Short Stories: I Rememeber.

The beauty of youth is that they are often un-jaded by the world not having been in it long enough to watch their hopes die with each passing day for a thousand years.  In their naiveté they have yet to learn the truth of the world.  Any side can claim them and they will march like lemmings to the slaughter for any cause have set their fancy.  The old know this and can use it for good or evil.  Cannon fodder for ideology they have yet to understand how to question.  They are destruction and innocence at the same time. The young mind can be dangerous in the wrong hands.  Well, not even the wrong hands, it can be a time bomb for anyone no matter how good their intentions may be.  When you have yet to learn how to question, often you don’t.  Cannon is all they know and in almost a brainwashed state they run towards the nirvana their masters have told them of.  It is fire, and fire cannot always be contained.  When you were an old man, remember the time you met the young maiden and she spoke to you of higher things.  When you watched her eyes and knew she had yet to truly understand the meaning behind her words, as we all have growing up.   We saw the things in life that struck cords within our hearts but she rallies to a banner, a cause!  Heroic poetry, the muse of the majestic but also of the low and vile things are in her words.  The things we run from in our age or use for our own ends.  The young are cannon fodder for our cause and the innocent we use as our mouths.  The people looking for power understand this, we love it we need it to gain our titles and riches.  I walked away.  I couldn’t even look myself in the eyes anymore.  I lead countless men to the slaughter under the banners I waved.  My hands can be cleaned of blood but my soul is caked in it.  Ground in so deep that bleach could never remove the stains on my heart and mind.  I broke and I walked away to make a hermit of myself as if I was some monk cloistering himself in his hilltop monastery to gain enlightenment.  Ha, I ran away!  I was dead inside and now some little girl is crying with those eyes I have seen a thousand times for help.  Men have died for centuries over a young girl’s cries and now knowing what I do I’m going to walk back into hell because of some pitiful creature who still believes?  Old men used by even older tricks.

I remember the stories of how my father died…

He sat looking up at the gun, the cold wind barely registering as it whipped through his tattered clothes.  “Here’s how I die.” he thought, “funny…”, it really almost was, kneeling down in the mud as the first of the winters snow came down.  Nothing else left to do but to be pushed into an open pit that would soon be the final resting place for his men.  “They wanted us to live like dogs, so killing us like them only made sense”.  Paraded in from of the helpless masses as a warning to others that might get unwanted ideas in their heads.  Rebellion against tyranny might sound like a glorious thing, but that was from the mouths of poets that either had long since forgotten the pain and despair of the struggle or those whom never saw it.  “Excuse me good sir” he said his speech in a manner of extreme politeness, more a mockery of the concept, dripping with the sarcastic flair only the jester could pull off at the gallows.  “I believe you forgot to take the safety off, I would hate to think you’d embarrass yourself at my execution sergeant, I don’t know how I could ever live with myself if you did”.  The blow from the sergeant was swift.  He could feel bones cracking as he hit the muddy ground.  It didn’t matter anymore, after the beatings they had received for the last month the pain didn’t mean anything, it was almost comical.  It was the beauty of a snuff film. You beat them as if only to prove their point of your own depravity.  “I should have died in battle not like this,” he thought, wishfully thinking “You already knew it wouldn’t end well, just a hope for some glory or whatnot.  Die on my feet, not an execution then dumped into a ditch, fucking poets never talk about this, but I guess it makes for bad stories when the hero dies in a ditch like a dog.  The only choice we have in our death is to take what comes… Well we could take it ourselves but that has less meaning then the courtroom I was in this morning… Hell if I wasn’t going to get a dignified death might as well have fun with it, I’ll give my kid a good story to tell his friends when he grows up about his bastard of a father”, as if the child would ever know.  “Excuse me sir but could you make this quick?  See I have a date tonight and if I’m late I still get charged for the full hour”.  “Prisoner 3244, do not make this harder for yourself then it is already going to be now shut the fuck up!” yelled the lieutenant as the sergeant rained more blows onto the condemned.  Almost in a daze he thought to himself about his fate, they were supposed to be warriors… No bagpipes, no young Celtic woman signing laments to her fallen love. “Fucking poets…”  The Sergeant had finally taken the safety off, he noticed.  It was time to go, “Well if there wasn’t going to be a woman’s lament at my funeral I guess I’ll just sing something myself” he thought, lifting his head up he began to shout the words to a dirty song from his youth at least it was appropriate for the situation, “You live your life like an annoying bastard might as well die as one”.  The world went red as a single round passed through the back of his skull.  A new hill of skulls for a new generation….

