The Road to Saint Blesse.
It was the coughing that woke him. His sleep was thin gruel and shallow, like most nights. When he could sleep at all, when the coughing and the wheezing and the phlegmy billowing in his lungs would abate enough to let him drift off into unconsciousness, it was all too brief. The beast would not let him slumber long before returning to wrack his body with more coughing and endless, waxy spittle streaks that clogged up his nostrils and his mouth. Sleep had become as rare and precious as gold and he panned for it in tiny, unsatisfying granules. But he had slept for a few hours that night and he had dreamed of Beatrice again.
Another heaving coughing fit practically lifted his body from the bed. He swung his legs out, planted his feet on the chilly floor and bent double to expel the gobs of phlegm into a bin.
Staff Nurse Bremner barged into the room. Roly-Poly Scottish Nurse Bremner always seemed to be on hand everywhere at all times. Perhaps she never slept properly either. He pink, plump hands were always freezing to the touch ("I can'nae help it, my circulation is nae good").
"Don't you knock?".
"I heard you coughing again, William", she said, handing him a dark brown medicine bottle. "Drink some of this."
He pulled off the cap and took a deep swig. It was viscous and tasted of honey and cloves and it washed down his neck soothingly. It would work for a while.
"If you're feeling up to it, you can come and sit yourself in the common room for a while. There's music. We're having a sing-song" said Bremner, more in hope than expectation.
"I want to leave here" said William.
"You're discharged, William. You'll be going home as soon as there's transport available".
William shook his tired head.
"I want to leave now. Today. I don't want to stay here anymore".
"You're not well enough".
William turned his hollow face up to Bremner.
"Let me go" he said quietly.
Bremner stood there with her arms folded over her protuberant stomach.
"I can't keep you here, William. But here is the best place for you to be until you're stronger."
"I'm growing weaker here. I want to go."
Bremner stood stock still for a moment but sensing that arguing any further with him was counterproductive, she relented.
"I'll send an orderly to help you dress. Warmly, mind. You'll need your greatcoat and gloves. It's cold enough to snow today." And with that, she bustled out of the room.
Some 30 minutes later, after he had signed out at the commissary office, William emerged from the entrance of the hospital, grey and limping and swamped by the military greatcoat that was now too big for him. So far, Bremner's medicine had held back the beast in his chest but as he shuffled towards the gatehouse, he felt the ominous, tingling tickle that heralded its return.
The Gate Sargeant, a big, bull-necked Ulsterman with huge, raw, bony hands, saluted him.
"Leaving us, are you Lieutenant?" he asked.
"Is there any transport today"? William asked.
The Sargeant shook his enormous head.
"No, sir. Not today, sir".
The freezing air whipped around William's face and he shuddered. With his right arm, he put his left hand into the coat pocket.
"I need to get to a place called Saint Blesse" said William. "Do you know it?".
The Ulsterman shook his head again.
"Can't say as I do, sir. Tell you what, though, turn right out of the gate and walk about 200 yards up the road. There's a little cafe there. They might be able to help you."
With that, he opened the gate and William hobbled through.
"Hope we don't see you back here, sir, if you know what I mean. Take care".
The cafe was a little further than 200 yards but it was there alright; an old stone-built house festooned with tricolours and Union Jacks, all still in the cold air. There was a hand-painted wood sign on the door which said "English Welcome. Bienvenue". Parked up next the cafe was a black, Peugeot motor car. William wondered if it belonged to the owners.
As he stepped towards the front door, it opened and out came a tall, middle-aged Frenchman with long limbs, a ruddy complexion, and a purposeful look. He stopped when he saw William.
"Pardon, Monsieur. Connaissez-vouz Saint Blesse?" William inquired.
The Frenchman mulled it, repeating it to himself "Saint Blesse, Saint Blesse". Then remembering. "Ah, Saint Blesse! Oui, je connais Saint Blesse".
"Bon. Transport ici?" asked William, his lungs beginning to squirm again.
The Frenchman chortled to himself a little and cocked his head.
"Oui, monsieur. Mon voiture", he said indicating to his Peugeot. "Je vais vous y conduire".
The relief was almost enough to take William's mind off the growing armed rebellion in his chest. Almost. He knew that his uniform was a passport in these times.
"Merci beaucoup, monsieur".
"Mon Plaisir. Je m'apelle Bertrand Floret".
"Tunstall, William. Lieutenant, Royal Fusiliers.
