Officially, the British government called it a state of unrest. In Northern Ireland, in 1996, they called it “The Troubles”.
Gerald “Hardly” McDougall is a forgotten man. He’s abused, bullied, and left behind. The only escape left is to join the British Army. At first, he’s a reluctant soldier and the Army doesn’t know what to do with him. Everything changes when tensions in Ireland escalate and the Army need a soldier with a particular set of characteristics. Hardly’s re-assigned and sent into the heart of the troubles, living in the same houses as the IRA soldiers he’s fighting against.
Here is an excerpt from My Name Is Hardly…
The rain is stoating off the glass panes of the phone booth. I’m sweating. I can’t stop sweating. Music again, waiting music on the phone. An automated voice thanks me for holding. A car–speeding up behind me. He’s back, but that’s too soon. I’m connected. It’s a real voice. An operator says “Hello”. There are heavy footsteps behind me. They’re coming fast. It’s not him. It’s not Dougie. I’m pushed hard into the booth from behind. I drop the receiver. It’s hanging by its cord. The voice on the phone asks if anyone is there.
I’m pinned into the booth. Someone behind me is pushing me in, crushing me. My arms are pinned hard against the front of the booth. My leg is twisted against the glass. I try pushing back, but he’s solid. There’s no movement. I yell at the phone that’s hanging on its cord. “Hello, I’m in distress here.”
The man pushes hard from behind again, and the little phone booth shakes. Dougie’s gone. He’s too far away to see.
“I need some help. It’s Corporal Gerald…” A hand comes around, slamming onto the cradle, disconnecting the call. I grunt and try to turn, but I’m pushed forward. A big arm is around my waist and the man lifts me backwards. I’m out of the booth, rain slapping on my face. There’s another man. There are two of them, but it’s too fast. I can’t see them properly. It might be the men from earlier. I’m not sure. They’re older–grey hair–tired, hard faces. I’m pushed into the back seat of a car. I lunge for the door handle on the other side, and a gun is rammed into my ribs. Nobody has spoken. I’m breathing a hundred miles an hour. I’m panicking. I sit still, waiting. It happens fast. The man in the front gets in and turns, and places a hood over my head. He’s just a blur. Black, all I see is black under the hood. I grab my leg, my flippin’ leg. The pain is insufferable.
“They’ll be back any minute. They’re on their way back.”
They don’t answer me. The car takes off like a rocket and I’m pushed back into the seat. There’s a little gap at the bottom of the hood where I can see out. Other than that, everything is dark. Neither of the men has spoken. Where’s Dougie? Do they have Larry, too? Or, were they watching us and just got me? I know this place. This is the Ireland I know. This is the Ireland I’m used to. As the vehicle speeds away, I hear the rain lashing down outside. My heart’s racing. I’m sweating. The pain from my leg is killing me. There’s a crunching noise below the wheels of the car and instinctively I turn my head, trying to see through the blackness of the hood. The man beside me pushes the gun harder into my ribs. It was my crutch. It had to be. The car ran over my crutch as it pulled away. It’ll be lying by the phone booth, useless now, crushed from the wheels of the car.