General Fiction posted June 13, 2024

This work has reached the exceptional level
too late to atone?


by jim vecchio

Sarge and I, we were the only ones left.

Just part of a team scouting the area, to take a bridge. A small, unimportant bridge.

Not worth their lives.

Our two riflemen, Collins and Hendrick, left us souvenir photos of their gals, and also their dogtags,  if we could ever get out of the ditch to collect them.

There wasn’t much of anything to collect from Oliver. There was always something funny about him, and those hissing noises he made in his sleep made us all feel creepy. But, he didn’t deserve this.

I pledged myself to keep Sarge alive. He was my teacher, my father-confessor, my big brother, and the best friend I had in the unit.

Sarge, he sure relished being a father. I envied his life so.

He told me often how he romanced the girl of his dreams, how being with her was all a man could ever hope for, causing his heart to pound like a Schwerer Gustav*.

The joy of the birth of his two sons. Yeah, he loved being a daddy.

Just talking to him made me want to live my life over again. He had walked the straight path, and I had done it all wrong.

Funny how now, confined to this little spot, not knowing in the next moments if I will live or die, I become focused on my past faults and sins.

Sarge knew how I trusted him. In that moment, I wanted to ask him just what I could do to get my life back where it should have been.

However, Sarge took that moment to retrieve the dogtags. I warned him not to stir, not to give them a target.

It seemed but a second till his return, but he returned with a bullet in his chest.

Not here, Sarge! Please! Don’t die on me! I couldn’t stand it!

But Sarge did it anyhow.

I must’ve gotten it, too, but not as bad as Sarge.

I have no memories of those days with the medics.

Now that the war is over, my thoughts are always of Sarge. How could his children be left alone, never to know those happy moments with their dad?

What good purpose could ever come of this?

Then I remembered my father, what I had done to him. His anger. His tears.

I need my daddy.



*Schwerer Gustav: one of the largest cannons used in battle, developed by the Nazis.
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