War (Flash Fiction)

Bob kept low in the mud and pressed his helmet down onto his head. Brian collapsed for cover beside him. The foxhole was just large enough to fit them both, but their elbows rubbed and their sides pressed together. Bob lowered is Garand and looked down the sight. The brush stirred in the distance like a violent ocean. Beyond the brush, somewhere further, the high-pitched squeaks of German tanks closed in. Bob quickly cleaned the mud from the end of his barrel. Brian did the same, but his hands were shaking.

“Alright?” asked Bob.

“Sure,” said Brian.

Bob looked over at him. His face was pale and spattered with mud. His green fatigues were torn and covered in wet clay. “Brian,” said Bob. Brian turned to look at him. In those eyes, Bob saw the boy he grew up with so long ago, an old chum from elementary school who used to share his Cracker Jacks. The boy lurked deep within those eyes, but he was there, clear as day. “Are ya okay?” Bob asked.

The metallic squeaks lowered as the closing tanks dipped into a low ravine just beyond the brush. Brian opened his mouth, but words did not follow. He simply stared, and his lower lip trembled. “You’ve been through worse,” Bob said. “We’ve been through worse.”

“It was different then,” Brian said. “I didn’t know what was happening, what could happen.” He shook his head and looked down range. “It was different then.”

German shouts came through the brush, and Bob lowered his head instinctively. The metal squeaking stopped and the diesel engines went idle. He pressed the butt of his gun into his shoulder.

“What do ya think our kids are doin’?” asked Brian. “You think they’re okay?”

“They’re fine,” Bob said. “They’ll be fine.”

“Yeah,” said Brian. The green bushes, tall and mighty and strong, stirred with anxiety in the wind. A light rain, the rain that had made itself at home for the past three days, began to fall again. “What do ya think they’re doing?”

Bob raised his head an inch to try and see. “I dunno. Probably playing marines. Probably pretending they’re us.” They turned and looked at each other. Together, they saw their greatest fear come to life in a flash. They both squeezed their guns tighter.

“I don’t want them to be like us,” Brian said as he turned down range again. Bob swallowed at the new lump in his throat and agreed in silence.

The diesel engines roared to life. There was more shouting in German. The green bushes, tall and long and spanning the length of their view, stirred without relent in the breeze. The metallic squeaking began creeping toward them, and the rain fell.

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