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

Fiction: Moving Out

By Roach

Moving Out

I have no idea what time it was when we left the truck that brought my squad up to as near the line as was deemed safely possible. It may have been around midnight when the truck finally halted. It was too dark to see my watch and I am not certain it was still working properly anyway. All of us felt fairly certain that the driver had lost his way somewhere along the line so we were not too surprised when we were finally dropped off to find ourselves all alone. The driver didn’t seem overly concerned about it as he drove away though…

We had been dropped near a gateway in a hedgerow and Sgt Gallegos, whose sense of direction seemed legendarily infallible, indicated it was to be our first and probably least taxing obstacle, and ordered us through it or, as it turned out to be absolutely fixed and as such not the most accommodating gate in the world, over it. Consequently, we negotiated it in a manner that can only be described as noisily, cluttered as we were with numerous and varied pieces of equipment none of which had been designed to make life any easier.

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Once into the field that lay beyond, Gallegos called me and Elmer Vest to him. We were obviously late to the rendezvous point and the rest of the platoon had moved on without us; likewise so had the platoon guide from the platoon we were supposed to have been relieving and who was supposed to be showing us exactly where to go.

Gallegos overcame this minor setback by sending the two of us out into the darkness to scout out the opposite hedgerow and check it out for krauts (there shouldn’t be any of course but you never know) and to find the rest of the platoon or, failing that, find the ration cache that had been dropped off at a pre-designated spot (and hope the rest of the platoon hadn’t taken ALL of it!). In addition to that he told us to find a suitable way through that hedgerow that wouldn’t cause us to make as much noise as crossing the gate had done.

They were simple enough tasks but sometimes even a simple thing can get you into trouble so, having dumped our superfluous gear on some other poor dogfaces who already had more than their fair share of gear to carry, we started out. Our disposition could be said to be nervous, which in turn made us perhaps overly cautious. Anyway, the short story is that we didn’t take any chances; we just took our time.

We skirted the edge of the hedgerow boundary on the left side of the field, scrutinised every shadow, and eventually reached the far side of the field where we nervously searched the hedgerow on that side for signs of just about anything. We didn’t find any krauts, nor the rest of the platoon for that matter although we did find what was left of the platoon cache of rations which looked suspiciously smaller in quantity than it ought to have been. I suppose that just goes to prove that you can’t trust your buddies where food is concerned!

Beyond the hedgerow we discovered a deep water-filled ditch which we judged to be slightly too wide to jump. That was not so good because I had no great desire to go paddling when I was already beginning to feel the chill of the night, but fortunately after a little more poking about in the shadows, I discovered a small wooden bridge made of about three or four wooden planks that I guess was constructed by the local farmer. Whoever made it was irrelevant I guess; what was relevant was that I kept my feet dry.

With our own personal mission accomplished we then skirted our way back down the right hand hedgerow boundary to report to Gallegos and the rest of the squad. And of course, by the time we got back to where we had left him and them, they were no longer there.

We cursed a little and then spent a while fruitlessly whispering the password at bushes and something that we later believed to be a cow. And then we finally came to the conclusion that Gallegos had already taken the squad across. Maybe he thought that we had got lost or something.

Or something.

So, once again we crept back across towards the hedgerow that we had recently vacated. Sure enough, as we approached it, somebody threw the password at us and we tossed it back as quickly as it had been thrown. That same somebody asked us where the hell we’d been and I acidly replied that we’d been doing a job, but that it seemed that someone had changed the plan while we were doing it. I was a little bit angry right at that moment and I think that it is fair to say that I wasn’t the happiest man in the world.

The squad had already found the rations that Vest and I had already found some 30 minutes earlier, and Gallegos was in the process of handing them out. I started to complain about the situation that had just occurred and he simply told me to shut it. I did of course because you didn’t really argue with him, but it just made me unhappier. So I found a place on the flank and sat down quietly in the dark, cursing sergeants not quite as quietly, and trying to squash K-rations into spaces in my haversack that weren’t actually there.

That was how Gallegos found me a couple of minutes later. He crouched down and chewed me out a little about my attitude while he used brute force to cram one of my K-ration boxes into my meat can pack on my haversack; I’m pretty sure I heard crackers crumbling. So I simply told him in a slightly smug tone about the bridge I’d found and which he obviously hadn’t, and that quietened him down a little. Human nature is certainly an interesting animal.

[continued on next page]

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