War and History Fiction posted October 30, 2014


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
a Civil War story set perhaps today 150 years ago.

Lost Cause

by RodG

Flash Fiction Writing Contest Contest Winner 

The bleeding sun barely seeped through the splintered treetops and lingering cannon smoke from the day-long skirmish.

Near a sluggish stream, a man supporting himself on make-shift crutches wobbled, too weak to kneel and wet his face. He grimaced, then cursed.

Another man, unwounded, stood open-shirted just outside a tattered tent. Dark eyes in a powder-grimed face peered at the letter he held, then strayed to the dying coals in the fire pit.

"Andy," called the crippled man. "Can ya fetch me some water?"

The non-injured man glanced up and nodded. He shouldered back into the tent and reemerged with a battered tin cup. He trudged to the stream where he filled it.

"Here, Tommy," he said quietly. "Sip and spit. Men pissed . . . bled all day in that creek. Reckon some body parts got mixed in, too."

Tommy touched his lips with the water, then spat. He stared at Andy a moment before speaking.

"Cady took a ball in the eye as we crept up that hill. Two strides later I caught one in my leg and fell. Saw ya runnin' by me though. Them bullets whizzin' by yer head hit Stoneman dead center. He--he didn't get up again. A few more got hit and--"

"Died," Andy declared, turning away from the creek. He retreated toward the tent.

The crippled man staggered after him, hollering, "Andy--!"

Andy stopped. Waited.

"I ain't fit to fight no more. Wound's full of pus. Likely I--I'll--"

"Lose the leg."

Tommy nodded.

"Will ya take me home, Andy?"

"Andy shook his head. "Wouldn't be right."

A weak smile appeared on Tommy's gaunt face. "Nature disagrees."

Andy's eyebrows rose. "Ya know this how?"

"Last night I saw a lark's nest up in that tree." Tommy pointed to a huge oak with many broken branches behind the tent. "Heard birdies chirpin'."

Andy squinted at the tree, but saw no nest.

"Was blasted out of the tree," Tommy said. "After gettin' shot, I crawled back here. Saw it lyin' on the ground with two headless babies."

Andy pursed his lips, but did not speak.

"The mama survived. Saw her up there 'fore she flew off."

"Smart bird."

"That's Nature's way, Andy. Critters move on when they lose mates or their young. We should, too."

"Can't."

"Won't . . . cuz of some stupid oath we took."

"If'n a man's word ain't good--"

"Bull crap! We didn't jest lose today. This cause we've been fightin' fer is long lost, Andy . . . and so are we if we don't go home."

Andy's face grew darker. "You really think we we got anything . . . anyone to go home to?" He reached inside his shirt and pulled out the crumpled letter. "Lemme read ya this. 'Dear Andy. I have some sorrowful news to report. Raiders struck our town and burned our homes and crops. Not much left except the church. They killed Tommy Boysen's pa and many others. Spent the past week digging graves and writing letters like this. So sorry to give you this painful news. Reverend Cobb'."

"Pa . . . dead?" moaned the man on crutches. He lurched forward, falling.

"Tommy!"

Tommy lifted an arm. "I--I ain't hurt more, but I cain't get up."

Andy crouched, wrapped his arms around his injured friend, and lifted him up. Once the crutches braced Tommy again, Andy stood watching him weep.

"I--I'm sorry 'bout yer pa, Tommy. Major Fallon done give me the letter jest this mornin'. Then them blue bellies come chargin' and shootin' outa the woods. We got so busy scramblin' fer our lives I plumb fergot the letter 'til a bit ago."

Tommy swiped at his tears. "Ma's alone now. I--I gotta get home to her."

Andy licked his dry lips.

"You reckon them birds be right, Tommy?"

Tommy glanced at Andy, then nodded.

"Yep. Pa always said, 'Trust yer instincts. That's Nature's way'."

Andy blew out a breath. "Well, ya got one bad leg, but two good wings . . . and me to help ya. Cain't fly, but I promise to get us home."

Tommy's mouth faded into a smile as grey-brown as his uniform.

"If we don't get lost . . . or caught."

Andy threw an arm around his friend's shoulders.

"Hah! We'll jest follow that bird," he laughed.


Flash Fiction Writing Contest
Contest Winner

Recognized


This Civil War painting is courtesy of Google images.

word count: 711 Apple Works.

By Fall 1864, the War had seriously swung to favor the North. Sherman was burning a swath through the Southeast and in the West Chattanooga would soon fall. And yet young men like Andy and Tommy kept fighting . . . and dying . . . for their cause.
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