Sunday, September 29, 2013


photo by Mark Haley

She was small for seven, her brother a sickly nine. They leaped across the small quiet stream, hand in hand, and she hated being tugged along. She looked back over her shoulder at the flowing water thinking of the drifting sail boat he made for her in a mystical blue time, preferring serenity to the threatening sky before them. She said,"stop it", but that only increased his firm clench. In her other hand she held the brown sack with bread and one black bottle of root beer. Muffled artillery fire lit the horizon orange like short-lived matches to their daddy's pipe.

He lead her up the stone path to the bunker before them - an uneven, broken walk-way formed by a rigid foundation of a fortress wall from a long-ago forgotten conflict also scattering the motherless. Inside, the walls had peeled away over the ages revealing make-shift plaster that held its position for an old general with his bunk and binoculars. She fell and tore her knee open on a rusted piece. He licked his hand and wiped the blood away from his little sister's wound. "It'll be alright now", he said, impatient as lieutenant in charge dealing with nuisance. She only stopped crying when he broke open the root beer and let her hold the bottle in both hands. The shelling stopped and he went to where a window used to be and scanned the desolate horizon, his hands cupped into field glasses.

It was dark, raining lightly, and very cold. They were full of stale bread, huddled like dogs asleep. When they awakened at dawn a pale soldier with blackened whiskers towered over them. "What's this then? Are you hungry"? he asked in a language the children did not know. He then remembered an old training pamphlet, and thought it would be best if he smiled at the children. He was ashamed that it wasn't natural like with his own children.

Many years later the girl broke down, wiping tears from her eyes, as she broadcasted from a small studio with lighted dials over the international wireless how her brother was crying, screaming, and kicking the man with the patch of red, white, and blue below his shoulder, and how another large soldier with missing front teeth had his arm around the boy, comforting in a kindly assurance. And she'd tell of the mismatched button-eyed doll under the Christmas tree with her name on it, how they let her keep that doll forever, handing it down to her daughter, soft to snuggle like a feather pillow. She would compose herself in dead static air and repeatedly thank the man, leaning in to the microphone, hoping he could understand her careful english a million miles away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my. This is an affecting story. It wrapped me into other lives in dire circumstance. Love gets us through. This reminds me of Red Midnight, and young adult novel about a boy escaping from Guatemala to the United States with his little sister in a sea kayak, a cayuco. Good book. Thanks for this piece.
~Brenda W

9/29/2013 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a" young adult novel. Darn impulsivity and quick typing!

9/29/2013 8:48 PM  
Blogger Tess Kincaid said...

Enjoyed this, much I read it twice...

9/29/2013 8:58 PM  
Blogger Berowne said...

Beautiful writing...

9/30/2013 4:57 AM  
Blogger The Bug said...

What a lovely piece! Made me teary-eyed. My favorite phrase is: "... a long-ago forgotten conflict also scattering the motherless."

9/30/2013 10:33 AM  
Blogger Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

Oh no, that can't be the end of that! Now, get back here and write some more!

10/01/2013 10:50 AM  
Blogger Karen S. said...

Great title! I just know he heard her too!

10/02/2013 9:52 AM  
Blogger ~T~ said...

Bittersweet and vividly drawn, as usual.

10/02/2013 4:34 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Compelling. Leaves me wanting more, while still being enough as it is.


10/02/2013 4:50 PM  

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