They nodded to each other and as Williams bowed his head ever-so-slightly, a giddiness gripped him and he almost stumbled. Floret took his arm.
"Est ce que ca va?" he enquired.
William gathered himself, took a big lungful of the cold air and re-assured him with a smile.
"Oui, oui. Pas problem".
Floret stepped over to the car, opened the back door and bid William enter. As William was about to step into the back, the beast came out and rocked him again. Great, wracking coughs sent spittle flying uncontrollably from his lips, which he would have covered with his hand were it not for the fact that he had to hold onto the roof of the car while he coughed and heaved until his face turned red and his pulmonary muscles almost burst. He could taste salty blood in his mouth.
Bremner had had the sense to give him the linctus as a parting gift. He fumbled it out of his pocket and drank down a huge swig. It finally stopped and William gasped to get more air into his lungs.
"Monsieur, tu es tres malade" said Floret.
William smiled again, weakly and held up his hand.
"J'irai bien. S'il te plaît, emmène-moi à Saint Bless, s'il vous plait".
With that, he climbed into the car and huddled down into his big coat to try to warm himself.
Floret took the starting handle from the front seat and went around to the front of the car to start it up. With two hefty cranks, the engine jumped into life. Floret jumped into the driver's seat and seat and they sallied forth out onto the dirt road, heading east for Saint Blesse.
The road was quiet it seemed and free of military traffic. The car bumped and chugged along bouncing up and down over every bump and pothole and wheezing and gurgling as much as William's lungs. Despite this, William put his back and tried to sleep. Floret drove silently.
Soon he would be back in Saint Blesse and back with Beatrice. Soon. It was all he wanted.
It was only 4 months ago that William was billeted with the rest of his squad in that ambrosial medieval village nestled in a valley under a long bluff and next to a gurgling stream that sprouts clean and fresh from the limestone walls. Low houses made with stone as old as time with terracotta-tiled roofs and weather-worn flower boxes under the windows. Poplars and gnarly old cherry trees lined the cobbled undulating streets. In the market square, the village grocery store jostled for elbow-room with the ricketty-wood table cafes.
William was sitting outside one of those cafes with a carafe of wine when he laid his eyes on Beatrice. He saw her through the window of her kitchen when she was cutting up plums and putting the pieces in a large bowl; her hands were stained mauve by the juices. Her neck was long and slender and her auburn tresses bobbed up and down as she worked with nimble fingers. She had almond, deep brown eyes full of secrets.
He willed her to notice him, and she did. She noticed his swept-back jet black hair. She noticed his dimpled chin and she noticed the casual charm of his demeanour. His uniform was clean and pressed and the buttons were shiny and he wore it effortlessly. She noticed all of that.
He held up his glass in a toast and smiled. She returned the smile.
And that was all they needed.
That afternoon, William sat to Beatrice on the Turkish chaise lounge in the parlour of her home, underneath the big stuffed and mounted head of a deer that her father had bagged on a hunting trip in the Ardeche Valley many years ago. He spoke to her in his faulty, schoolboy French and while she spoke barely any English at all, they communicated everything.
They ate pie and cheese and cherries and stuffed tomatoes and drank some of her father's red wine. They smoked his cigarettes.
She told him about her older brother who was away fighting with the army and who, she feared, she may never see again. And she told him about her younger brother who was still at school and talented at music and art.
William told her about his mother and father and his two sisters and his life growing up on a smallholding farm in Kent.
They exchanged their worlds with each other until, well after the sun had set, they exchanged their passion, naked on that Turkish chaise lounge. It was a greedy, vital and animalistic. Beatrice biting his flesh, William licking and sucking hers. She tasted of plums and raspberries and peaches and lemon balm. When they coupled, he felt her pelvic muscles clutch eagerly at his manhood as if to draw him closer into her that he could ever physically go, and it felt wonderful. It felt right.
Afterwards, they laid naked in each other's arms, touched only by the vivid moonlight of that autumn night casting through the bay windows.
He crept back to his billet by midnight and returned again the following day and for the next three days after that until his orders came to move up to the front and join the rest of the regiment for the big push at Armentieres.
Holding her hands in his, he vowed that we would return, no matter what. She made him cross his heart. He would ask for her hand in marriage. She said she would give it.
