An Unfortunate Error

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
I am not a coward, there was a mistake.
To be published in 'Canterbury'.

Submitted: April 04, 2008

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Submitted: April 04, 2008

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An Unfortunate Error

The world thought them cowards.

The eyes of the men who watched them passed by that day thought them deserters, and shameful for turning back. Shameful for retreating from the bloodied fray; the front line where the corpses became mud, and the mud became poison rivers when the rains came.

In the shallow afternoon the men trudged back across the silent French hay fields and watched the sun drape itself down on the bullet ridden, shrapnel sodden atmosphere.

But these men, these soldiers were not cowards. Only this morning they had risen to the cockerel and watched eagerly with a fixed stare their enemies on the front line. They were eager, each one with a deep spirit of enthused patriotism, ready to do the will of whoever commanded them. They had not tasted the bitter herbs of death; neither had they felt the paralysing chill of ice or the clammy hands of choking gassed comrades.

Who would have known, watching them in the late afternoon, that they were not disgraced or dishonoured, but that there had been a mistake. An unfortunate error had occurred, causing the orders to be mixed up in the confusion of war. What was meant to be the final cry of glorious war had become the confused puzzlement of retreat.

The messenger, a young and bleary, wide eyed fellow, had only half listened to the quick, sharp orders of the commander as he barked them to him. So eager to please his superiors he misheard and eventually forgot the certainty of the words given to him.

The officer in charge of the platoon pressed the poor, unfortunate messenger hard and fast; trying to determine the exact orders that would take them to the ends of the earth…. But to no avail; nothing more tcould be got out of the saddened, nonchalant messenger but a name; Neubians-Abergement.

So the platoon went forward on those orders, heading back west from the front line to Neubians-Abergement, a small and pointless village a few miles back, not realising their true destination was over the front line, to take the west side Abergement-Saint-Jean.

As the darkness fell around them, hiding the shame they did not know, so the captain plodded wearily and confused about the strange orders, and thought about the execution of deserters. Behind him, his comrades were still grimly smiling, and struck up the old tune of:

One more step a long the road we go,
One more step a long the road we go,
From the old things to the new,
Keep me travelling along with you…


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