War is Hell (PG-13)

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War is Hell (PG-13)

Post by Barnabas »

(I don't own Moonlight or its characters - I just have fun with 'em)

This was written before "What's Left Behind". It was supposed to be about Mick's experiences in WWII, and since his friend didn't have a name yet I called him Richard.

War is Hell

Mick stood at attention at the gravesite, his right arm raised in a stiff salute. His U.S. Army uniform was pressed and spotless. His brass was shined, and his ribbons included the Purple Heart. The pain in his back was incredible as he worked to stand as straight has he could. Mick held the tightly folded triangle of an American flag under his left arm.
He only flinched at the sound of the first volley of rifle fire for the twenty-one gun salute. The seven riflemen re-loaded and fired, then reloaded and fired again. A tear rolled down his cheek as the echoes of the final volley died out and a bugler began playing “Taps” on a nearby hillside.

(Three months earlier…)

Explosions shook the ground and bullets whizzed overhead as Mick low-crawled through the dirty snow toward the trench where the injured soldier lay. Mick’s medical bag was slung over his shoulder. Units of the U.S. First Army were in danger of being overrun by Germany’s 6th Panzer Army here, just outside the Belgian village of St. Vith. German rifle, mortar and tank fire had pinned these American soldiers down in their trench, and casualties were mounting. Mick finally reached the wounded soldier.
“Hey, I’m here to help you!” Mick shouted over the noise of the battle. The wounded soldier turned his face toward Mick.
Mick wasn’t sure he could trust what he was seeing. The wounded soldier looked like Richard Parks, his best buddy from high school, who had been drafted into the Army at the same time as Mick. It was hard to be sure, with all the slush and mud and blood that covered the soldier. The soldier seemed equally surprised.
“Mick? Mick St. John?” the soldier asked, his eyes wide with wonder.
“Richard? Is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me!” Richard answered. “Holy cow! What are the odds of us meeting like this?”
“Must be fate, old buddy,” Mick said, beginning his examination of Richard’s wounds. “Where are you hurt?”
“I’m kinda embarrassed to say that all I’ve got wrong with me is a nasty case of frostbite,” Richard said sheepishly. He removed the combat boot and socks from his right foot, which was grey and cold to the touch.
Mick frowned. “That’s a pretty nasty case, all right, but if we can get you out of here quickly it might be o-k. Can you walk on it?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to try standing up without risking getting my head shot off.”
“I bet that’d make you forget about your foot,” Mick joked. “How about if you try to crawl with me?”
Mick watched as Richard struggled to crawl a few feet. He was having no luck in pushing off with his frostbitten foot. It was clearly causing him too much pain.
“Let me help,” Mick said, slipping his arm around Richard’s waist. Together they could make slow progress away from the trench and toward the Jeep that would carry them back to the base and the medical attention Richard needed. The embrace Mick had around Richard would’ve seemed funny had the circumstances been different.
“Does this mean were engaged?” Richard asked, smiling at his friend.
“I don’t think so,” Mick answered, “besides, wouldn’t that make Ruby jealous?” Ruby was Richard’s steady girl. They were going to get married when Richard got home from the war.
“Probably, yeah, but she’s pretty tiny - you could take her.”
Mick laughed. “You know, we should spend less time flapping our gums and more time trying to crawl the hell out of here.”
They were making progress, but at this rate it was going to be summer before they reached the Jeep. Mick struggled to pull Richard along, but his own strength was being sapped by the effort.
Suddenly there was a enourmous flash of light followed by incredible pain. The light seemed to light up the whole world, and the pain drove everything else from Mick’s mind. Then he woke up in the base hospital.

