The Soldier and The Sniper -Ch3

Good morning, my little heartache

Home, to finally be back was something they would never imagined to see again. This is what both GŸnther and Virgil felt. But for GŸnther it was a bitter sweet pill the farm house was gone and many of the animals were dead. Everything felt empty like the life blood of the most beautiful memories had been ringed dry.

“Lois…” GŸnther said catching her attention. She turned to him with a stiff sad stance. She looked through him as soon as she saw her husband was nowhere to be found. Her face was sunken and her frame was thin her cloths hanging off of her as if she was a fence.

“Helmuth, ist er tot?” She asked with a deeply sad tone. Already knowing her husband was dead and now she is a young widow, at least she did not have to deal with the burned of having a child. That’s what GŸnther tells himself trying to find some solace for her.

“Ja” GŸnther said with a dry bobbing of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed back his tears.

Suddenly his pack felt too heavy and he needed to drop if but he held on tight enough for his knuckles to whiten from the strain. He shook his head as he walked back to where his bed was. The house was bare several trinkets that were family heirlooms were gone along with Helmuths favorite snuff box. It was a thing the two of them shared and would pass between each other while they tilled the fields late into the night.

Brauche Hilfe?” GŸnther asked as he approached Lois from her right side. It wasn’t right for him to fall apart on her when she needed his help. She was bent over a large bed of vegetable that seemed to have survived whatever ordeal that had ravaged the rest of the farm.

She pointed towards the wood stump that had an axe embedded in it “Holz hacken” she said.

***

The bus dropped Virgil off at the corner that lead to his childhood home. Virgil was chest fallen from his experience as he got off the plane of the Birmingham–Shuttlesworth Airport. He had expected his family to be waiting for him on the tarmac. He felt and probably looked like an unwanted and forgotten child as he walked past all of the family’s welcoming home their sons.

As he walked to his home he felt unease as everything felt strangely the same like the war had never even happened. Well really nothing had changed no bomb were dropped on his street and no German or Japs were matching down the boulevard.

Virgil came up to the front door of his house with a strong balled-up fist pounded on the door. When it opening with a careless swing that would cause it to bounce off the wall and make his dad red in the face. Virgil was happy to see his family once more his brother and sister were beside themselves with a sickening worry of never seeing their big brother again. His father stood stiffly in front of him his face drawn into a frown as he evaluated his son. Virgil placed his large suitcase to his feet and looked back up to his old man. Wondering to himself if the war changed his son as much as it did to him after the Great War. The protracted silence between the two is broken by his wife running past him and hugging her son with happy tears in her eyes.

“It’s good to see you too mah” Virgil said with a laugh. She was lost for words holding him tighter as if that would help them spill out only thing that did come out were. “I made dinner” she said pulling back whipping the tears from her eyes.

“I say, that sounds great” Virgil agreed. Dinner smelled delicious a familiar comfort that gave him the feeling that, yes I was home again. His parents went back inside and his two sibling were now alone with him but still within earshot of their parents.

His sister, Edith came upon his right looking more dolled up then he had ever seen her “So what was it like did you go to Paris?” She asked.

“I say Edith, it seems like you want a souvenir more than a welcome home hug from your big brother.” He said with a laugh, she pouted.

“I don’t need you giving me things Virgil, I got’s a job now” she grinned proudly bobbing her head in a prideful manner.

“I say, good for you but I think dad aint to happy about that.” Edith frowned at him as he took a fire to her happiness.

His younger brother chimed in with a wicked smiled “keep on talking like that Virgil and she’ll light your clothes on fire again.”

The three of them crossed the threshold into the house Virgil noticed that the house had changed from when he was last home. There was a new carpet and a beautiful varnished table that dad had been working on before the war began. On the mantel he saw a photo of him in his uniform glasses discarded to avoid the glare of the flash. Virgil felt wrong looking at that photo as if he was looking at an impostor because that is not who is he is now. He’s not that bright eyes kid who thought he had his whole life ahead of himself. Now he just feels lost like something was missing like he was, broken.

virgil

The table was being set by his dad who lazily touched each utensil making sure that every one of them was accounted for. Mother soon called that dinner was ready, she walked into the dining room with a crock pot and a large spoon bobbing from the pots depths. She placed the heavy pot on the table then quickly left for the kitchen to discard her mittens.

“So son, what will you do now that you are back” his father asked as he cut at the piece of steak that floated to the top of the stew.

“Well I was planning on seeing if Mr. Oliver will give me my job back,” Virgil said as he eyed his sibling who were feigning disinterest. “If he cant then I can always work at This did not go unnoticed by Virgil’s father who knew the burning questions they wanted to lob at their older brother and he would not have any of it.

“That’s good,” he father says looking at Virgil “Mr. Oliver has been wondering when you would get back along with Julia.” Virgil blanched at the thought of his former girlfriend, Julia Oliver.

“Right, Julia. I was thinking that she would be better off when another guy who can handle her” Virgil offered up innocently. His father frowned but said nothing. He’s only in his twenties he’ll find another girl soon. His father thought.

