- First published:
- September 1945 Issue of The Ladies’ Home Journal
- Related books:
- Audio Books:
- “Death of an Old Old Man” read by Julian Rhind-Tutt
This is another World War II story that Dahl wrote not long after he was discharged from the R.A.F. It jumps awkwardly from stream-of-consciousness to a third-person description of a dogfight and then back again, but it never loses its intensity or grip on the reader.
Spoiler warning! The first part of the story is a frightening glimpse into the thoughts of a pilot about to go back up into danger. From the very first line, “Oh God, how I am frightened,” the reader knows that this is a life-and-death situation. Once the pilot is in the air, the point of view switches to third-person as we witness the exciting dogfight between Charlie, our hero, and the German pilot in a Focke Wulf. The men are evenly matched, and ultimately they nearly collide head on. Both pilots eject and parachute to earth. Charlie knows that the German will be landing right after him, but before he can do anything about it he splashes into a pond. Unable to free himself from his parachute, he realizes that the German has landed and is holding him underwater. As Charlie begins to lost consciousness, the point of view returns to his first-person thoughts as he envisions himself in a lovely field. He gives up fighting. He watches from above as the German hauls his lifeless body to dry land and steals his identification and money. Charlie thinks that the German should learn to relax like him, so he goes up to him and says into his ear, “Why don’t you relax a bit?” The German is frightened and runs away. Charlie decides to just stay in the field and go to sleep in the sun.