Mick thought he was dead. His vision was blurry, and it looked like an angel was leaning over him.
“Am I dead?” Mick managed through lips that were dry and cracked.
“Heavens no,” the angel answered. “You just got a bad conk on the head and a few pieces of shrapnel in your back. You’ll be fine.”
Mick’s vision began to come into focus, and he saw that the voice didn’t belong to an angel after all, but to a beautiful woman in an Army nurse’s uniform. Her auburn hair was done up in a bun. Her face was angelic, with the most beautiful deep blue eyes Mick had ever seen. Between her eyes and her full lips was a button nose. Her skin was flawless. To Mick she looked like perfection in female human form.
Where am I?” Mick asked.
“You’re at the base hospital,” the beautiful nurse answered. “They brought you and another solider here yesterday.” Suddenly Mick remembered Richard.
Mick tried to sit up in the bed and was greeted with excruciating pain, both in his head and his back. He gently lay back down.
“Where’s Richard?” Mick asked.
“Is that the man you were with?” the nurse asked.
“Yeah, I was sent to the front to bring him back here for treatment. He has a pretty bad case of frostbite. We were best friends back in high school. We still are.”
The nurse nodded to the bed next to Mick’s. “Well, that’s his bed, but I believe he’s in surgery.”
“Surgery? What for?”
The nurse shook her head. “I don’t know. They took him before I came on duty.”
Mick looked at the empty bed. At least they both had made it back to the base hospital. That had to be a good sign.
The nurse checked Mick’s pulse and blood pressure, and made sure his bandages were on tightly. “If you need anything, my name is Katherine. I’ll be on duty for another couple of hours, then I’ll be back tomorrow morning.”
Mick looked up into Katherine’s smiling face and couldn’t help but smile back. He held his hand out, and she took it.
“Thanks for everything,” he said.
“Glad to be of service. You’d better get some rest. You’re on some pretty powerful drugs.” Katherine took her hand back and turned to walk away. Mick saw that she looked good from behind, too. She took a couple of steps and then turned back.
“Hey, you know my name, what’s yours?”
“It’s Mick. Mick St. John”.
“Nice to meet you, Mick St. John,” Katherine said, smiling. She turned and walked away, leaving Mick to his thoughts, which returned to Richard and the empty bed next to his. He was wondering how Richard was doing in surgery as he drifted off to sleep.

Mick was awakened by the sound of squeaking gurney wheels. He looked up as a pair of orderlies rolled Richard up to his bed and lifted him into it. Richard was unconscious.
“Did they save his foot?” Mick asked. One of the orderlies shook his head. Mick felt his throat close and tears welled up in his eyes. He looked at the blanket covering Richard’s legs. Down at the end there was only one bump where there should’ve been two. Mick laid his head back on his pillow and stared up at the ceiling, his vision blurring. He wanted to be awake when Richard came to. He needed to be there for his friend. But the drugs had other ideas, and Mick again drifted off.

This time it was soft sobbing that woke Mick up. Richard was awake. He was biting on his fist to try and stifle the sound.
“Richard,” Mick said. “I’m so sorry.”
Richard looked over at Mick. He tried to smile through his tears.
“Good news, Mick,” he said, his voice hitching. “They’re sending me home.” Richard broke out in a fresh round of sobs and turned his face away from his friend, embarrassed to be crying.
“Richard, I don’t know what to say,” Mick said, on the verge of crying himself. “I’m so sorry.”
“You don’t have anything to be sorry about, Mick,” Richard said.
“Maybe if I’d been able to get you to the Jeep…if I’d done a better job of trying to get you out of there…”
Richard suddenly sat up in his bed. “What am I going to tell Ruby? What’s she going to say when she finds out I’m not coming home in one piece?”
“I’m sure Ruby will understand,” Mick said. “She loves you, man. She’ll be there for you.”
“I don’t know…I hope so.” Richard lay back down, tears streaming down the sides of his face.
Mick stared up at the ceiling. The thought that he could’ve done more for Richard weighed on his chest like a load of bricks as the drugs took him again.