<<Chapter 2   Chapter 4>>

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The Soldier and the Sniper – Ch2

Chapter 2 -Sniper

The sniper slid to the floor of the room, he hid in. He couldn’t go on alone any longer, he couldn’t kill alone, and the weight was crushing his soul. He slipped the bullet from the gun taking it into his hands so to cling to it for dear life. He looked to his left to where his friend, Helmuth. His dead comrade, his only friend, lay face up, his face grey with death.

They both remembered the Great War huddled in the trenched the rats crawling along their bodies and into their clothes.

GŸnther, Atem.” Helmuth would whisper. The sniper just a boy back then would shudder at those words cold and hunger suffocating him. A slow creeping thing that clawed at his soul, this left a coldness that only his closest friend’s death could shatter and make him human once more. They were a few of the lucky one to have survived the war without becoming disfigured or lame.

Helmuth prayed that they would survive this war together but only GŸnther did. A cruel fate befell Helmuth when he received a Kampfwunde in battle during a skirmish with a squad of Tommys and it had festered. It was unbearable to watch his comrade, his war brother for all these year to die in his own scheisse. That’s not how any man should die, crying in agony begging for death.

How long has this war gone on? It seems to him easier to count bodies then days, the fading sense of self and the weathering of time eroding his perception of it. Nine years of war and so many more of poverty and starvation. No wife and no child to go home to. No one. GŸnther was an old man now he was never a scholar or a farmer just a despot who was lucky to get a meaningless stipend and a cherished friend as his only means of living. Would Helmuth’s wife even let my come back to live with her even with her husband gone, GŸnther doubted it.

His dread and melancholy was flipped on its head, when the boarded doors to his hiding place rattled, as the sound of a single intruder entered. A panic rose in him and an angry cynical conscious who criticized him from running away from the enemy.

“GŸnther, Atem.” He whispered to himself, he had his enemies within his reach how foolish had he been not to kill them all. He’s gotten too soft in his old age. He took his last Stielhandgranate in hand the wood of the handle cold to the touch, he could feel it through his gloves. He briskly twisted off the cap from the bottom of the stick grenade, he could he clumsy plodding feet from the downstairs slowly coming up. Who would be so foolish to come alone in the night to face his enemy? The Ami is much like an outlaw he once heard from a long dead friend.

When the door to the room within his hideout was opening- his fingers wrapped around the fuse, ready to die.

A hand poked out of the door holding an orange and the words “kein Kampf” the German sniper frowned at the butchered German the stranger spoke. “Gut?”

“Ja,” the sniper said setting down the stick grenade at his side. The American soldier finally opened the door secure in the fact that he would not be shot, hopefully. GŸnther was shocked at what he saw the Ami he was young, younger then he would have expected. His hair was a tussled mess of brown hair and he had a strange set of large grey eyes framed by glasses.

Virgil was equally surprised at the scene he saw before him a dead body lay pressed up against the sniper’s waist. The sniper himself was much older than Virgil would ever expected the German army to utilize. He had to be in his 40s, his black hair was peppered with white patches and had several large scars across his forehead and face. As Virgil stepped inside the room he was transfixed by the sharp blue eyes of this stranger.

gyther

Virgil bent down to one knee shifting the orange to his left hand and gently rolled it on the ground. GŸnther unsure of what to make by this gesture other than maybe peace. He picked up the orange and with a few quick tugs of his finger nails and thumbs he was able to pry the fruit free from the skin.

The stranger tried to speak in German a strained but heartfelt attempt but GŸnther saw it as a rather pathetic site to behold. “I know English,” GŸnther groused out his voice dry and ruff from lack of use “use it instead or we’ll be here all night.”

“Oh,” the Ami said with a laugh “I say, sorry I was never good with speaking other languages.” His accent was strange and perplexed GŸnther’s ears. The stranger brushed the back of his head with a nervous smile on his face. GŸnther was silently perplexed by that smile he did not understand how anyone could possibly smile anymore, what was there to smile about in this life. The sun rose and set every day and man died by the second in every day.

“Why do you come here?” GŸnther asked. He shifted his weight as he felt the weight of his gun digging into his hip. He looked critically at his former enemy, searching with his eyes for a knife, grenade, or pistol hidden in an easy place to extricate it from. A boot, maybe a back pocket, or a gasp in a boot.

“To see if I made the right choice in not killing you” Virgil said. With a sickly pale color rising to his cheeks his serious glare seemed rather comical to GŸnther at least. So young and full of hope of a better tomorrow. The German eyes focused on the Ami’s hands that he was wringing in a circular motion over and over in a near hypnotic fashion.

“Now you have seen for yourself, go before your comrade’s follow and kill me.” He finished the last of the orange setting it next to Helmuth as a kind of tribute to the dead man next to him. Helmuth dearly loved fresh fruits and vegetables, probably just a desire spurred on by being a farmer. Helmuth hated the lack luster rations they were forced to eat, Helmuth may have gone rogue at the sight of an orange, if he was still alive. After letting his mind settle on the faint orange fruit he brought his eyes back to his guest.

