The Soldier

final copy: December 10, 1998

Elementary School Fiction Assignment: PTA sponsored contest "Suddenly you turn around..."

  “Suddenly you turn around and all that’s left of you is your dogtags.” The Sergeant’s words sped through his mind. A twig breaking woke him up from his day-dreaming. He peered through his rifle’s scope but no Nazis were seen. My nerves are on end, he thought to himself quietly. Being cramped in a pillbox with two other privates isn’t helping either. He watched as the rain fell into the mud ahead. When will the war end? When everyone is dead? When one side is totally wiped out? The question puzzled him. He looked back, only to see one private sleeping and the other one cleaning his rifle. He felt the cold rain smacking the cement pillbox and exploding in his face. He was extremely cold and also quite wet. His eyes were getting heavy and he wanted to lay down, but he had to keep guard. The rain was ricocheting and splashing in his face, which caused him to become agitated. He roughly scratched the muzzle of his gun against the stubble on his chin and wiped the water off his brow with mud covered hands.

  I wonder if the roof is leaking again, he thought to himself. He imagined the little white house with the hole filled green roof. He helped his father fix the roof before he was recruited so his mom wouldn’t worry during the rainy season. Mom worried about everything. She was a compulsive worrier. Dad always tried to calm her down but he always just made things worse. Like the night that there was a grease fire in the kitchen while Mom was trying to fry potatoes. Dad kept yelling “Calm down woman, calm down!” even though anybody could tell dad was the one who was frightened. He, on the other hand, he had always been the brave one in the family. So accordingly he grabbed the lid from the pan and muffled the fire while his parents watched in fear. Oh, he could go for some of Mom’s potatoes right now, even the burnt ones. He looked disgustedly down at the K-rations sitting next to him “What do they put in this crap?” he said out loud. The private behind him grinned slowly and said “I’ll take yours if you don’t want it.”  “No, that’s O.K.” he said back. He once again looked back through his rifle scope and again, nothing. All the better he thought. Maybe he would live through this war after all.

  The pine trees swayed as a cold wind sent a shiver down his spine. Brrrrrr, its cold he thought to himself as he reached for one of the old grey blankets in the corner of the pillbox. As he wrapped the blanket around him he could smell the sweat of previous users. He hadn’t slept for 20 hours and he desperately needed a rest. The temptation to lie down and rest was great, but he knew he had to stay awake. The others depended on him. He used to depend on his dad, but as they both grew older dad started depending on him more an more. He had to live through this. His mom needed him. His dad needed him. The soldiers in the squad needed him. And most of all he wanted to make it through the war. He wanted to settle down and get married. Have a kid and get a dog. He imagined what his parents were doing right now. Where they talking about him? Or had they already forgotten about him. They had forgotten him at the fair that day. He knew that he shouldn’t have stayed so long in front of the house of mirrors. Suddenly he turned around and they were gone. Maybe they had abandoned him. Maybe they found a better kid to take home with them. He chuckled at that idea, he was just a kid and that’s how kids thought. Everything turned out O.K. back then, they had just gone to get a hat for dad out of the car. They had come back to get him. Maybe this war wouldn’t be so bad either. Maybe its just like the fair. Maybe they are ending it right now and the word hasn’t gone out yet.

  A bird flew by his field of sight, his wrist and elbow muscles tightened. His finger almost pulled the trigger, but he stopped himself in time. He still remembers the time when his father took him hunting. They were going out to hunt ducks and maybe even an elk. They were in a tight spot for money, dad had lost his job and there wasn’t enough food to get through the next few months. So dad handed him his first rifle and together they set out into the forest. He was proud to be able to help his family. They depended on him, they needed him. But, when a deer did come by he couldn’t pull the trigger. He couldn’t kill the animal in front of him. His dad was disappointed with him that day, but respected the fact that his son did not want to kill. He had never wanted to kill. He spent the next few months working odd jobs to put food on his parents table to make up for his inability to hunt. So how was he going to be able to kill a German? He had never really thought about that before.

  What if I can’t pull the trigger? He thought, and what if the German can? He didn’t want to be in the war. His “enrollment” was mandatory. So far he had made it through the war without firing a shot. Would he be able to when he had to?  Thump! A branch fell from a tree near the pillbox. He reacted quickly, without a thought, he hoisted his rifle without aiming and unloaded shot after shot into the area around the tree. Bark was flying off into the air everywhere. His hands were shaking wildly and he could hardly breath. He could feel his whole body going numb. He heard voices shouting quietly in the distance. He stopped shooting and the voices got closer. He felt an arm grab his shoulder from behind. This is it, he thought, I am going to turn around and get my head blown off. He turned around quickly, only to see the private who had been cleaning his rifle holding him at arms length. “Calm down!” the private shouted, backing away cautiously. “I’ll take over, you get some rest.” He watched as the private took his place at the front of the pillbox . He slowly slid down to the floor his back inching its way down the cold damp wall. At last his shift was over. I’ll never get to sleep now he thought, while he took off his helmet, laid his head against the cement wall and drifted off to sleep.

 

Copyright, 1998, All rights reserved

 

First Upload: December 2000
Last Update: July 7, 2001