The night is quiet from the day’s deafening bombardment of bombs and screeching sounds of dying men, some not more than a foot away. I sit in this piss-laden trench wondering when my time will come. Will it be tomorrow or the next? Numb from all this death and suffering, I don’t care anymore. If I’m meant to end on a French battlefield, then it’s better than being shipped home with a missing limb.
Charlie was sent home last week due to trench foot. Most of his toes were gone from gangrene. He’ll be glad to see his family, even if it means hobbling for the rest of his life. John was looking forward to going home next week. A sniper’s bullet pierced his helmet while we were talking about those lively cancan girls we wanted to see on leave.
Why are we here? Because an arrogant bastard, the Keiser, wanted to rule all of Europe and maybe the world, too. Sinking the Lusitania was the turning point. I was full of patriotic fervor when I signed up. I joined to protect the United States from tyranny and a malicious underbelly. The cause was right and just—freedom for all. My starry eyes blinded the realization of what war really meant. War is killing—killing the sons, brothers, and fathers of others who just believe in taking the enemies’ lives. Here we are. Two sides praying to the same God for a victory.
Armentières was a hell storm, or so I’ve been told by a British soldier when he came to our camp searching for his fellow platoon mates. I have no idea why a song was composed about that city in France. You know the one I’m talking about—“Mademoiselle From Armentières, Parlez-Vous.” Funny how silly things come to mind, like a song, when I don’t know if I’ll see tomorrow, or much of it.
We went by foot to this place. Ruin and devastation nearly everywhere we looked, and then a pretty wildflower took me back to home. My mind saw Mama at the stove making the best beef stew anyone ever tasted, my young sister helping her by gathering the ingredients and placing them on the counter. I went to take a taste from the worn wooden spoon. “Stop that! It’s not ready yet.” Her words rang in my ears. She’d then kiss my cheek and I’d feel her loving hand stroke the hair on my head, just as she did when I stood no higher than her apron sash.
Poppa is a mechanic and owns his own business. He’s got plans for me to join him when I return from this war. Even has a sign at the back of the shop with “and Son” on the end of the name. He told me he had that sign made when I was born. I learned a lot from him—what’s right and wrong, fear of God, respect women, and a man is only as good as his word. Seems to me there are too many in this world who haven’t learned those lessons, or else don’t care about them.
This is supposed to be the Great War, and the War to End All Wars. Somehow, I don’t believe it. There’s just too much hate in men’s hearts and the thrill of power and rule make them seek ways to strike down those who disagree with them. I fear this is only the beginning of what’s to come for a hundred or more years from now. I’m just a common foot soldier and know nothing about war plans and strategies, but I know this—as long as men refuse to accept differences in others, this war is the reflection of intolerance, and conflict will be the normal way of things to come for generations.
© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe
Life’s circumstances put Cynthia’s dream to be a write on hold for most of her life. In 2006 she ventured to write her first novel. Front Row Center, is being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and known Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, Scott C Brown. She has vast interests in art and history. Cynthia shares, with other authors, the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, which she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. She garnered the Excellence in Writing Award from It Matters Radio for her short story It Ain’t Fittin‘.