Once upon a time is as far as the story ever gets, when he tries to tell it. Benny and Alex protest, but he can’t help his bad memory. He promises that there was a story there, once, but it got lost. Lost? They are skeptical and decide that they want the story about the princess in the castle in the clouds again, the one he made up to fill the gap, and so he tells it and this time he adds soldiers battling someone behind a dirty brick building and there is a man, just out of reach in the shadows of the alleyway and he can’t finish the story for them because his head begins to hurt.
But what’s wrong with him, is he ill? They ask their mother and she tells them it was the war and asks them not to bother him, please and puts them to bed early.
He goes out to the stable where he works. He understands horses better than he does himself and certainly better than he does the people who hire him, the Frenchmen and ladies speaking a language he doesn’t understand and living a life that will never be his.
Later, another day perhaps, he tries to finish the story, to identify the hero, lurking just out of sight. But he can’t see it, he can’t tell, he can’t do it and so in anger at his failure he kicks the horses’ bucket and screams out the pain of some wound he can’t explain, can only feel.
It was the war, Kirsty whispers to her father who is at the window, the war made him mad.