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Posted on May 27, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

Fiction: Moving Out

By Roach

In a matter of a few minutes I could see the green colour of the grass and that made me feel even better.

Bussard came patrolling slowly along the line and went away again. A little later Axum appeared, swathed in his blanket; he crouched low beside the foxhole to talk for a few minutes and we came to a mutual agreement that we both looked as bad as we felt. And then the bundle of OD at the bottom of the hole sat upright – Gallegos looked even worse. For some strange reason I took solace from that!

All along the line, blanket-shrouded bodies rose and shuffled as high as safety permitted in an attempt to encourage life back into limbs that felt anything but alive. To a man we looked like hobos; probably felt like them too. I was cold… a coldness that permeated through me and stayed with me until well after the sun was up. Again the thought came to me: I’m getting too old for this man’s army – where do I hand in my resignation?

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I look better than I feel… Nope, I ain’t coming out of here!

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What do you mean, am I cold?! Just another couple of minutes…

Gallegos despatched Axum back to his own hole and followed him up the line. We were left to get back to the business of watching. I let Vest spell me for a while; I needed to get five minutes sleep.

I had probably actually got ten minutes when Wiesel arrived and woke me up. Gallegos wanted the two of us to go back and pick up the day’s rations before it got too light, so we duly sneaked back in the direction of the weapons platoon whose position was apparently now being used as a drop off point for rations for the whole platoon. I didn’t mind – the exercise restored most of the feeling to my body. It didn’t get rid of the cold though which felt as it if was sticking to my bones for all its worth.

Just as we returned from our stroll yet another firefight broke out on the right flank again. I have no idea what it was all about and Gallegos quietened it down pretty quickly. I think that people were just getting trigger happy – on both sides.

After the rations that Wiesel and I had brought back had been distributed I returned to my foxhole. Vest was still keeping a watchful eye and I let him. The warm rays of the sun filtered down, boosting my morale and I rummaged through my gas mask bag (long since devoid of the gasmask) and dug out some crackers left from yesterdays K-ration.

My fingers also found my razor and mirror and for a moment I thought about shaving but changed my mind and decided to risk Gerhardt turning up and finding one Private Roach, unshaven in uniform. Gerhardt was one of those Generals who liked to drop in on his boys from time to time just to see what was going on at the sharp end and he liked things to be neat. Still, he seemed to give his enlisted men more leeway than his officers, so…

I opened a new K-ration and had breakfast.

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Oh boy, another breakfast ration… I know the packet said it was coffee…

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Decisions, decisions… do I clean it or save it for later?

The morning ground on much as the previous day had done: watch, dig, rest, duck down. Heck, it was so predictably uneventful it was almost pleasant!

At some time around midday I was up at Gallegos’ foxhole learning more about our disposition and whether or not he could lend me some more money ‘til payday when the kraut mortars, so curiously absent for the past 24 hours, finally started to crash down around us. I leaped into the nearest vacant hole and chewed some dirt while the hedgerow exploded around me.

Gallegos was on the phone demanding a counter strike from our 60s when a resounding explosion to my left grabbed my attention. My foxhole where I had left Vest dutifully on watch was wreathed in smoke.

“Vest!”

It could have been misconstrued as some fear over my laundry but it probably wasn’t.

There was no response to my call, and my concern completely overcame my caution. I raced back down the hedgerow and dropped into my foxhole, only narrowly avoiding crushing Vest and causing him more damage than the mortar shell had. He was fine! The shell had hit the exact spot on the hedgerow where we had been observing the kraut position from but as the first shells had come in Vest had headed for safety. If he’d dithered for even just a few seconds…

[continued on next page]

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