I remember my youth…

I remember long ago when I woke up in that trench on my 19th birthday.  This was not new for me at the time as I had done it most mornings for the past year with the occasional foxhole and cave thrown in for a nice change of scenery.  As usual I attempted to change into clean socks -clean socks being ones I might not have worn for a day or two – and questioned myself on why I was there.  I knew the answer, I just always hoped I had a better one one day but I never did.  The truth was while I was not the most ideological man in the world but I remember my surrogate father and his war stories and some things just kicked the wrong way so on day he died I picked up a gun and marched out.  I remember him to this day, he’d been a Master Sergeant in the army years before and still looked the part except his eyes had more kindness in them after having to raise a child and being forced to let go of the pain of his fallen comrades. He understood why he was left behind that day; someone had to take care of the families to be evacuated to safety especially the young pregnant bride of the lieutenant. What is more important the mission the generals send you on or the mission your friend gives you to protect his wife?  The kind of question each man can only answer for himself.   He had become the uncle of so many poor children from fathers lost, Master Sergeant Williams became Uncle Daniel the stern but kind old man for whom every word spoken was law.   The children would sit in rapt attention almost as if in formation as he would regal them of stories and knowledge of the past.  On his death bed he regretted the stories he told them of their parents war and history, it was his job to protect them, but the stories had instilled pride in their hearts over their fathers dreams and sacrifices, and wanting to live up to their fathers names they marched off to die when the rebellion started anew. He should have won, his men, his generation should of won, but they didn’t and left the next their sorrow.  That is the curse of the old warrior.  That is the curse of the bard.  For he can only sing of the young men fallen, thinking that all the good men are dead, shot through with arrows in the fields to give us even a glimmer of hope that good men will once again be. The truth is that a man can only die in vain if we care not for his sacrifice, but are many not willing to forget our past so that it becomes second nature to curse our heroes and sympathize with our enemy?  We killed ourselves for…  Um… Fuck if we know.

Like so many others I was not willing to forget.  Lucky for me that kick landed me in a trench outside Farmington eating rats and waiting for the inevitable shelling that would most likely occur at the exact moment I was trying to figure out what plant wasn’t a good idea to use as toilet paper.  I love my life… I think.  In reality at this point I’m just hoping I don’t die with a handful of poison ivy while sitting on the hole we call a latrine.

To say the least I was the worst soldier in the worst army on the planet.  The simple fact I’m alive might make that statement slightly awkward, but really, who is going to argue with me?  I might be a bad soldier but I’m still alive, I like to tell myself I have no idea why I’m still here but I think I know why, I just like to tell myself I don’t.  Makes it all sound better.  Well, in my head it does, sane people probably think something is wrong with me and they might be right but I don’t know any sane people so what do I really know about what they are thinking?

I was a soldier in a war we lost.  We were farmers and tradesmen fighting for an ill-defined ideal of freedom against our own corrupt state.  All of us pawns and we knew it but we hoped we where pawns on the side of justice in a war that lasted several lifetimes and several more if you count the average life of a soldier.  As the war dragged on, others died and I lived, I was promoted again and again but not so high that I wasn’t still a pawn.  In war the ability to survive without running away in cowardice has always been a virtue and I imagine it always will be but in the end we lost and lucky for me I was not so high that I wasn’t granted a pardon so at 25 I went back to my little town and my trade to grow older in my little apartment alone until the day she walked into my little shop on the corner of Maple avenue and who gives a shit.

Natasha was young it looked like she was twenty at most, petite, auburn hair with the look on her face of the cute ignorance of a child with a purpose.  The look that has gotten men killed for centuries and she walked into my shop to get me killed.  No, that wasn’t her intention; she wanted to start the war anew, for the fourth time because someone had filled her head with the same dreams our fathers had filled ours but she was going to get me killed.  I had known her father years before and while I had walked away to nothing but a little shop he had gone home to his family and raised his young daughter up with the idea of making his dreams a reality.  I should have thrown her out, I shouldn’t have listened but I was undone by those eyes and her promises of glory that reminded me of my youth so long ago and I marched back into my death.  Long ago I had walked away so why now was I running back?  Back to the battlefield and glories drenched in young men’s blood.  Maybe my hermitage was only my own personal purgatory while I waited to be called back as I swore I never wanted to be or would.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for the lamentations of children and other poetic lies.  Maybe I just gave up and wanted to die yet still be able to claim some honor from it.  It doesn’t matter now I picked up my banner and marched back out into the fray, back into hell itself.

I remember my death…

Five years later.  Five years after listening to the tearful pleas of a friend’s child I was kneeling in the mud in front of an open pit my jaw broken and watching the little droplets of blood falling from my face and forming a tiny pool in the dirt.  I remember pushing her out of the back as the house we were in was stormed.  I remember the trenches and death and the long hungry nights.  I remember asking myself why I was still there and why I just couldn’t let the pride of my youth go and walk away.  I remember how it felt to be alive and all the lies of the poets.  I tried to look at the sky with the one eye still not shut from trauma and caked blood but it was too painful to lift my head.  I remember smelling the oil from the gun pressed against the back of my head and trying to stutter out some empty insults to the executioners and I remember nothing else.  Fucking poets…

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