Fiercely in Combat

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

All her life, Kim's been listening to her dad's war stories. Listening about the horror, about the things that could never stain the insides of a history book. She learns there is never a winning side at the end of a war, no matter how fiercely in combat they all fight, at home and away.

The wall was plastered in medals.

'What's this one for, dad?' I'd ask him while still in pigtails, he'd tell me it was for saving his platoon.

'And this one?' He'd reach up to touch it and tell me that he got that because he'd gotten shot in the head. As a seven year old, I was in awe. I would looked up at my dad's head and try to understand where that hole went.

'Some men fixed it, Kim.' His fingers would graze along a faint scar that gave him that medal. I'd asked him if I would ever be able to get that kind of medal and he told me, 'I hope to God not, daughter.'

The aroma of tea filled my nostrils. The kettle began to whistle, thrusting me out of my recollections. In the living room my dad was talking and smiling with a man he said he had not seen in forty years. He reached out and patted the men's shoulder like an old, long-lost friend does. I heard the other chuckle and speak in a language I could not understand.

'What was it like back in the war, dad?' My adolescent mind crept up on me again, though I was now a woman of twenty-nine.
'It's not something you'd like to share with a child, Kim.' His eyes always grew serious when I asked him about the war. His usual cheery smile would melt and in its place a sombre line stood.

'Won't I read about it in history books when I'm older?'

He would nod and tell me that I would be reading about some of the things, the things that people wanted me to know, but not about the things that they didn't want you to know about. The reality of war, the brutality of it on both sides would not be written in ink.

'Rain, Kim. Rain of bullets would come over us. It was like hail falling upon the ground with madding sounds. The bombs, they would explode in the dead of night and the light from them would burn up the sky as if it had been set on fire. Enemy, Kim. Enemy all around us wearing dark clothes, their faces streaked with grime and blood, coming at us with blood-shoot eyes and rifles pointed at our head. Terrible, terrible things, child. Things I hope you never see.'

'Is that why you fought, dad?'

But instead of a nod he would just sigh and lower his large, limber frame onto other nearest chair. Then in a soft, almost child-like softness he would reply, 'I don't know...' He would bring his face into his hands and shudder.

'Villages on fire, all of them burning. Like hell, oh God you would think you were in hell, it was that hot. The people, screaming, Kim. No men rushing out trying to attack you because they were all at the war. Women screaming, babies bundled in their arms. Small tiny faces wailing. Elders begging to whatever God they hoped would hear them and never did. Children...the fear on their faces. You'd have to shoot them...shoot them all, Kim. Even the babies until there was nothing left but miles and miles of corpses, till there was no sound but that of your own beating heart. Terror made my eyes burn.'

'The next day the enemy surrounded us, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, child. Few of us survived. The enemy commander was a fearsome man who ended up losing both his legs in that battle, he was the only one of them that got seriously hurt that day.'

I remember looking back up at the medals again, remember thinking that it was a heavy price to pay.

'Rain, Kim...' he would whisper as I let my gaze linger on the shiny bits of metal. 'Like rain...the bullets.' No, it wasn't worth it.
It would haunt him forever. Could there be a salvation?

'But we fought fiercely in combat.' He'd muster up his strength, collect himself and stand up strong like the big, brave man I've always known and loved. My hero. Then with the smile trying to form itself back on his face he'd tell me to go outside and play, saying it was too beautiful of a day to stay in and listen to old men rattling on about the past.

Now the sound of his friendly chatting with the other man filled our small house. The scent of mint tea filled the air around me. Happy sounds, happy scents.

The bottle of arsenic I had bought two days ago rested, hidden, in the drawer by the sugar where I set it down right before I began to make the tea. It looked at me with evil eyes...blood-shot eyes.

I poured the tea into the cups then measured out one spoonful of sugar for my dad, two for the other. The gentle clank of silverware against the porcelain cups echoed rhythmically, whispering 'for the nightmares, for the past.'

Perhaps killing was an easy out, a great way for some to play God. Maybe it's something else. Maybe it's little boys playing Men trying to fight in a war where no one ever truly wins. Maybe it's us being used in a bigger war that Others want us to fight in. Maybe letting someone live was braver than making someone die.

I pushed the drawer closed and heard the small bottle roll away in anger...or relief.

'Here you go, gentlemen,' entering the living room they both stopped talking to each other and looked at me with a smile, they were sitting, two grown men, holding hands like children. Like old acquaintances of the past. If you didn't know any better you'd say they were best friends.

'One for you,' carefully I handed one to our guest, 'and one for you,' then one to my dad.

'Telling stories of the past, dad?' I reached out for the tray.

'Reminiscing,' and the other man nodded in agreement, a sadness covering both their features.

'Sometimes that's a tough road to take, huh?'

They both nodded.

'But sometimes needed to heal old wounds.' I looked over to dad's visitor, his broken English sounding like a brass gong.
Silently I nodded and gave them a small smile. Softly I said, 'I'll be in the kitchen if you need anything else.'

My dad nodded a thanks. His friend tucked his old blue afghan over his stump of legs as if he were embarrassed to be leg-less then politely said, 'Thank you, Kim.'

I set the tray down and leaned up against the sink so that they could not see the tears in my eyes. Two enemies, four decades later, two cups of tea, and a million words of forgiveness they will speak to each other today.

They fought fiercely in combat, fiercely against a war that stole something from them both. In their own countries eyes they will always be Heroes. In my eyes they will forever be two Brave men who decided to forgive each other, and with time hopefully be able to forgive themselves.

I gave no second thought to the arsenic. It was always better, more honourable, to let live.

Submitted: May 08, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Nyhterides. All rights reserved.

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Awesome work. Loved the way you write, interesting and fascinating! Check out this short story contest- join and put up your stories for the readers all around the world and get a chance to win $100. There is no entry fee.

Fri, May 9th, 2014 1:36pm

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