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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Love and Marriage

“Pull the truck off the road here,” Tiscornia pointed to an area just off the road, about a hundred meters from the ocean. Evans turned the car off the road and shut off the car.

The group got out of the truck and gathered outside. Evans stretched and walked over next to Zwev, “Hey Anna. How was the ride?”

Smiling, Zwev responded, “Yeah, and I’m glad we’re finally here. Nice driving by the way.” She stretched her arms, “So this is the beach. What do you think?”

Evans looked around at the beach. The waves crashing up against the shore. He looked at Zwev, “Kinda seems like the desert. Except damper.”

Tiscornia walked between them and put his arms over their shoulders, “Come on, it’s great. Now let’s set up the lean to.”

The group started setting up the lean to connected to their truck. It took them about half an hour. They started to unroll their bedrolls and set up their beds. Tiscornia waved to Zwev and Evans, and pulled them out of the tent, “Hey, you two want to set up in the back of the truck, after you know, we head out. Which…” Tiscornia looked at his watch, “We should leave soon for.” He put his head in the tent, “Hey Chilly, we should get going.”

Chilcott yelled to the others, “Hey, Dom, Evans, and I are going out to get food, we’ll be back in a few hours.”

The four set off, to walk the two miles to the local church. It was a short walk, and when they arrived, they found a man sitting outside on a lawn chair. He called out to them, “Hallo! Can I be of assistance?”

Tiscornia bowed, “Are you the pastor here?”

The man got up and nodded, “Yes I am, do you need access to the church?”

Zwev grabbed Evans’ hand and stepped forward, “James and I would like to get married sir.”

“Alright,” The pastor nodded and walked to the front door of the church and unlocked it, “Follow me, and James, would you and your fiancee write your names down on the marriage list?”

Evans and Zwev nodded and moved forward. Evans knelt down and wrote, James Evans. Zwev knelt next to him and wrote, Anna Zakrzewska. The pastor peered over her shoulder, “Miss, for the marriage, I need to know how to pronounce your name. And would you like a dress? I have a few for soldier’s weddings.”

“It’s Zakrzewska sir. And yes, I would like a dress sir,” Anna stood up a swirled an imaginary dress.

The pastor gestured her into a side room and closed the door behind her. He then turned back to the three men, “Alright, you two can take a seat up in the front pew. James, could you follow me to the front?” The pastor walked to the front of the church, to the podium under the large X. Evans followed and stood next to the pastor. The pastor nodded, “So son, where are you from?”

“I’m from Halton. Its a small town near Strongfield. We’re mostly a railroad town,” Evans shrugged, “And whats your name sir?”

“Ah right, I am Pastor Daniel Blair,” Pastor Blair shrugged, “Anna is quite beautiful.”

Evans smiled, “Yes. She deserves better than this war. And speaking of…”

Zwev stumbled out of the side room, tripping over the long white dress. She smiled at Evans underneath her veil, “Hey James.” She picked up the tail of her dress and walked down the aisle. She stood up next to Evans and smiled at him.

Pastor Blair pulled a small book out of the podium, “We are gathered here today to join James Evans and Anna Zakrzewska in marriage under our lord Joshua,” He flipped through a few pages, “I’ll skip the hymns. Um… Please rise… Heavenly Father, who is in heaven above, thank you for the joy that has brought these two together. Let Anna and James be lifted up in your spirit, and may you bless this marriage. Let them be fruitful and live a life in your honor. In Joshua’s name, Amen.”

Tiscornia and Chilcott sat down. Pastor Blair flipped through a few more pages, “Since your parents aren’t here I’ll skip over that part… Anna and James, I charge you two to remember that you are being married under the Lord our God. You must trust and love each other. It is your duty to always be faithful, to love each other, and accept the love of God. Um… I’ll just skip to the end. Do you James Evans take Anna Zakrzewska to be your lawfully wedded wife and promise to love and cherish her for the rest of your natural born life?”

“Um, Yes, I do.”

“And Anna Zakrzewska, do you take James Evans to be your lawfully wedded husband and promise to love and cherish him for the rest of your natural born life?”

“I do,” Zwev smiled.

“Since James and Anna come here of open heart and pure intention, I pronounce them husband and wife,” He turned to Evans, “You may kiss the bride.”

Evans lifted the veil and kissed Anna.

To The Beach

Under the cover of darkness, the eight soldiers snuck to the motor pool. Tiscornia pumped his flashlight and shined it at the ID numbers as they passed each truck. They finally reached truck number 3418 after a slow half hour. Giuliano opened the drivers door and sat behind the seat. Tiscornia and Evans went into the two passenger seats while the rest of the group got into the truck bed. Evans whispered to Tiscornia, “Why are we sneaking around, I thought we officially have the truck?”