But that was before Armentieres. That was before the butt of a Mauser rifle left a permanent crease in his skull. That was before the cold steel of a bayonet severed most of the nerves in his left arm. That was before he lost two toes on his left foot which had been chewed by a rat while he lay asleep in a trench and which then had to be amputated. That was before the chlorine gas attack which scoured out his lungs and left them as shrivelled as old prunes.
What kept him alive was the memory of Beatrice and his promise. The taste of her skin would never leave his mouth and even in the most shit and rotting flesh stench of the worst trenches, her raspberry and lemon balm fragrance was still fresh in his nostrils.
He would keep his promise to Beatrice, his beloved Beatrice. But the man who made that promise was not the same one anymore. The man delivering on that promise was a ragged, wracked, shuffling, hobbling marionette and barely a man at all. He was a broken doll; a ghost of the man she fell in love with.
Would she still marry him now? What was left of him?
William sat up, unsure as to whether or not he had been asleep. Maybe he had slept for a while. The car was still grinding noisily along the road; the road to Saint Blesse. Then the coughing began again and Williams reached into his pocket for the linctus. How could he get more? No matter. Beatrice will save him. Her love will make him whole again. Her lifeforce will slay the beast. Beatrice, I am coming soon, my love.
With Floret silent and not knowing how long they had been driving, Williams sat up to look around. His spirit jumped when he saw just ahead that crossroads in the copse next to the abandoned farm building. He knew that landmark and noted it on his way out from Saint Blesse. He was close now. Maybe 3 kilometres or so. Maybe 4.
Sensing his excitement, Floret pointed ahead of him and slightly to the left and said "Saint Blesse".
"Yes, yes. Close now", replied William, in English.
Floret powered past the crossroads and on another for another minute or so before slamming the brakes on. They both stared ahead at the roadblock before them. Two French army trucks had collided and now both lay on their sides, one slightly ahead of the other while a gaggle of soldiers stood around doing not very much it seemed except shout and swear at the each other. With trees on both sides of the road, passage was impossible.
Floret turned around to William and gave him a classic Gallic shrug. With that, he got out of the car and marched towards the soldiers to join in with the shouting and gesticulating.
William lay his head back again and tried to sniff the air to remind him of how close he was to that sacred little village in the limestone valley. But the beast rose up again and grabbed him by his heart. He coughed and coughed and coughed until he thought his guts were coming apart. He reached for the linctus bottle and poured the last remaining drops down his throat. The blood was coming up again and the coughing would not stop.
Floret had levered his age and authority to get some sense from the agitated soldiers. A message had been relayed to their base and a squadron of men were on their way. With levers and ropes, they would be able to clear the trucks off of the road. 30 minutes, they said. Maybe one hour.
Floret made his way back to the car to share the news with his passenger; that they would soon be on their way. But when he reached the car, his heart plummeted. For a while he just stood there before crossing himself and then lifting the silver crucifix from around his neck up to his lips and kissing it. While Floret was organising the road clearance, Lieutenant William Tunstall of the Royal Fusiliers had coughed out the last precious fragments of his life. A trickle of blood ran down his chin and dripped onto his coat. His eyes were open and the empty brown bottle of linctus lay on the seat beside him.
Floret bowed his head in silent prayer: "May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up".
From the storage box at the back of the car, Floret took a blanket. He climbed into the back of the car and after gently closing the eyes, he laid the blanket over the corpse, carefully tucking in all the edges around the frame of the body. Then he took the bottle and tossed it into the copse at the side of the road.
Suddenly feeling as if every one of his 63 years had been turned into a house brick and piled up on his back, Monsieur Floret cranked the engine up again. The car sprang to life with a jaunty roar, Floret climbed back into the driver's seat, crossed himself again and turned the car around to return the mortal remains of the young English officer back to the hospital from where, as a demi-ghost, the still just living man had emerged not two hours before. Doubtless, he will be interred in the military cemetery where so many of his fallen comrades lie buried.
The car trundled back down the same road and as he passed the abandoned farmhouses again, a light snow began to fall.
Gunshots fire all around me,
The air is heavy with smoke and soot,
I crotch low to the ground,
Hair tucked in my hat.
My finger on the trigger,
I hate this.
I trace the ring on my left hand,
Thinking of you I shoot,
I must live for you,
Not yet can I die.
All I see is pain and death,
Did the man I shot,
Have a wife?
I must not give in,
To survive, I must hide,
My sweet side.
Running I see bodies,
I try not look,
Not that I would recognize,
Any of the remains.
The booming of the cannons,
The crisp bangs of the guns,
Seem never ending.
