Sandcastles

“Um… Anna, I should probably have told you this before, but I actually don’t know how to swim,” Evans was up to his waist in water, a bit nervous about the rising tide.

Anna laughed and splashed some water at him, “Really? I thought you were from the country, don’t you have lakes in the middle of nowhere?”

Evans started to take a few steps closer to the shore. He gestured back to Turner and Head, who were relaxing on the beach, “I can just go hang out with them while the rest of you swim.”

“Come on, just try!” Anna swam towards him and grabbed his arm. She flipped around and kicked at his legs, “Try floating on your back.”

Evans flailed wildly and grabbed onto Anna. He slowly lowered his feet and gripped the ground with his toes, “Are you trying to kill me?” He leaned in closer and whispered, “Was I that bad last night that you want to get out of this whole marriage?”

“Don’t say that,” Anna pushed him a little deeper, “I had a good time. Now come on, just try and float.”

Evans leaned back, closed his eyes, and exhaled slowly. After he started to sink, he started flailing again. He stood up and started wading toward shore. Anna swam after him and kept splashing at him with water. He quickly took off his undershirt, rung it out, and put it back on. Anna stood up and tried to shake the excess water off her swimsuit. She looked at Evans, “How about a sandcastle? Want to build a sandcastle?”

“Anything but swimming alright Anna?” Evans laughed and kicked some water at Anna. He looked over at Head and Turner, “Hey Eddy, Turner! I bet Anna and I can build a better sandcastle than you two!”

Turner looked up, somewhat annoyed. She shouted back, “I’m Lance Corporal in the Army. That means I had to study field works and entrenching, you two are going down.” She looked to Head, “Come on Head, Let’s do this.”

Anna ran forward and dived onto the beach, gouging out a small dent in the sparkling white sand. Evans knelt next to her and whispered, “OK, so how do we build a sandcastle?”

Anna sat up and flattened out the sand. She used her finger to draw a square in the sand, “So we’ll want the wall here and a moat on the outside of that. We’ll dig a trench from the moat to ocean, so when the time comes, it will fill the moat. We’ll also want to get all the sand wet so it sticks together.” Anna stood and shook a bit, “I don’t like this wool swimsuit.”

Evans started digging down around the line in the sand, “I like it, the dress is all fancy-like and pretty. Unlike your uniform.”

Laughing, Anna put on a pretend angry face, “Are you saying you don’t like my poorly fitting jacket and trousers? And the stupid steel bucket on my head. If only they could make a nice sun hat that could stop shrapnel.” Anna splashed some water up at the spot of sand, “And think about it, the helmet would have more coverage, along with looking stylish.”

“You should write into Newacre with your plan. I’m sure the General Staff would take you up right away,” Evans tossed a mud ball at Anna, “Might even make you an officer.”

“Lieutenant Zakrzewska, I like the sound of that,” Anna knelt down and started molding the wall, “And you’d have to salute me and call me Ma’am.”

Evans tried cupping his hand in a different way to dig the moat. He felt something rubbery. Evans stumbled backwards and puked onto the sand, “No, No!” Running forward, he kicked down the sandcastle and started screaming. He tried to grab his bayonet, but it was missing. Fuck Fuck Fuck.

Turner ran forward, and waved back Anna, who was frozen in confusion, “Evans, It’s alright. We’re all friends here man.”

Evans swung his fist at Turner, who ducked under and knocked him to the ground. Head dived onto Evans and held him down. Evans started crying. Looking at him, Head talked in a slow demeanor, “Jimmy, why don’t we head back to the lean-to. I’ve got a bottle of whiskey there, we can just chill and forget this whole sandcastle thing, Righto?”

Evans nodded as Head slowly got off him. Head gestured back to the tent. He saw a somewhat scared looking Anna talking with Tiscornia. Taking a step towards the two, he felt Turner’s hand on his shoulder, “Why don’t you wait a bit to talk to her, alright?”

“Yeah, sure,” Evans nodded and followed Head. He walked into the lean-to and sat down, back leaned up against the side of the truck. Head rooted through his bag and pulled out a whiskey bottle and a metal cup. Pouring out a little, he offered it to Evans.

Evans grabbed it and took a drink. Turner walked in and grabbed the cup. She took a drink and passed it to Head, “Something trigger you Evans?”

“What, I uh… I’m fine, just tired is all,” Evans started tapping his foot. He wiped some of the tears from his eyes.

“Hey, I’ve been in this shit for a year and a half, I know when something is wrong Evans.”

Evans grabbed the cup and took a drink, “When I was digging the moat, I felt something that… Head, remember when I found that arm? Like that. And I just felt I don’t know, like we were under attack again. I beat a man to death in a shell hole during the attack.”

The three sat in silence for a while. At first they passed around the cup until it settled on Head, and he kept it with him. After a long while, Turner pulled out a pack of cigarettes. She offered some to the two of them, and after they politely declined, she pulled one out for herself and lit it, “So Evans, how about you and Zwev?”

“Um… Er…” Evans looked away nervously and laughed, “You know, she’s a good friend. Why?”

She took a puff, “You are the world’s worst liar, aren’t you Evans? I mean, if we ignore the fact that you two do fucking everything together, there’s the fact that you two we’re clearly fucking last night.”

Evans blushed and yanked the whiskey bottle from Head and drunk some, “Please don’t tell anyone. Anna and I got married. She wants to leave the army.”

Turner grabbed the bottle, “Everyone deals with it in different ways,” She shook it and looked at the level, “Like how we’ve gone through half this bottle and you and I have only had a few drinks. You seem to have the poor attempt at a stoic thing going. Tiscornia’s got his affable thing going. And more famously among the men in company, and some of the women, there’s that Private Lucy Chambers.”

Head stumbled over and yanked the bottle from Turner, “So who’s this Private Chambers? She sounds nice.”

“Head,” Turner sighed, “Don’t fuck Chambers.”

Evans laughed softly, “Yeah, I met her a few times. The one with the scar. I managed to stoically resit her advances as you suggested my way of ‘dealing with it’ is.” He grabbed the nearly empty bottle from a passed out Head and took a little drink, “So what do you do Turner?” He held the bottle out to her.

She accepted the bottle and drank the last bit, “You’re seeing it. I used to be the best fucking example of feminine virtue you’ve ever seen. I always wore long nice patterned skirts. I had long flowing hair and always doing up my nails, even though I grew up on a fucking farm. I thought I was a princess or something. My goal was to marry some handsome man who would whisk me away to his fucking palace, so I practiced etiquette, and always set the table right.”

“And now you’re the automatic rifleman for an infantry company?”

“Funny how things work out? I joined up, expecting to be the assistant to some staff officer who I would fall madly in love with. And now I’m here.”

 

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