When Mick woke up he was glad to see his angel standing by the side of his bed.
“I thought you were going to sleep all day, Mick,” Katherine said. “We need to get you started on therapy to get you back on your feet.”
Mick winced at the mention of feet and looked over at Richard’s bed. It was empty again.
“He’s gone back for another surgery,” Katherine explained. “The doctors say he may need a few more skin grafts to help the end of his leg heal.”
“It’s all my fault,” Mick said, his helplessness sitting like a heavy stone in his stomach. “I should’ve gotten him here faster.”
“Nonsense,” Katherine said. “You did the very best you could. His foot was just too far gone to save.”
Mick looked at Katherine. “I can’t make myself believe that.”
Katherine kneeled down at the side of Mick’s bed and took his hand.
“You can’t torture yourself over this,” she said. “You have to know that there wasn’t anything you could’ve done differently.”
Mick looked into Katherine’s eyes and he could almost believe that.
“Well, when do I start therapy?”
“You can start right now, if you’re up to it,” Katherine said.
“Why not,” Mick said.
“It’s not going to be fun,” Katherine warned, “but I’ll start you off slow. The first exercise is basically a sit-up. We need to get your back healed, and that’s the best way to help those muscles damaged by the shrapnel heal.”
Katherine slipped her arm under Mick’s neck. He could smell her perfume. It was maddening.
“When I say go, try to sit up as far as you can. I’ll be helping you.”
“Any time,” Mick said.
“One, two three, go,” Katherine said, and Mick tried to sit up. Even with Katherine helping him he could only manage to lift himself a few inches off his bed before the pain became too much. He lay back down, sweat breaking out on his forehead.
“That was great!” Katherine said. “Ready for another one?”
“How many of these do I have to do?” Mick asked.
“Only as many as you can stand. We can start out slowly today, if you like.”
“Let’s do a few more and see how I feel.”
Mick managed four more partial sit-ups, each time lifting his torso a little further off the bed. When the sweat ran into Mick’s eyes, Katherine sponged it away with a cool washcloth. Mick looked up and smiled at Katherine gratefully. She smiled back. He thought hers was the kind of smile that you could wake up to every morning and never get tired of seeing.
After the last sit-up, Mick sank back into his bed, exhausted.
“How about if we knock off for now?” he asked.
“That’s fine,” said Katherine. “You did great!” Katherine straightened the covers on Mick’s bed. “I’ll be back for more torture tomorrow,” she said, bending down and kissing Mick on the forehead.
“Promise?” Mick asked.
“Promise.” She squeezed Mick’s hand, smiled and Mick watched her walk away, again marveling at her wonderful shape. He put his hands behind his head and smiled up at the ceiling, remembering how her lips had felt on his forehead.

The next day, Richard and Mick were writing letters home. Richard was writing his fiancee’ Ruby, while Mick was writing to his parents.
“This is tough,” Richard said. “I don’t know how to tell Ruby about my foot.”
“Tell her the truth,” Mick suggested. “Tell her everything that happened.”
Katherine walked up to Mick’s bedside with a fresh cup of cold water and one of her intoxicating smiles.
“What are you guys up to, no good?” she asked.
“We’re writing letters home,” Richard explained. “Don’t you write home to your mom and dad like a good girl?”
“My parents died a few years ago in a car crash.”
“I’m sorry, Katherine – I didn’t know,” Richard said.
“That’s all right,” Katherine said. “I miss them, but time has done a lot to help me move on.”
“How about a boyfriend back home?” Mick asked.
“Oh, I don’t have a boyfriend back home,” Katherine said, blushing a little.
“So your boyfriend is over here with you – or maybe serving in another theater?”
“Mick St. John, you certainly are a curious one. But no, no boyfriend at home, no boyfriend here, no boyfriend period, if you must know.”
Mick couldn’t suppress a smile. “A beautiful girl like you, with no boyfriend?”
“Well, maybe I just haven’t found the right guy,” Katherine said.
“Not yet, anyway,” Mick offered with a grin.
“Not yet,” Katherine agreed, smiling back at him.
“You guys are going to make me puke!” Richard said. That got all three of them laughing.
“I’ll leave you Shakespeares to your writing,” Katherine said, finally getting her giggles under control. “But I’ll be back for your therapy later.”
“Not too much later, I hope?” Mick said. Katherine shook her head and walked away. Richard rolled his eyes, and went back to working on his letter.