I see people dying,
I struggle to protect the wounded,
Careful about my low supply,
Pain rips trough my side,
I collapse, gasping,
Dizziness over takes me.
No, I must live,
My hand clenches my side,
Blood is gushing.
Crawling feels like agony,
I need to make it back,
To the safe place.
I love you.
Tears are flowing hard now,
I might not make it,
The blood is coming fast,
Way too fast.
War of Love
My emotions are a never ending war,
Fighting in inside my head and heart,
Sometimes love is not worth looking for,
But looking deep into my eyes is a start.
Hold you head high and clasp my hand,
You're the only thing that can end this war,
Lead me out away from everything,
Promise me to never let go.
With you anything can happen,
Together we can do anything,
Just believe in me,
As I believe in you.
All is Fair
Is a treacherous thing
It is not something to be messed with
Or taken lightly
When it ends
Is a treacherous thing
It’s not something to be messed with
Or taken lightly
While it’s happening
They both cause pain
They both end
With the promise
Of a new beginning
Love and war
Are sometimes the same
War can be caused by love
Love can feel like war
Love can be beauty
War can be pain
Love can be a reason for living
War can be a reason for death
Love can hurt
War can be getting a second chance
Love can be fighting for purpose
War can be standing up for your beliefs
But which is worse?
Which causes the most pain?
Losing loved ones to death
Or to life
Both consist of death
It is just a matter
Of if the death
Is of the body
Or the heart
Both consist of passion
It is just a matter
Of if the passion
Is of love for another being
Or of love for getting your way
Both destroy lives
Neither show mercy
All is fair in love and war
All is fair
Do what you must
Do what you want
All is fair
All is right
No one can stop them
No one can control them
We all try
To keep love and war
From controlling our lives
But it’s impossible
All is fair in love and war
They can’t be stopped
They can’t be controlled
Spend your life
Trying to stay away
And never realizing
They are inescapable
To run away
All is fair in love and war
And nothing anyone will ever do
Will change that fact
Whatever it Takes
The dark, wraith-like shadows had wrapped the city up in their darkness. The jagged spires were plunged into an unatural absence of light that made everything look post-apocolyptic. Shuffling in dark alleyways, muffled sobs, and the groaning and creaking of old metal work only added to this affect.
Maddox had always found the dark and imposing structures disconcerting, but now they made him think of monsters.
The monsters are out there, not here. At least, that’s what they’d all been told. He repeated it now to convince himself of that fact. Perched on the high, sloping roof of a medieval looking church, he could see the entire city sprawling out to the river’s shore.
The tile shingles were cool against Maddox’s body, a welcome relief from the suffocating heat of the day. Slowly, he moved to a crouching position, took one last look around him, and jumped down onto another part of the roof. The roads may have been abandoned days ago (as they had been declared unsafe) but Maddox had always prefered using the true roads of the city. They were composed of walls, bridges, tunnels, rooftops...
anything and everything that would get you from point A to point B relatively unnoticed.
Maddox jumped his way down the levels of the church’s rooftops, then leaped to the nearby bridge. Grasping the concrete edge, he pulled himself up, slung a leg over--a move that had been painful to perfect--and then brought the other leg over.
The other bridges spanning the streets below offered a little protection from view, but not much. He wasted no time jumping across to the next bridge, which was a mere six feet away, climbing up its trellis sides, and up to the top. Even though there was absolutely no coverage now, Maddox knew for a fact that very few people bothered to look up. He still kept going, running towards the closest side. There, he scrambled down the huge stone wall that resembled giant stairs to the ground.
A breeze had picked up, giving the illusion of some life. Maddox stilled, listening. For a city in lockdown, this was very natural. . . but something felt off, wrong.
It was almost as if the bombing they were trying to prevent had already happened. He shivered.
Zipping up the black jacket, he continued on. He needed to get back to the den before something happened. He didn’t know what or where, just that something was going to happen, something bad.
Maddox had learned to trust his instincts--they were never wrong.
With urgency, he continued his way through a massive drainage tunnel through which a tributary of the river flowed through. Some of the dens from the slums had constructed a rough catwalk of sorts on the side and, due to the recent rain, it was flooded.
“Better than swimming,” Maddox grunted. Even his voice sounded strange to him as it echoed back, then faded away.
The most soothing of sounds can become horrific and terrifying if one were to listen long enough; so the sound of running water began to sound almost like ghastly screaming or laughing.
