Freshet (March Contest)
He was staring out the window while lying on the bed, with a pencil in hand furiously moving on the paper in his lap. Pencil and paper were in short supply around here, given that every soldier only had this means of communication with their family back home. Yet he always had them. Probably stole them from somewhere, I reckon.
The nurse probably took pity on the chap; a lone German captive stranded in an army of some pissed off Brits. After all, in terms of rations, we’re well-off for now, but the snow just keeps coming and the stockade are gonna dwindle. It won’t be long till we’re eating half-rations with this German here eating our share of food.
I would’ve just killed him to put him out of his misery. Alas, I’m too chicken to do the job. I never had a thing for killing, never will.
I stared from my own bed in the corner; there wasn’t anything much to look at except him. The clinic had once been a church, but the alcoves were all emptied and everything was covered in dust. A few stained glass windows remained, those that weren’t broken, at least. I’ve seen Jesus smiling at me with his arms spread for too long. So, I took a gander at the German.
He’d been captured somewhere on the front and we were assigned to bring him back to Bulford with the rest of us. The original plan was to send him to one of those POW camps in Britain, but the prisoner transport blinked out along the way. Roads and bridges were a mess everywhere nowadays and winter was screwing it up even more. What a bugger. Bringing this one guy to the camp wasn’t a high priority so lucky-old-me to have him for company.
I dragged myself out of the bed, groaning at the stitches in my chest and hobbled over. The nurse instructed to stay in bed but damn I was bloody bored.
“Hey,” I called to the German. “Who you writin’ letters to?”
He paused his writing and looked at me with cold eyes. There was suspicion on his face, and he didn’t even try to conceal it; justifiably so, given how everyone took a shot at him.
“No English,” he answered, after some hesitation. Then he averted his eyes and looked back down at the yellow paper. I knew he was watching me from the corner of his eyes. I saw his muscles tense in case I decided to take a shot at him.
“Smashing!” I sat down on the end of his bed, causing him to flinch. He held the pencil shakily at me, sort of as a last line of defense. I scoffed. Even if he jabbed me a few times it wouldn’t exactly be a danger. I held my hands up to show him I meant no harm.
“Relax, pal. I don’t want to hurt you. Just looking for a little friendly conversation, ya know?” Obviously he didn’t know, because he had no bloody clue what I was saying, but his reaction was amusing. At least this was the longest conversation I’d had in a while. I mean, I was sick to death of talking to Jesus and eavesdropping on the soldiers talking about the winter and how they wished they were back home now. And sick of the Germans too. Especially the Germans. I thought I was being an excellent patriot when I enlisted, but what a bum I was. God, thinking back to it, how desperate was I to talk to a German?
The man watched me for a second, looking slightly confused.
“No English,” he repeated a bit slower than the first time. Then he looked at me, trying to see if I understood.
“Yeah, I get it.” He didn’t need to understand me. “I just wanna talk, pal. And I doubt you know anyone over here that can send a letter, cause out here in this godforsaken snow you won’t get any mail delivered.”
He just stared at me. I smiled, raising my hands up as a sign that I meant no harm yet again. After a moment, he managed a stiff smile.
“There you go!” I chuckled, showing the German an even bigger smile. “Now you’re getting it!” He continued awkwardly smiling and nodded, confused about what the heck was happening.
“What’s your name anyhow?” I gestured at myself. “Bran-don,” I said slowly, thumping my chest for emphasis. “Brandon.”
That got through to him.
“Hans,” he answered, pointing to himself. Then he spouted some German gibberish and unexpectedly sucker-punched me.
That daft pig. I guess Germans tougher than they look.
Please help this chap… I can’t wait until the freshet.