My father fought in
the First World War that used to be called ‘Great’ until the truth of its
greatness was questioned and the denial of its greatness accepted. My father
came home from the war with a piece of shrapnel in his back, remnants of gas in
his lungs, a soldier’s pay book, an identity disc, a gas mask, and a very
important document which gave details of my father’s debt to the King and his
promise before witnesses to repay the King the fifty pounds borrowed to buy
furniture: a bed to sleep in with his new wife, a dining table to dine at,
linoleum and a hearthrug to lay on the floor, two fireside chairs for man and
wife to sit in when he wasn’t working and she wasn’t polishing the King’s
linoleum and shaking the King’s hearthrug free of dust; and a wooden fireside
kerb to protect the hearthrug, the linoleum and my father and his wife from
sparks when they sat by the fire.
Read the rest of Janet Frame's short story 'Between My Father and the King' in the Manchester Review.