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Christmas in the Trenches | A Short Story



December 25th, 1915

We huddle together, trying to keep warm amidst the thick winter blanket which seeks to smother us. The earthen wall is packed stiff, and I can’t find a comfortable place to rest my head. So instead, I tuck it between my knees while keeping my hands under my comrade’s arms in front of me. It isn’t a strange thing to do anymore It’s just common sense. Survival. The trench is unnervingly still and quiet, as if the earth is holding its breath.
What ghastly crime will you stupid mortals commit next? What more can you do to defile my beauty?

And I have no answer, because I don’t know. None of us know until we’re confronted with it. We don’t know what horrors we’re capable of until our lives depend on our immediate decision.

Honor. Duty.Glory

These words describing war were drilled relentlessly into our minds as schoolboys. Now we feel that these words were meant for something entirely different than what we’ve witnessed and done. I shift and rub my hands together. I move each finger. Pain shoots through each one like fire eating up a match. I breath in. The dry, raw air strips away my saliva, leaving my lips cracked and my throat aching.

“Merry Christmas, fellas.”

The words are weak. Lifeless. I look around until my eyes land on the speaker. It’s Albert.
I lift my eyes to the sky and quickly look down again, blinking against the snowy onslaught. “What would you be doing now, if you were home, Albert?” I ask the question just to break the silence that rings in my ears.
Albert shrugs his scrawny shoulders. “Chores first off. Then we’d have a nice warm Christmas breakfast with bacon and buttered biscuits.” A few boys lift their heads at the sound of butter. “Then we'd sit in the front room by a blazing fire …” he looks at something that isn’t there. “I was never hungry. Never cold for longer than I could bear.”
“You’re stronger than you thought, eh?” I toss him a half  hearted grin. But he doesn’t see me. He sees his home. His family. Not us. Not the biting wind and the hellish trench.
I envy him right now.
“I’d be at my aunt’s,” says Peter. “She makes this chocolate cake … oh Lord.”
Roland punches him. “Thinking about ham and butter is hard enough. Don’t lead me to insanity with cake.”
“Then tell us about your Christmas, Roland.” I punch him back since Peter has burrowed himself into a fetal position to cry about chocolate cake.
“My brothers and I always have a snowball fight after Christmas service. If there’s not snow, we throw mud.” He smirks, but there’s melancholy in the gesture. “If I were home I wouldn’t do a fool thing like that. I took everything for granted.”
It grows still in the trench. I expect everyone is thinking the same thing.
You don’t know what you have until it's gone.
“Your turn, Everett.” Roland turns to me.
I pull my collar up to ward off the cold. “In my town, we always have a community Christmas celebration. There’s a Christmas pageant with little kids who can’t act a darn … and music … real nice music. Then we go skating at Herrington’s Farm and have steaming mugs of hot chocolate. Lord, it’s grand.”
We’re all quiet, lost in our own thoughts and memories of Christmases past.
“Next year,” I say, “We’ll all be home for Christmas, all this will all be just a bad memory.”
We cling to that hope.

***

A very Merry Christmas to all you lovely people!

-Emily

WWI Trench Cake

 For some reason, I decided to try my hand at making a WWI trench cake today. I mean, why not? That's a totally normal thing to bake. Everyone does it. All the time. 


Women would make these cakes for their men on the front. These cakes are made without eggs and can stay good for a long time. It was a special treat for the soldiers, bringing them a taste of home.