A couple of weeks went by, and Mick’s therapy helped him grow stronger. He wasn’t up and walking yet, but his back was improving and his headaches were gone all together. He could sit up in bed on his own. Richard’s leg was healing nicely, and he was getting around pretty well on crutches.
A soldier came walking down the row of hospital beds one day with an armful of mail, calling out names.
“Donaldson! Mitchell! Williams!” He tossed packages and letters to those who answered their names.
“Parks!” the mail clerk yelled. Richard held up his hand, and the soldier tossed him a letter. Mick watched as Richard looked at the envelope. Richard’s first reaction was to smile broadly, but the smile melted into a look of concern.
“It’s from Ruby,” Richard said, turning the envelope over in his hands. He didn’t look as though he wanted to open the letter.
“Open it, man!” Mick said. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Richard slowly tore off one end of the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of stationary. He began reading, and Mick watched him closely. As Richard’s eyes moved down the page, his bottom lip began to quiver, and his eyes filled with tears. Mick felt his heart sink. Watching the change in Richard’s face was like watching a plaster mask struck by a sledge hammer and fall to pieces. Richard set the letter aside and rolled away from Mick, his shoulders heaving as his tears overtook him.
“What is it, Richard?” Mick asked.
“She’s leaving me, Mick,” Richard managed between sobs. “She says she doesn’t want to marry a freak.”
Mick was shocked. “No way she said that!”
“Read the letter yourself.”
Mick reached over and grabbed the letter. It was pretty much as Richard had said. Ruby either couldn’t – or wouldn’t - get her mind around the idea of marrying a man with only one foot. Mick felt a hot stab of hatred for Ruby – a girl he didn’t know and had never met. But she had hit his best friend when he was at his lowest. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t human.
“Richard, if she’s going to be like that, maybe you’re better off…”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Mick, ok?” Richard lashed out.
“All right,” Mick said. “But if you decide you do want to talk about it, you know I’m here for you, right?”
The only answer from Richard was a fresh bout of sobs. Mick covered his own face with his hands and cried silently for his friend.

Katherine was in early the next day for Mick’s therapy. He told her about Richard and Ruby.
“I can’t believe she’d be like that,” Katherine said. She walked over to Richard’s bed and laid her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure you deserve better than her,” she said.
Richard shrugged Katherine’s hand off. He had said hardly anything since reading the letter, and it didn’t look like he was in the mood to talk now.
Katherine came back over to Mick. “Try to get him talking,” she said. “He’s got to work through this, and I think you’re the best person to help him do that.”
“I’ve been trying, but it’s hard. I can’t imagine how he must feel.”
“You’re a good friend to him, Mick,” Katherine said. “Keep trying and I’m sure he’ll be all right.”
Mick was able to do fifteen full sit-ups with a little help from Katherine.
“Won’t be long now we’ll have you up and walking around,” she said.
“The sooner the better,” Mick said. “I’m tired of being stuck in this bed. I can’t wait to sit on a real toilet and take a real shower - not that I mind your sponge baths.”
Katherine blushed, and Mick again marveled at how beautiful she was. She leaned forward to kiss him on his forehead, but this time Mick lifted his head up and found her lips with his. The kiss was brief, but powerful. Katherine stood up, the fingers of one hand touching her lips.
“I think you need a cold shower, Mr. St. John!” she admonished him. But she was smiling.
“I might at that,” Mick said, returning her smile. Katherine shook her head.
“Just concentrate on being there for your friend for now,” she said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Katherine walked away, and Mick turned to look at Richard. His back was facing Mick, and it looked like he was sleeping. Mick closed his eyes, exhausted from the therapy, and he drifted to sleep.

When Mick woke up, Richard was sitting up in his bed, pushing the food on his dinner tray around with his fork.
“Richard, you’ve got to eat something,” Mick said. “You haven’t had a decent meal in two days.”
“I haven’t had a decent meal since I joined the Army,” Richard said, looking over at Mick and offering a weak smile. Mick smiled back, feeling his hopes rise just the slightest bit. It was a start.
“I know that’s true,” said Mick. “Hey, how are you feeling?”
“Better, I guess,” Richard answered. “What you said about me being better off without Ruby – I’m still not sure I believe that entirely, but the thought has some merit.”
“Richard, I’m sorry things happened like this. And if there’s anything I can ever do to help, you just say the word.”
“You’ve already helped a lot, Mick,” Richard said. “You just don’t realize it.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear you’re feeling a little better,” Mick said, feeling quite a bit better himself. Richard grimaced as he started eating his dinner. But at least he was eating.

