Even after over half a century the car backfiring causes him to flinch. So much said in that line. I feel the compassionate tears of the author. .



  13. Claire Fuller June 5, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    So powerful Doug, and beautifully written. Although we were writing about different wars, I like how you took the idea of the old man, the survivor, every day surprised that he has indeed survived another, while I told about the young men, who didn’t.

  14. wildbilbo June 5, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    Spectacular. “Long years have extinguished everything except the fire in his eyes…” Loved it.
    Brilliantly captures an old memory, a heroic moment.
    Well done.

  15. gahlearner June 5, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    The present blends into the past full of memories for this old man, for whom each day is a gift, and a challenge. This is masterfully done.

  16. storydivamg June 5, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    I’ve known these sailors and soldiers. All his life, my grandfather had frightful reactions to sensations that seemed quite ordinary to me. You have brought him to life again, in a way, with your story. Thank you.

  17. Margaret June 6, 2015 at 5:48 am #

    What a wonderful picture of an old soldier’s memories and feelings. The contradiction is striking – he still has fire in his eyes, yet he seems to have lost the spark of life. Great title, too, for this story.

  18. rgayer55 June 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    As I read this on D-Day, a chill runs up my spine, the hair stands on the back of my neck, and salty tears swell race across the wrinkled landscape toward my beard. Thank you.

    • dmmacilroy June 6, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      We must be of the same generation because that’s what was happening to me as I wrote it.

      Thank you very much for one of the best comments I’ve ever received. I appreciate it no end.



  19. janfields June 6, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Excellent story Doug. I can feel his thoughts. Touching.

  20. lizy June 6, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    Wonderful and moving tribute

  21. afairymind June 7, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    A powerful piece of writing, Doug. His reaction to the backfiring car even after so many years is such a testament to the effect of the horrors of war. 🙂

  22. Suzanne Joshi June 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Lovely, Doug, and not long after Memorial Day. At his age, he may live more in the past than in the present. If he had lived near the place all his life, it would be natural to keep remembering. — Suzanne

  23. Weltchysnotebook June 10, 2015 at 9:10 am #

    Nicely done Doug. Think you got the d-day landing feel spot on

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