A One Sentence Story About A Veteran And The War

otisarchives2
otisarchives2

I will pose for the photograph here in the shade of the tree that knows no thoughts because it cannot think like a man at least that is what we are told in school that all must attend for life requires us to expand our knowledge that knowledge to succeed in life so that we can live comfortably and help the family that raised us grow healthy and strong like the ox in your farm that your grandfather who was in the Spanish American War had bought when the stock market crashed in 1929 which was also the time when my mother got remarried and sold their house in Virginia and moved out west to Idaho which I think was a complete and utter mistake but the past must be forgotten to forgive the present and some young man I met in the trenches taught me that when we were fighting the Germans and I’m not too sure what happened to him but I think he decided to kill himself after four months of wading through blood and mud and the bodies of friends that had expired after German shrapnel hit them from the never ending bombings that lasted from noon till dusk which was when we decided it was safe enough to take short naps because we were all afraid of lone soldiers crawling across the stained fields slashing our throats in the middle of the night and sometimes if you listen carefully in the dark you can hear the blast of human flesh against the flashing combustion of gunpowder hidden underneath the soil and you can hear their ungodly cries piercing through the damning darkness of the Belgian skies and I remember saying to myself that I refuse to die amongst the gangrene and the filth and the damned fleas like my friend did in Ypres back in April and that month passed by like I had molasses stuck in the back of my brain because for everything I did nothing would change and I would end up in the same place at what seemed like the same time as shells came down everywhere around us and goddamn it to hell I felt like I was going to die in that god­awful place and I had no intention of dying there because I told a girl I had been seeing before the war that I’d return to her and I’d marry her and I’d be the luckiest guy on Earth and when she had heard that her eyes and her face and her mouth smiled at me and I felt so good exceedingly good like that one time I inhaled some laughing gas out of curiosity and I just couldn’t stop laughing but I never did it again although I had some offered to me by friends of mine before the war but I couldn’t because I thought my mother found out and that woman just scared the living hell out of me but I love her to death bless her heart I love my mother and don’t you ever talk bad about my mother else I’ll break your neck like I almost did in the war that people call the Great War as if it was something great because it wasn’t and it isn’t I tell you it was the worst thing in the history of the world and goddamn it if you or anyone else asked me to fight for your country again I’d tell them to shove it up theirs and spit at their feet and tell ’em to put their dukes up and I’d fight them right there because they don’t know how it feels to have the blood of your friends caked on your boots or your face or your shirt and have the last memory of your friends be them crying and asking if they’re going to live and you telling them a lie that they’re going to live but you know and they know it ain’t true but all they can do is bear it and feel that cold clammy hand grasping their bleeding stomachs and kissing their forehead and sucking the life right out of their dirty swearing lips and leaving me right there for the German infantry to shoot at me from every single direction as fleas eat me alive right there under the hazy Western sky and I’ll be just screaming and shouting and kicking dirt into their eyes and pissing on their mother’s graves but I’ll realize I can’t do any of that if I die there so I’ll be crawling back to my hole cursing and spitting and crawl by a foxhole where a hand will come out of nowhere to grab my collar and drag me back in there and a Frenchman will hand me a smoke and tell me in broken English that I’m crazy and that he thinks crazy people win wars and tells me how glad he’s met a crazy American in the midst of this crazy war so I tell him I’d rather be in a foxhole with a man who is willing to share a smoke with me than a crazy French dandy and we’ll laugh about it and make crazy German jokes until someone throws a grenade into our little haven and the Frenchman will dive on it and he’ll die without a word and I can’t thank him because he’s dead and I’ll have his blood and excrement and flesh and teeth stuck on my uniform and stuck in my mind so I’ll just have to wait until I die sometime in the future like the most of us and I hope to God it’s soon because I can’t take the stuff that happens around the world now but thank goodness for you and the family because without you all I am is a shell of man that I once used to be so where did you want me to stand again? TC mark

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