Over the next couple of months Mick’s therapy continued, and his condition continued to improve. He was getting out of bed on his own, and using a walker to take a few tentative steps around the hospital ward. Katherine was there for him every step of the way. Richard’s physical recovery was nearly complete, and he was released from the base hospital and was awaiting discharge from the Army and a boat ride home. He came to visit with Mick every day. He was becoming quite proficient at using his crutches.
“So how’s things with you and Katherine?” Richard asked during one of his visits.
“Really good,” Mick answered. “She’s so good for me, Richard, it’s hard to believe she’s real.”
“Oh, she’s real, all right. You’re a very lucky guy.”
“Lucky to have her, and a great friend like you,” Mick said. Richard shrugged and squeezed Mick’s shoulder.
“Sounds like it could be a little while before I go home,” Richard said. “Most of the transport ships are being used to move troops and tanks, so there’s not a lot of room for a gimp who’s just going home.”
“They’ll probably put you behind a desk somewhere while you’re waiting,” Mick joked.
“Don’t laugh,” Richard said. “They might actually do that. I wouldn’t mind, though. Anything to keep my mind occupied, I guess.”
“I suppose so,” Mick said. “Well, Katherine should be around any minute for my latest round of torture, and I don’t want to give you the bum’s rush, but you’d better get going. Plus, it’s almost lunch time, and if you’re still here when they bring the trays around they may force you to eat here.”
“Can’t have that,” Richard said, shaking Mick’s hand. “Take it easy, buddy, and give my best to Katherine.”
“I’ll do that,” Mick said. Richard turned and walked away, just as the lunch trays were being brought in. Richard looked back at Mick and pretended to wipe sweat off his forehead in a gesture that said “Whew, that was close!” Mick smiled and waved at Richard as an orderly set a tray down on the table next to Mick’s bed. Mick looked at the tray. “Great,” Mick thought, frowning, “mystery meat again.”

Katherine arrived for Mick’s therapy shortly after the lunch trays had been collected.
“Did I miss anything good for lunch?” Katherine asked.
“Very funny,” Mick said as Katherine helped him out of bed and to his walker.
“I’m sorry, I guess that was cruel,” Katherine apologized. But she had the slightest hint of a smile on her face.
“This therapy is what’s cruel,” Mick said. “I swear you’re going to work me to death.”
“We have to work hard if we’re going to get you back on your feet,” Katherine said. She looked hurt.
“I know, Katherine, I was only kidding,” Mick said. Katherine had her arm around Mick’s waist, and now Mick shoved the walker out of the way and pulled Katherine around in front of him, encircling her with his arms. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without you,” Mick said, “you saved my life.” Katherine blushed.
“I did no such thing,” she said. “I just did my job.”
“No, Katherine, you really saved my life.” Mick looked into her eyes. “When I was feeling like I had no reason left to live, you were there for me. When I didn’t know how to help Richard, you were there for me.” Mick took Katherine’s face in his hands. She held him by the waist to keep him steady. They looked like awkward dancers. “You’re the reason I’m here today.” Mick leaned forward and kissed Katherine. She closed her eyes and kissed him back.
“I think you give me a lot more credit than I’m due, Mick” Katherine said after their lips had parted, “but I’m happy to know I could help.”
Before Mick knew it the words were out of his mouth. “I love you, Katherine.”
Katherine gazed into Mick’s eyes, and he could tell she felt the same. “I love you too, Mick.” They kissed again. This time the kiss was longer and deeper, enough to draw whistles and applause from the other patients in the hospital ward. Mick and Katherine separated, each of them embarrassed and blushing.
“We’re not going to get anywhere with your therapy if we keep this up,” Katherine said.
“I suppose not,” Mick said, “but I don’t think I mind.” Katherine slid the walker back in front of Mick.
“Let’s go, Mr. St. John,” she said, smiling. “You’ve got three laps around the ward to do, so you’d better get moving.” Mick shuffled off down the hallway, with Katherine at his side.

Richard came in to visit Mick the following week, and Mick asked him to do him a favor.
“My back isn’t healed enough to I can go places on my own yet, so I was wondering if you’d get something for me?”
“Sure, Mick, anything.” Mick pulled his wallet out of the drawer in the table next to his bed, reached into it, and handed Richard three crisp one hundred dollar bills.
“Would you go to the base exchange and pick out a nice ring for Katherine?” Mick asked.
Richard’s face lit up. “You mean an engagement ring?”
“Of course, an engagement ring,” Mick said. “I know it’s not a lot of money, but find the nicest ring you can. I’m going to ask her to marry me Saturday night.”
“That’s great news!” Richard said, taking the money. “I’ll find her something perfect, Mick. I’m so happy for you guys!”
“I really appreciate it,” Mick said. “I wish I could to it myself, but I know you’ll pick something nice.”
“You bet!” Richard said. “I’ll take care of it right now.”
“Thanks, Richard,” Mick said. Richard hurried off down the aisle and off to the base exchange.

