No Post for Armistice Day

98 years ago, the First World War finally came to a close after years of fighting. The war was the most destructive the world had ever seen (Though tragically, 21 years, total war would ravage the world once again, on a greater scale). So no post this week as a sign of respect and that we can think of those lost in war, and, someday that the idea of war is some arcane fiction. That novels about war such as this one be outdated curiosities of history. Remnants from when humanity was barbarous, and it was not seen as abhorrent to kill in the name of a flag. So, to close, a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, an Infantry Officer during the First World War.

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,

(Under Lord Derby’s scheme). I died in hell –

(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,

And I was hobbling back; and then a shell

Burst slick upon the duckboards: so I fell

Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,

He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;

For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;

“In proud and glorious memory” … that’s my due.

Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:

I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.

Once I came home on leave: and then went west…

What greater glory could a man desire?

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Hiatus

I’m going on a two week vacation out of the country. After that, I have a six week class in Utah where I won’t have the chance to use a computer, so updates will be sporadic at best

Interlude

The 28th of April. Evans was coming home. It had been several long months since the last time he had seen Anna. All the way back in November. Oddly enough, he had consistently received letters from her during his time at the front, but as soon as they had entered the months of offensive training far into Western Ethslin, the letters had halted. Something about secrecy. He laughed a bit. Nine months since he had married Anna, and he had barely spent any time with her.

The Taxi pulled to a halt in front of the apartment complex. Evans reached for his money, but the driver shook his head, “No, Thank you for service.”

Evans smiled, opened the door, and started to drag his kit bag out of the back seat when the front door of the apartment complex burst open. Anna burst out, looking significantly larger than Evans remembered her. She pushed Evans back into the Taxi, sat down, pointed at the taxi driver, and shouted, “Hospital Now!”

As the Taxi pulled out, she grabbed Evans’ face and kissed him, “Good Timing James.”

“Wait, Why are we going to the Hospital?”

“Remember? Like, nine months ago?”

It slowly dawned on Evans, “Wait, if the Baby is coming now, we should go back home!”

“We’re not farmers James! Real people are born in hospitals!”

“Wait, I’m a farmer and was born in a barn, am I not a real person?” He paused. His eyes widened, “Oh My God, We’re having a baby!”

This idiotic shouting match continued until the taxi arrived at the hospital.

 

Evans waited impatiently outside the room. He kept hearing screaming, but he couldn’t do anything. After what felt like forever, a Nurse opened the door. She looked at him, “You can come in now Mister Evans.”

He smiled and pushed past her. He looked at the bed where Anna lay. She was smiling, holding a bundle of blankets.

Anna looked up at him. She turned the bundle towards him and squeaked, “It’s a girl! We made a little girl!”

Grabbing the little bundle, Evans kissed her head. He then looked at Anna, “What do we want to name it?”

“Mary. Her name will be Mary,” She smiled absent mindedly, “You can name the next one.”

Evans kissed Anna on the forehead, “Well I’ve got leave in two months on the 28th of June. We can make one then.”

 

Geology

“Now that you’re all settled in Lieutenant, you should pick your runner. I suggest Private Evans here, he’s been my runner for about a month now,” Lieutenants Simmons and Stoddart were seated at a table, while Evans was packing up the last of Lieutenant Simmons’ things.

“Can I select anyone for my runner?” Lieutenant Stoddart flipped through his notebook.

“Yeah, you can pick anyone really. Since you’re at full strength they’ll be sharing a room with you.”

“Private Clark. I happened to talk to her the other day and she apparently was a secretary before the war.”

Lieutenant Simmons nodded and looked at Evans, “Alright then, can you hand me my bag. And you’ll want to teach Clark everything she needs to now.”

Evans held up his bag and handed it to Lieutenant Simmons, “Nice serving under you sir.”

“I’ll see you around the Company Evans,” Lieutenant Simmons slung his bag, put his garrison cap on and exited the room.

Evans turned to Lieutenant Stoddart, “Sir, do you want me to get Private Clark?”

“Yes…” Lieutenant Stoddart paused a moment, “Wait a moment.”

“Yes Sir,” Evans paused by the door.

The Lieutenant sighed, “Look, I’m sure you’re a great runner and all…”

“Honestly I don’t care sir. I’m sure Clark will be a fine choice sir,” Evans started opening the door.

“It’s just, I figure, hey, if I’m going to have someone with me all the time,” Lieutenant Stoddart started writing down some notes, “I might as well have someone I could have a little… you know with. Never mind, Dismissed Private.”

Evans exited the room and moved back to the platoons barracks. He entered the common room and looked around. He saw the young blond women and waved, “Hey, Private Clark, Lieutenant Stoddart wants you in his tent. Bring your gear.”

Clark smiled, “OK Jimmy… Evans… I feel special, being called into the Lieutenant’s office. Hope I’m not in trouble.” She grabbed her bag and left the barracks.

Lance Corporal Newey turned to Evans, “So what’s that about.”

“She is the new runner for the new Lieutenant, So I’m back in your team Sergeant Campbell,” Evans walked over and patted Sergeant Campbell on the back.

Laughing, Newey looked over, “She does have certain qualities that you lack mister Evans.”

