BEACONS PROJECT 2021 - Soldier-Boy by Tesni Jenkins

Tesni Jenkins took part in the Beacons Project at Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2021. The Beacons Project aims to encourage creativity and forge a sense of creative identity amongst young people in Wales. It offers a unique opportunity for twenty Welsh students aged 16-18 to meet and work with exceptional writers, broadcasters and journalists in a highly creative and stimulating environment during Hay Festival.


Soldier-boy sat on the bottom step, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He watched his father tie his shoelaces with care, pulling them tight against his ankle before twisting them into loops. His shoes were boots, heavy, dark, and leather. Soldier-boy wore similar boots, only his were suede and a more yellow colour. Father’s face was one of concentration. He was that kind of man, the kind that cared as much about how well his boots were tied as he did about whether or not he was wearing any. The house was always orderly and always clean. When he’d said at school one time that Father liked to clean the house, Soldier-boy had been met with laughter, ‘What does your mother do then?’ one boy had jeered. Soldier-boy had an answer, an answer he’d heard Father say jokingly before he kissed Mother on the cheek. ‘She messes it up.’


Soldier-boy and Father sucked on a sweet each as they continued their walk. Mother was going to meet them at the station, Father said. Soldier-boy nodded, it would be nice to meet Mother at the station, but it would be sad that Brother wasn’t there. Brother was even cooler than soldiers, and now he was also a soldier he was twice as cool. He was cool enough that when he was eighteen, a year before he had to leave to fly the planes, he’d had a girlfriend. She was nice. Soldier-boy thought she was probably the nicest girl in the world apart from his mother. She always wore knee-length skirts with patterns like strawberries on them. She would play scrabble with the family sometimes and would bring presents for them from the shop her father owned. When Brother had left, she still came around with these presents. She brought Soldier-boy a little model plane once, and she read aloud to him a letter his brother had sent from France. She hurried off to the bathroom after she’d finished. Soldier-boy assumed she just needed to pee, but if he’d been more observant, he would have seen the slight red in her cheeks when she came back. She was a nice girl.


Soldier-boy sank into his Mother’s arms, crying thick tears that landed on the shoulder of her shirt. Father crouched besides them both, taking one of Soldier-boy’s hands while Mother took the other. ‘This is your mission, Soldier-boy’, he said, ‘You have to go on this trip. Britain is counting on you, Soldier-boy.’

He caught his breath, ‘Father, you have to make sure you keep tidying up the house while I’m gone. And Mother, keep making a mess or he’ll have nothing to tidy.’

Father handed him the satchel, and he opened it, checking that his model plane was inside. Then he pushed his helmet further down his head, took a last look around the station and, with the help of a kind lady in a dark blue uniform, climbed up onto the train.

Thanks to Welsh Government for funding the Beacons Project and to Bad Wolf and Screen Alliance Wales for their partnership in creating Jack Thorne's workshop. And finally, thanks to Booths Bookshop for allowing us to film Owen Sheers on location.