About an hour later, Richard returned. He produced a small black felt box and handed it to Mick. “It was a little more than three hundred, but don’t worry about it,” Richard said.
“How much more? Mick asked, taking the box from Richard.
“I said don’t worry about it, Mick. You did so much for me while I was recovering, I could never repay you. Consider it my engagement gift to the two of you.” Richard leaned forward and gave Mick a bear hug.
Mick had to wipe tears from his eyes as he opened the box. Inside was a beautiful diamond solitaire ring set in gleaming yellow gold. It was perfect, and Mick told Richard so.
“I’m glad you like it,” Richard said. Just then, Katherine turned the corner, walking toward Mick’s bed. She smiled and waved, and Mick and Richard waved back. It was time for Mick’s therapy. Mick quickly snapped the small box closed and managed to hide it away it in the drawer of his bedside table just in time.
“Richard, how are you doing?” Katherine asked, hugging him.
“I’m doing great!” Richard answered.
“You certainly seem in good spirits,” Katherine told him.
“Oh, I am,” Richard said, giving Mick a little wink.
“What was that about?” Katherine asked.
“Oh, nothing,” Mick said, “just an inside joke.” Katherine looked puzzled for a moment, but then came over to Mick and gave him a hug and a kiss.
“Ready for your torture?” she asked him.
“I’m getting out of here before this gets ugly,” Richard said. “You two have fun.”
“Thanks again, Richard,” Mick said.
“No problem, buddy,” Richard said and left.
“Richard is such a nice guy,” Katherine said, “and a good friend.”
“You have no idea,” Mick said as Katherine helped him out of bed.
Katherine helped Mick make five circuits of the hospital ward.
“You’re progressing really nicely,” she said. “I think you’re just about ready to venture out on your own. With the walker, that is.”
“Thanks to you,” Mick said. “I could never have done this without you.” Katherine helped Mick back up into his bed and tucked the sheet and blanket around him.
“Just doing my job, sir,” she quipped, offering a snappy salute.
“No, I mean it,” Mick insisted. “You’ve been great to me. I don’t think I could ever re-pay you.” Katherine looked embarrassed.
“Please, Mick, you don’t have to re-pay me. For one, I’m supposed to help you. It’s my job. And for two, I love you.” She kissed him softly on the lips.
“I love you too, Katherine,” Mick said. “Hey, what are you doing Saturday night?”
Katherine pretended to think about it.
“I’ll have to check my busy schedule, but I don’t think I have anything planned.”
“How about meeting me for dinner at the officer’s club? They’ve got a great swing band playing there this weekend.”
“Dinner sounds good, but I don’t know how much dancing you’re going to be doing.”
Mick laughed. “As long as you’re there with me, just sitting and listening to the music will be enough.”
“All right,” Katherine said. “What time shall I meet you there?”
“How about seven o’clock?”
“Sounds good to me.” Katherine kissed Mick again. “I’ll be counting the minutes.”
“I’ll be counting the seconds,” Mick thought to himself as he watched Katherine walk away.

To Mick it seemed to take forever, but Saturday evening finally arrived, and Richard was there to help Mick get dressed. It was about six-thirty, and Mick’s fingers trembled as he tried to button his best civilian shirt.
“Let me help you with that,” Richard said. “It’s going to be fine, Mick. She’s got to say yes.”
“I’m pretty sure she will,” Mick said, “but that doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking.”
“Don’t worry about it, buddy,” Richard said, finishing buttoning Mick’s shirt. Mick pulled on his trousers, and Richard helped him with his socks and dress shoes. Richard was helping Mick with his tie when the air raid sirens began to howl.
“What the heck?” Mick asked. Then he heard the first explosions. A frantic medical officer ran into the hospital ward.
“They’re bombing us! The damn Germans are bombing us!” the officer shouted. “Everyone to the basement shelter!”
Mick’s eyes grew wide with horror. “What about Katherine?”
“She’ll be fine, Mick. Wherever she is, they’re probably sending her to a shelter, too.”
“Does the officer’s club even have a shelter?” Mick asked.
“I’m sure it does,” Richard answered. “Plus it’s early yet, she may not even be there.”
“May not even be there?” Mick was close to panicking.
“Tell you what,” Richard said, “I’ll go check the club for you. If she’s there, I’ll make sure she gets to a shelter safely.” There was another round of explosions, this one much closer than the last.
“No, Richard, you can’t go out there!” Mick said.
“Don’t worry about me, Mick,” Richard said. “I’ve been through worse than this. I’ll be fine.” Before Mick could protest further Richard had turned and headed out of the ward. He could really fly, even with crutches.
Several medical staffers were herding the patients toward the stairs that led down to the bomb shelter. Mick opened the drawer to his bedside table and grabbed the small black box containing the ring. He stuffed the box in his pocket and using his walker shuffled toward the exit with the rest of the patients from the ward.