Rattled and on edge, Maddox followed the water out of the pipe and under a bridge. The current felt like hands around his ankles, trying to pull him back, but he kept struggling onward. Eventually, he climbed out onto the base of one of the conrete pylons, jumped to the grassy bank, and ran his hands up along the side of the bridge. There, he found the small hole, concealed by grass, that he knew would lead him to safety.
Maddox squeezed through, and all light was cut off. He crawled forward on hands and knees through the tiny metal pipe. He was feeling claustraphobic, but he forced himself to keep his panic in check.
Almost there, just a bit longer. . .
As he rounded a corner--the worst part, as he could barely breath while doing so--flickering golden light blinded him.
“Maddox? That you?” a raspy female voice demanded.
“Yeah, it’s me.” He hated how scared his voice sounded.
“Is the city still empty?”
Maddox didn’t answer right away, too focused on trying to get out of the pipe without falling. Even after all these years, he’d only been successful twice. And tonight was just like almost every night.
He tumbled to the ground, rolled forward, and got to his feet. “It’s still empty, Ash, and you know it’s under lockdown.”
The candlelight made it look like Ahsley’s eyes were set far back in ghostly black sockets, and Maddox started to feel queasy again for reasons he couldn’t really name.
“Something bad’s gonna happen,” he said. “I can just feel it.”
Ashley leaned her head back against the wall, staring at the candle mounted opposite her. “We’re all going to die.”
Maddox didn’t know what to say to that, so he sat down beside her and asked, “Where’s the rest of the den?”
“Ky’s still missing, and so is Dobre, and the others are with other dens, gathering supplies.”
“Gathering supplies” was just a nice way of saying looting.
The two sat in silence after that, and eventually Ashley dozed off. The candles burned down to mere stubs, and Maddox’s eyes grew heavy.
“MAX!” Ashley was screaming right in his ear, and the entire ground seemed to be shaking.
He opened his eyes and dust fell into them and his mouth, choking him.
Ashley started pulling on his arm, and he half-stumbled, half-ran after her into the dark. When she shouted “Climb!” he wrapped his fingers around the metal rungs of a ladder against the wall.
The rusted edges cut into the soft flesh of his palms, jolting him from his sleep-filled stupor.
The bombing. It’s happening.
“No! We can’t go up!” he shouted.
Ashley either didn’t hear him or was too panicked to understand. Their chances down here were slightly better than up there, right?
Maddox practically flung himself up the ladder to reach her, but she was too far ahead of him. When he reached the top, he lunged, catching hold of her ankle. He wrapped himself around her, trying to protect her as the hovercraft flew overhead, dropping their loads.
For the hour, he was in a nightmare of screams and explosions, ragged breathing and Ashley’s eradic heartbeat.
Please let it be over.
When the last hovercraft faded away, the silence that reigned was defeaning. Ashley finally squirmed out from under him, and huddled there, crying. Maddox was too shocked to do anything for several moments but sit there.
Slowly, he looked around him. If the city had looked dead before, now it looked mutilated and hellish, smoke rising from a hundred fires, wreckage and bodies flung into the churning river.
This city had been at peace, refusing to join sides on this war; there was no military anything here, it was just full of civilians. Bombing it to the ground hadn’t been to remove a threat, but to perhaps send a message.
Maddox hacked up dust and blood. He wiped it off of his face, crawled over to Ashley, and wrapped her up in his arms.
“It’s okay,” he whispered, covering the gaping wound in her arm with his hands.
It was not okay; it never would be okay.
Thousands of innocent people had just been burned out of existence. And yet, it didn’t matter and nobody cared.
After all, everything is fair in love and war.
She was not Fair
The blood that
was not untainted
—like she had
dressed the part
and spread the
to the lauders
of the dark—
So they said
tearing the veil
from the land
war ravaged mind
the big bang—
in every race
and false start
—to the roles
we’d been granted
the fault line—
we’ll plant our
and curl into
at a rest
in our fight
with our own
is Fair in
Love and War
I’d have wished
yet see how
The Sniper and the Spy
A Russian shell exploded, close enough to throw debris into her fox hole. She was covered. She hoped it was dirt, but on the eastern front, in 1942, one never knew. She was rolling a cigarette before the blast and now began looking for the rolling papers she had dropped to take cover. Though, for a trained sniper, she was often impatient and soon quit the search. Instead, turning her attention to the ground, to the dead German soldier’s corpse at her feet. A corpse that made the floor of her fox hole. Noticing a bulge, she quickly began groping through the dead man’s pocket and grinned. Instantly, her fingers recognized the smoothed edges of a smashed cigarette pack. She lit one. Maybe my luck has changed. She thought.
