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Page history last edited by rsb 8 years, 11 months ago



The boys legs were folded under him like he was kneeling, but they didn't look quite right.  His back was against the trench wall - a drop of blood at the corner of his mouth.


The old man passed his canteen over, and the boy took a sip, weakly.  Then a few more.


"You look like death warmed over."


The boy coughed.




"Most people I run into out here got it.", the old man said, "I'm sorry."


"They all dead?", the boy said, taking sips as he could.


The man looked down.


"Yeah.  You're the first one I've met in a while still talkin'."


"Nothing <cough> to be done, then."




There was a long pause, and the old man drew out a leatherbound notebook from his bag, and a thick pen.  He lifted his head with a gentle smile.


"Well, I better get your story.", he said.


The boy took another sip, staring at a patch of sky he could see above the curving trench wall across from him.


"Why would I tell that?  Aren't you supposed to pray over me or something?", the boy asked.


"I don't pray anymore.  You got something better to do?"


"I guess...I need a reason...don't you?"


"Ain't no reason, young man.  I just know that I'm supposed to do this.  You game?"


"You gonna write down what I say, huh."




The boy kept drinking.


"It'll end up in the ground, just like you and me."




"Probably be dead before you finish it."


"No one gets out of here alive, young man.  Everyone in this valley is right behind you, hasn't gone already."


A while passed.  The old man sat on an ammo crate, with his notepad and pen.  The young man just coughed, sipped, and struggled with pain.


"I miss my wife.", the young man said at last.  "Marie.  I'm glad she left me, but I loved her."


A tear tried to form at his eye as he continued.  "It's the way of the world.  Never put me in the right place.  I was always misunderstood.  You got that, old man?"


"Got it."


"If the lord put me in with different people, maybe.", the boy paused for a sip.  "You hear that much?"


"Everyones misunderstood.", the old man said, "We all are - far as I can tell."


"I loved guitar.  Could have been good.  If I were in the right place, right time.", the boy said, then paused, and grimaced as his body did something to him.  "Old man, I don't have any more words.", he said finally.


"That's o.k.", the man said.


The boy rested awhile again, then coughed for a while, then spoke again.  "The CP.  Back there.  They got a guitar.  If you care to find it...if you...got nothing better to do.  I would...'preciate it.


"Got nothing else.", the old man said.


"If you can put it in my hands...I can pick it."


"My honor.", the old man said, "Be right back."


The old man disappeared for a while.  When he returned, he was holding a beaten black guitar case, covered in mud, but still latched closed.  He set it down and opened it, and let out a whistle when he saw it unbroken.


Alex's eyes were closed.  He looked like he was gone.  The old man frowned.


It took him a minute to arrange Alex's arms so that they cradled the instrument; put his hands on the strings the way he thought they should be; pulling a little a muscle or a bone here or there, until it looked just right - just like they used to hold 'em when they played back home.


Chaplain Endquvist sat on the crate and stared.  He had decided to pack it up and when he heard a string pluck.


The boys eyes, winced, then opened.  For a moment, it looked like a smile passed his lips.


As Alex played the last thing he would play before he died, his eyes closed, and life left his face.  


It looked to Chaplain Endquvist like that life was flowing out his body through his fingers and hands.   The rest of the boy was still.


The depth of feeling welled up in Alex like a red sun, and from it came a song like a calm ocean - irresistible waves of gentle music, that held his life and his death in each verse.


Chaplain Endquvist looked at Alex for a while.  He had seen a lot, but, for some reason, this shook him.  


A distant and powerful explosion ripped Chaplain Endquvist from his trance.  He wasn't sure how long he had been sitting there.  Looking up, it was darker.


He passed a hand down over Alex's face, closing his eyes.  Then he packed up the guitar with one of Alex's dog tags.  He left the other one on Alex, picked up the case, and moved on.



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