“Yeah, I like how he didn’t go with subtlety with this decision. First, he picks the cute spunky blond. Second, he pretty much told me he wanted to sleep with her,” Evans sat down and put his feet up on a table, “I am glad I don’t have to do any more paperwork.”

Laughing, Lance Corporal Newey threw a ball of paper at Evans, “Oh come on, if there’s anyone who shouldn’t be allowed to talk about this is would be you. Replace blond with brunette and we have you and Zwev.”

Before Evans could respond, Clark’s voice called from the entrance, “Attention!”

Lieutenant Stoddart walked into the room, “As you were soldiers.” The Lieutenant looked around, “Um, is everyone here?”

The Sergeant’s quickly looked around. Sergeant Campbell nodded, “All present and accounted for Sir.”

“Thank you Sergeant,” The Lieutenant nodded and pulled a notebook out of his breast pocket. “So I think I should introduce myself. My name is Winston Stoddart the Third. I studied Geology at the University of Newacre. I’d like to use the knowledge I’ve gained from my years at University to teach you how to improve the trenches.”

Lieutenant Stoddart walked over to the map of White Beach on the wall, “So this is where you lot were about a month ago. Did you notice anything about the soil there?” The platoon sat in silence, “Well then… So the soil at the White Beach cliffs, where our trench line is set up is a Sandy Clay Loam for the first meter. Underneath that, it transitions into a Clay.”

Evans leaned over to Newey and whispered to him, “Hey, Anna’s train is leaving in about twenty minutes. Could you distract him so I can slip out? I feel like this will go on for a while.”

Newey nodded. He stood up and walked to the map and pointed to it, “So you’re saying that there is clay on top, followed by sand underneath?”

With the Lieutenant distracted, Evans slunk out of the common room and made his way through the base to the train depot. He looked around at the soldiers standing at the train. In the sea of green-dyed uniforms Evans noticed a strangely blue-red dress. He moved towards it. “Anna!”

Anna turned around and smiled, “James! Shouldn’t you be with the platoon?”

“I uh, came to see you off,” Evans hugged her and took a step back, “I’ve never seen anything like this color before. I can’t decide if it’s blue or red.”

“It’s called Mauve, which is a kind of purple. Some chemist invented it and it’s been all the rage in the cities,” Anna swished her dress back and forth, “It’s the dress I showed up to basic training in. I’ve had it in the bottom of my kit ever since.”

Making a move to pick up her bag, Evans smiled at her, “Well it looks beautiful on you.”

Anna grabbed Evans’ hand, “The trains been delayed for an hour and a half because of shelling down the line, you don’t need to grab that yet.”

“So, um,” Evans put his arm over Anna, “I bet that dress would also look beautiful off of you.”

Snickering, Anna kissed Evans on the cheek, “I obviously didn’t marry you for your smooth talking. And um, where would we go?”

Grabbing her bag in one hand and her arm in the other, Evans gestured with his head, “The new Lieutenant is giving a long and boring talk in second platoons barracks. So his office should be free.”

“Wow, I feel scandalous,” Anna walked over and sat on the bed, “On the new Lieutenant’s bed? The sheets seem to be messy already. I thought you usually did that first thing?”

“Lieutenant Stoddart picked a new runner,” Evans looked around the room, “Finally won’t have to deal with any of this anymore.”

 

Straightening out his uniform, Evans smiled over at Anna as she put on her dress, “Well I should probably get going, and your train will be coming soon. I’ll see you before the 202nd goes back to White Beach.” Evans walked to the door.

Anna threw a sock at him, “Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?”

Evans shrugged sheepishly, “Well I figure we already did a bit more than that.”

“Get over here right now James,” Anna smoothed down her dress, “If you die I’d prefer my last memory of you to be fully clothed.”

Evans kissed Anna, “Well I think you look great without that dress.” He turned around and went through the door, “Bye Anna.”

When he got to door of the Platoon Barracks, he waved and got Newey’s attention. He nodded and walked over to the Lieutenant, who was struggling to hold several rocks, “Sir, which one is Conglomerate sir? That’s a metamorphic rock right? Because it’s from a volcano.”

“No… That’s completely… Ooh, I think I saw a good one over by the tracks.” The Lieutenant paused, put the rocks in his haversack and sprinted out of the room.

Evans ducked against the side of the barracks while the Lieutenant sprinted away. He then walked through the door and took a seat far in the back. Everyone was silent for a moment before they started bursting into laughter.

Tiscornia looked at him, “I can’t believe he didn’t notice. This guy is going to be beautiful in combat.”

“More importantly Evans,” Private Hunt leaned closer to Evans and smiled, “How was your visit with Mrs. Evans?”

“She was wearing the most beautiful looking dress. She said it was ‘Mauve’,” Evans smiled and leaned back, “Apparently Mauve is a type of purple.”

Lance Corporal Turner smiled, “I used to have a nice mauve dress. I bet it was real pretty.”

“And you ripped it off her?”

Evans kicked Newey’s chair, “That’s a very personal question. Now let’s quiet down before the Lieutenant finds out what I did in his bed.”

Just as Private Clark was about to protest, Lieutenant Stoddart came in, with a heavy haversack, “So, guys, I mean soldiers, I managed to quickly get some. I found some really good basalt… Which is weird because there isn’t much volcanic activity in this region.”

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.”