The morning sun broke and brought the Russian front into view. That was one issue, but a familiar one. It was not her first time dodging her comrade’s shots. It was, however, her first shot wound. She examined her left arm and was relieved to see the stream of blood had slowed to a trickle. She had no recollection of being shot, but it was likely a stray bullet from the fire fight she had been trying to avoid the night before. She was behind the German line now, only not far enough. She could see their lake to the North, it meant she was miles West of her Objective. Her arm was throbbing. In search of bandages, she began to take stock of her few resources. Already regretting last night’s haste, abandoning her burning plane, leaving without her rifle. Surprisingly, the crash landing had left her mostly unaffected. Her limbs were working, even her left arm. She was calm. She did not know why, she guessed it was the blood loss. She knew she needed to eat. She knew that surviving meant she would depend on the dead. Their rations, their munitions, and hopefully, their morphine.
Everything is different. She thought. The plan had to change. There was no rifle, only the hairpin and the heels, it would have to be in person. In person, would mean no escape. Her son would be an orphan, but the Objective was paramount. It was time, she was steady.
Luckily, she grabbed the jump-pack before retreating from the plane, and so, had her mother’s dress, her only German clothing. She removed her uniform and slipped into it, intentionally smearing blood across her chest. Painfully using both hands to pull her hair up, she inserted the hairpin, then slid on the heels. She could tell the shoes looked ridiculous, after all they were not hers. They were intended for another woman, this was not supposed to be her mission, but, as far as she was concerned, he would not die at anyone else’s hands. She stole the plane, and the rest, during the chaos that followed last night’s attack. It was treason. Surely, they did not plan to let her live. All fronts are enemy fronts now, unless, I accomplish the mission. She thought. She needed to secure a soldier’s escort to German headquarters. Any commanding officer would identify her there and promptly send her to him. The soldiers, though, were savage, and warranted caution. If they found out who she was, they would kill her. That’s the least they would do. To their credit, they had a right. She had murdered dozens of them.
The Russian bombardment had ended. The Germans would be by any minute to survey the damage. She was planning on it, what she needed was a place to be found. A road would suffice, she would find one. Thinking of him, she imagined he would find it entertaining, watching her gracefully pop out of a foxhole, covered in blood and wearing her mother’s dress. Then she realized, she didn’t truly know him it all. She could, at least, take solace in the fact that maybe he didn’t know her either.
In little time, she came upon a road that was worn deep. They come by here frequently. She thought. A tree sat perfectly near a straight section up ahead and cast an inviting shade on the grass. She wrote a note in pencil and stuck it to her bandage with the little tape she had left. She would sleep until someone woke her up, maybe, that someone would be a medic.
Her eyes opened on their own and only slightly. She felt better, only tired and drugged. Her arm was still throbbing. She looked around. The room was not familiar. The voice was.
“Has it been a year?” He asked, truly not knowing.
“Bastard.” She exhaled, mad that her voice sounded so weak.
“My men told me you had a note. It read: Property of the Commander, his Mistress…I remember you always saying, the best lie was often the truth. A lie good enough to get you here alive…It’s nice to see you.” He added.
“I know now. After 3 years. I know! Don’t be coy.” She yelled. Rage made her less tired. She sat up, noticing the heels in the corner and feeling the pin still tangled in her hair. Do it now. She thought.
“Do they know you’re here?” He asked.
“They didn’t send me.” That was the truth, she was too important for suicide missions and they were unaware the two of them had spent three years sharing missions and hotel rooms before the war. It was obvious Russian Command didn’t know, no one came to kill her when he left, but maybe she could survive today too. Her response had given her an idea.
“I just had to see you, had to talk. You broke my heart when it started. When you turned. You used me. You lied to me and to Russia.”
“I was always German. You were too proud to notice” He said, affected by her apparently broken demeanor.
“You turned on me, on us. On me…and our son!” It was true. The child of the sniper and the spy, born in riot and living in war, was currently alone at home. Maybe alone forever, she thought.
“I was needed to command. My mission was over. So are we.” He questioned his own sincerity at hearing the words. He did miss his son, he missed her too. Quickly, he poured a drink, finished the glass and lit two cigarettes. He handed her one, she started to feel better. They must have given me blood, she thought. He began to talk again.