The bomb shelter was damp and dark, the only light came from a sixty watt bulb that dangled from a length of wire in the middle of the ceiling. The explosions were coming more frequently now, and as each shook the building the light swayed back and forth, casting eerie shadows over the faces of the thirty or so patients who had taken refuge there. Mick had taken the ring box out of his pocket, and he held it tightly in his hands as he prayed for Katherine to be safe.

After what seemed like an eternity, the bombing slowed, then stopped altogether. The air raid sirens gave the “all clear” signal, and Mick and the other patients were brought back up into the ward and ushered to their beds. Just as Mick made it back to his bedside, he looked up and saw Richard standing in the ward entrance. Richard’s face was smudged with blood and dirt, and his clothes were dirty and torn. He was bleeding from several cuts, and one of his crutches was bent, causing him to lean over to one side. Mick’s eyes met his. Richard swallowed hard, and looked down at the floor. Mick suddenly found that he couldn’t breathe. He began to shake his head back and forth, muttering “No…no…no”. Richard looked back up at Mick. His face was the picture of agony.
“I’m so sorry, Mick,” Richard said, tears now rolling down his cheeks. He started to make his way over to his friend. “The officer’s club took a direct hit right before I got there. Katherine was inside. I tried to pull her out of there, but it was too late.”
Mick let out a wail, “No!” and collapsed to his knees, his body shaken violently by sobs. Richard reached Mick and slid down onto the floor next to him, taking him in his arms and rocking him gently.

Mick stood at attention at the gravesite, his right arm raised in a stiff salute. His U.S. Army uniform was pressed and spotless. His brass was shined, and his ribbons included the Purple Heart. The pain in his back was incredible as he worked to stand as straight has he could. But that pain was dwarfed by the pain that was crushing his heart. Mick held the tightly folded triangle of the American flag that had been draped over Katherine’s casket under his left arm. He had placed the small, black box containing the engagement ring inside her casket before it had been sealed.
He only flinched at the sound of the first volley of rifle fire for the twenty-one gun salute. The seven riflemen re-loaded and fired, then reloaded and fired again. A tear rolled down his cheek as the echoes of the final volley died out and a bugler began playing “Taps” on a nearby hillside.
“Taps” ended, and one by one the well-wishers walked past Mick, shaking his hand and offering mumbled words of comfort. Richard was last in line. He held his crutches in one arm and hugged Mick tightly with the other, then stood off to the side while Mick walked to the edge of Katherine’s grave. Mick bent down, grabbed a handful of dirt and tossed it down onto the casket. He stood up, struggling to keep his composure. After a moment’s thought he threw the flag into the grave, too. He turned and shuffled over to Richard, and the two men walked down the hillside together toward a waiting black limousine.
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Re: War is Hell (PG-13)

Post by draco »

So very sad!! :hankie:
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Re: War is Hell (PG-13)

Post by MoonShadow »

I am so very glad to see your work posted here. You are a fine writer with wonderful voice and I appreciate your taking the time to post them. I hope you continue to write and post some of your older work as well, it's all good stuff!

Best wishes,
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Macbeth, 4. 1
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Re: War is Hell (PG-13)

Post by jen »


:hearts: :flowers:
Mick and Beth--two of the lovely faces of Moonlight
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Re: War is Hell (PG-13)

Post by Barnabas »

Thanks, draco, MoonShadow and jen! I'm glad you liked it! I think I've said before that this is probably my favorite of the stories I've written.
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Re: War is Hell (PG-13)

Post by jen »


We just caught a glimpse of Mick's time in WW2, but there could have been so much more during that time.

Was there a wartime romance there?

Thank you.
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Re: War is Hell (PG-13)

Post by allegrita »

Another story of Mick during WWII. Bumping it in honor of Memorial Day.
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