“The motor pool officer owed me a favor, but his boss might not like it. Better to be quiet about it,” Tiscornia then tapped Giuliano on the shoulder, “Drive on out, I can give the guard our papers.”

Giuliano put her foot on the accelerator and pulled out of the motor pool. Evans turned a bit to the side and fell asleep.

By the time Tiscornia woke him up, the sun had already come up. They were pulled over by the side of the road. Giuliano turned the truck off and slid out. Evans scooted over and got behind the wheel. Giuliano walked around the truck and sat next to Tiscornia. Evans started the truck and pulled onto the road.

“So, how did you learn to drive Evans?” Tiscornia tried to make himself a little more comfortable, while Giuliano fell asleep on his shoulder.

“My best friend from back home, Jack. His dad owned the only store in town, so they needed a truck to drive out to some of the farmers on the outskirts of Halton. I tagged along a few times and Mister Shaw taught Jack and I how to drive,” Evans laughed a little, “I felt like the coolest kid in Halton. I knew how to drive. So uh, how did the first half of the ride go with Giuliano?”

“You didn’t really miss much, mostly dark boring roads. You get the good half of the drive. Sun is up, nice breeze coming up from the ocean. Almost reminds me of home,” Tiscornia looked out over Giuliano towards the ocean.

“So I know everyone besides Turner and Giuliano. Can you tell me a little about them? Turner’s the Auto rifle right?”

Tiscornia nodded, “Yeah. Turner’s pretty quiet. She’s been with the platoon for a while now. I honestly don’t know her that well, but she’s a good friend of Chilly. She’s pretty nice though, when I’ve talked to her.”

“What about Giuliano? You seem to know each other quite well.”

“Yeah,” Tiscornia put his arm over Giuliano, “We actually grew up around the same town in Liguria, didn’t know each other until I joined the company though. It’s nice to have someone from around home though. She’s also a very heavy sleeper.”

Evans chuckled, “So, are you and Giuliano a thing then?”

Tiscornia shook his head, “If we both survive this war, then maybe I’ll ask Maria… And speaking of that, Zwev told me about the plan. So I looked at some places nearby. We can go this afternoon. Chilly says he’ll come with us.”

“Wait,” Evans took his eyes off the road momentarily to stare at Tiscornia, “You told people? Isn’t what we’re doing, sort of you know, not quite allowed.”

“Only Chilly, and I trust him not to tell.” Tiscornia looked out over the ocean and stared at the waves.

Evans shrugged and kept driving down the road. The two stayed mostly silent except for Evans humming a little to himself. Evans drummed a little on the steering wheel. About an hour passed, “So, Tiscornia… What are your… Interests?”

Sighing, Tiscornia responded, “Sorry to be boring, but ancient history. I’m going to return Liguria after the war and try and go to University. Maybe be a professor.”

“Really?” Evans smirked a little, “I can’t imagine you as a stuffy University type. Don’t tell me your also a poet. Lamenting the horrors of war like that prat Michael Lloyd in the Strongfield Post.”

“Belinón! History is interesting and exciting! Also, don’t compare history to poetry. History is an intelligent study of knowledge, and Poetry is just annoying whining about how some girl won’t fuck you,” Tiscornia laughed.

“Well, what’s something interesting about history?”

Tiscornia screwed up his face for a moment and drummed his fingers, “Ah! Back in the olden days, the um… Velian empire, before they had the emperor types, there was this guy, Publius Salonius. He was a famous general. His five thousand army was defending against the frontiers in the Vledsco area, by about where the Northern Gate is today. He’s inspecting the walls one day when a young soldier rides in. A thirty thousand strong barbarian horde was approaching.

“So He gives his orders and mounts his horse and rode down the hill to meet the horde in the valley below. With only two of his aides to accompany him, he confronts the horde and asks for their leader. After a few tense moments, a man steps forward. Salonius yells to him, ‘Sir! I humbly accept your surrender.’

“The barbarian, after processing for a moment, refuses to surrender. Salonius nods responds with, ‘Thank the gods, I haven’t killed in a while.’ Throws his spear into the chest of the leader and blows into a horn. His five thousand men all took a few steps forward, revealing themselves on the hill, but in such a way that it was impossible to see that the Velian line was only one man deep. And instead of fleeing, he just folded his arms and stared at the horde, smirking.”

Evans laughed, “Oh come on, you don’t believe that happened. Why wouldn’t they just cut him down as soon as he approached?”

“I don’t know, but we have historical evidence. One of his aides was a historian, and a few other historians wrote about it. And the official reports record thirty thousand slaves from the Northern Gate area. And there is a statue of him where the camp once stood. Well, assuming it hasn’t been destroyed by this current war,” Tiscornia looked out over the ocean and noticed Giuliano stirring, “Hey Maria, did we wake you?”

Grumbling, she sat up, “Feh. Your babbling about history always annoys me awake.”