The Ami was right next to him before he could register the silent steps and the lost personal space that was once his and Helmuth’s alone. “My name’s Virgil.” He said with an outstretched hand.

There was a strange silence that grew as GŸnther tried to find the words to respond but could only come up with- “GŸnther” he said with a dry, wry, sputter as he shifted uncomfortably again. GŸnther shivered at the touch of this stranger’s hand and he became quickly reminded of how long it has been since he last bathed. The dirt and grit pressed in-between new hands.

Virgil’s face hovered far too close for GŸnther’s comfort, drawing himself back from the man he said sternly “Go.” Virgil’s face fell as he looked on at the German with an intense gaze that GŸnther had only thought women to have towards their husbands.

“Time for you to go” GŸnther said. The Ami frowned but nodded in agreement.

“When this is over, if you ever need a place to stay while in American looked me up, it’s Virgil Muller I’m from Alabama.” Virgil smiled at his new friend before disappearing into the night.

<<Chapter 1

The Soldier and the Sniper

*This was originally a set of poems and a narrative poem but I like the story so much I wanted to expound upon it. They met on the battlefield as enemies but not all men are meant to fight each other, some are meant to love.*

Chapter 1- Soldier

Out here in the crumbling French country-side, a soldier stands, with his men surrounding him they are a band of brothers. He’s on edge, but his head is held high with teeth bared to the sky, as he fights the ever present fatigue that leaves him hobbling forward. The mud has claimed him bones for its own, soon the hope to make camp and reclaim their manhood for future treks.

They soon come upon a town, empty but still there lingers a presence, the soldier clutches his rifle close. The wood and metal cradled in his arms, it is comforting like the embrace of your only friend, a lover, or a mother. Forever protecting and staying with you. As long as you treat em’ right.

Julia, he’s reminded of her he wonders how she is doing. He thinks of her smooth skin and freckled cheeks pressed against his arm as they walked down the boulevard, hand in hand.

From the corner of his eye he sees a flash. Someone is out there. Waiting for us. But nothing is out there in this empty city. He feels a fool as his men snicker at him, “Little Virgil is all jumpy again.” They snicker trying to appear like they had no fear no cause to feel weary for their very lives. They were winning, we were winning, there was nothing that could stop them, their power was to great thinking only of the allies plowing through the western front.

But that was then and this is now and now they are tired and lethargic slowly collapsing. Leaning on each other as their feet cried to be allowed to rest. At least they didn’t have it as bad as the blacks and the japs the horror story of the constant turn over in deployed soldiers in those companies could turn your gut. But better them then me. Virgil mused with a sick grin.

They make camp in a blown out and destroyed house that had spare beds and blankets. When night falls Virgil feel eyes upon himself. He quickly steady’s his rifle peering down his sights to see, the enemy looking back at him through their sights. Virgil draws in a breath. The winter air tears him to bits. Death will soon come for one of us. The slower man will die. The weaker man will die. But we will be the heroes. I will be a hero. Receiving the: Glory, Victory, and Honor. That we deserve.

I will not flinch, I will not run, and I shall be victorious, but now, here I wait, ready to fire, clutching my rifle. With the calloused hands of a typist, rendered to nothing but gnarled twigs, the endless tightening of boot straps and quick closing of buttons had rendered them numb and dull. And here he waits, for his hand to stop shaking, for that Mauser Rifle to, finally, kill him, and for his flag, to be rested upon, his coffin. Would my father be there, would my mother cry, who would my brother and sister blame for my death? God, The President, Hitler, or would they say it was my fault for going in the first place.

But death has not come to him, just yet. He clears his muddled mind so he can truly see pushing back the fog that was clouding his fearful mind. The enemy is gone, he escaped in Virgil’s moment of weakness.

Smith nudged Virgil in his sleepy state. Whispering his name. “Virgil what is it?” He inquired upon his stance and his weapon drawn probably just wanting him to stop making noise so he could sleep.

Virgil is speechless unsure what to do. So he says, but its a sputtering out of some words with restrained duress. “It was just-” He paused thoughtfully. “A lonely deer searching for its family.” Virgil receives an eye roll and a dismissive yawn. “Well if you’re hungry kill it already or go to sleep, country boy” he said. He returned to his sleep and Virgil stays awake watching where the sniper once sat. The enemy soldier was still gone from his perch but he saw no one leave the building. He must still be inside, he reasoned. He wonders to myself as he settles down to sleep if he’ll meet that deer one day.

Either on the battlefield or on the streets of Germany. But- I want to see my enemy, to touch my enemy. He’s a man not a monster.

Chapter 2 >>

You Remember?

Do you remember? I remember.

The bitter sting of an adult’s hand

A punishment for a crime you had no concept of

You remember

The things that once were delicious somehow now taste wrong

Like a betrayal of what once was.

I remember

Loneliness

The wanting of wanting

The need to be a part of something

But never able to

Do you remember? Tears?

A sadness indescribable yet real

Something deep within you breaking

And not knowing why.

 

You and I both remember, mistakes

The pain that comes from embarrassment, humiliation, and shame.

A dropped glass, the wrong words spoken, or even no action at all