“I cannot kill you. I can take you as far as the path by the lake…our lake. It will be clear for you to walk back to base from there.” She almost laughed, it was so unexpected for him to be sentimental, and for a plan to fall into place so easily.
“If this must be our last time together, take me in your car. It will be like when we used to park at the dock.” She said.
“Are you strong enough?” He sounded dumb. She knew he was unhappy and felt validated.
“To be with you, I’ll endure.” She almost made herself laugh.
“We must go now.” He said, moving to her and pulling her into a wheel chair.
“Please give me my shoes! I’ll need them.” She said. He placed them on her lap and wheeled her through the hall, out the back of the building. His car was waiting.
Putting on the heels, she stood up slowly and stepped into the passenger seat, slyly inserting her right heel under the brace that held the seat to the carriage. It snapped loudly as it broke when she sat down.
“I did it again. It really is like old times.” She said, placing the broken heel in the glove box like she had done that summer day over a year ago. Only, she had broken her heel on accident that day.
“You’ll have to make do.” He said and started the car.
Her arm was lifeless now and bounced freely at every bump the car hit. She looked pitiful. He was feeling guilty and tried to explain himself. She let him babble. He continued.
“Life is love and war, all’s fair.” He summarized, they had arrived and he put the car into park. The path was only yards away, at the tree line. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his ID tags. His Russian ones, from the country the had betrayed, to woman he had used.
“For my son.” He said. She smiled, and perhaps thought it sweet, so she kissed him.
“Goodbye, my love.” She said.
“I’ll watch you till the tree line. Goodbye, Katya. Take care of our boy.” He said
Her heel was still broken, so she hobbled, steadily swinging her left arm lifelessly from side to side. She continued towards the forest, whose path would lead her to her son. The car made a hitch as he switched it into to gear. “Life is love and war, all’s fair,” he had said. She ran over the sentence in her mind again, as she removed her hairpin and held it tenderly, slowly releasing the safety on the detonator hidden inside. The heel containing the plastique explosive was still in the glove box. She had his ID tags in her hand, proof of his demise, and she was only a mile from base. The mission would be accomplished. She would be celebrated instead of punished. She turned and waved to him from the tree line, at a safe distance from the impending explosion. All’s fair, she thought.
Same as it Ever Was
Dor-Na held her father’s cold hand. She understood he was gone, but somehow holding his hand made her feel safer.
Ra-Del, the prayer woman, had been here for two days now. She had helped Mota wash her father, and Dor-Na had been allowed to comb his hair and beard after he had been wrapped in ferns and hide. Her two little brothers didn’t really understand what had happened, but they could tell Mota and Dor-Na were very sad.
Dor-Na had heard Mota and Ra-Del talking last night, and she knew that today the men from the tribe would carry her father away. They would put him on a bed of sticks and then they would burn it so he could ride the smoke to meet the Great Spirit.
Sometimes Dor-Na wished she didn’t cry so much.
She was nearly a woman now, and her brothers would look up to her even more now that their father was gone. Still, it did help make her heart hurt less, letting her pain wash out through her tears.
The prayer woman had said that Mota would have to pick a new mate, if she wanted to stay in the clan. Dor-Na guessed that meant she and her brothers would get a new father, but the thought made her feel even sadder.
She laid her head on her father’s lifeless chest, and wept.
© 2018 - Dusty Grein
** Love is a coin, and grief lives on its reverse. The bigger the love, the bigger the pain when we lose it--this is a truth that is as old as mankind itself.
#prosechallenge #amwriting #flashfiction
Secrets of a Lesbian: Poem #4
I think to all the stories,
That I’ve heard throughout the years.
In all my books and on the screen,
The villain’s always clear.
But just suppose that’s not the truth,
And stories have different sides.
A villain to you could be someone,
That others have glorified.
What story does the hunter tell?
Right after he goes and slays?
And can we blame the mother bear?
For revenge made in her craze?
What would a soldier’s mother say?
To the enemy’s own son?
Aren’t they just the same in fact?
Different uniforms yet same guns?
And now I think to you and me,
And how we’re both to blame,
You hate me for the things I did,
But we’re actually just the same.
It all depends on the view you take,
Into the stories and the lies.
But if you need, then go believe,
I’m the only real ‘bad guy.’
#poem #poet #challenge #poetry #lgbt #lesbian