The Stone House | They Have a Story Link-Up



December 24th, 1944

“Hey, Louie, look up there.” I pointed my gloved hand toward a stone house flanked by two sturdy pine trees. The wind whipped around us, momentarily causing the stone house to disappear behind it’s thick white cloak. My face was numb, rubbed raw from walking in the biting blizzard all day, and I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. They were just two blocks of ice, moving involuntarily behind my older brother. Right, left, right, left, just like in basic training. I squinted my eyes, begging God to let me see the stone house again. Or was it all a mirage? I heard about people seeing things after walking days in the desert. Could it be the same when you’re trudging through an endless tundra? I didn’t think so. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself. If it was merely a fictional stone house, I would give up right then and there.
My brother aimed his rifle toward where I had pointed. He motioned for me to take the left flank. “Could be some cozy krauts in there,” he warned.
“So it wasn’t a mirage.” I raised a fist in victory. “Hallelujah!”
Louie glanced over his shoulder, raising a brow at my outburst. “Well? Get on with it.”
I nodded and aimed my rifle, truding through the heavy snow toward the flurry before me. When I looked for Louie, a wall of white stared back at me. “Louie?” I shouted. “Where’d ya go?”
“Shut up!” I heard the wind hiss.
I shut my mouth and moved forward. A structure began to materialize before my eyes through the blizzard. I hugged the side of it, weapon ready for whatever might jump out at me. I peeked into a window, my breath leaving steam on the glass. It was empty, at least, from this angle. I made a reconnaissance around the perimeter, meeting my brother on the opposite side.
“All clear, boss.”
He nodded toward the front door and we carefully made our way to the stone house. Louie threw open the door, ready to attack anyone who tried to stop him. No one came to welcome or stop us, so we entered, pounding snow from our boots on the threshold. After a thorough inspection of each room, we found it to be recently abandoned. The fireplace was still smoldering.
“Do you think whoever it belongs to is comin’ back?” I asked, sinking into a chair with a thud.
“Don’t know,” Louie stared at the window as if the occupant was watching our every move. “But we haven’t much choice but to stay here for the night. I ain’t goin’ back in that,” he nodded his head toward the storm. “We’ll head out tomorrow morning and find our unit.”
“Fine with me.” I yanked off my helmet and scarf, giving my ears a good rubbing.
Louie kneeled before the fire, coaxing it into being again. He rubbed his hands, blew into them, then turned to me. “Tomorrow’s Christmas.”
“Yeah, guess it is.” I shrugged, feigning indifference. I wouldn’t dare let anyone know how much my heart ached at the thought of being away from home for Christmas. I yawned, leaned back in the chair and closed my eyes.
“Either you’re a Scrooge or you’re tryin’ to be tough. Which is it, kid?”
I opened my eyes. Louie was staring at me. “My given name is Ebenezer. Didn’t you know?”
Louie stood up, snow cascading from his overcoat. “You’re a regular comedian. You missed your calling in life. Now go get some firewood, would ya? Just because we’re in a war during Christmas doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate.”
I stared at Louie. “What? Back out there? No way!”
“Robbie.” Louie towered over me, suddenly reminding me of my father right before I got a whipping. “Get some firewood.”
“You’re a real tyrant, you know that, Hitler?” I stood up, shoving him with my shoulder as I brushed past. “Where am I supposed to get firewood?”
“I saw a wood shed on the way in. Good place to start.”
I tossed the helmet back on my head and went once again into the storm and toward the shed. I gathered an armload and lumbered back inside, tossing it on the floor in a mangled heap. Louie wasn’t in the room anymore. I closed the door behind me, and it creaked in protest.
“Robbie, come here!” His voice was urgent, panicked almost. I bolted toward the plea, rifle aimed and ready for action. That’s when I found my brother sitting on a stupid little rocking horse with a stupid grin on his face.
I dropped my rifle. “I think it’s you who missed your calling in life, cowboy. What the heck are you doing?”
“I thought I’d have a look around the stone house and I found this bedroom. Even has a Christmas tree,” he nodded his head toward an unadorned miniature tree leaning against the wall. “The family must have moved on when they realized how close to the front lines they are.”
“So? Did you find any food? Because that’s really all I care about right now.” I sagged against the doorjamb, hunger gnawing at my stomach, irritable as heck, and as Scrooge-like as they come.
Louie stood up, appearing a trifle disappointed that I wasn’t as excited about the Christmas tree as he was. “Well, we’ve got some fancy cuisine. It’s called la C rations.” He smirked as he brushed past me, patting my shoulder.
“Swell.”
We sat before the fire, now blazing steadily before us. We finished off our rations and I began to feel a little better … a little less Scrooge-like. The sky was slate grey, turning darker shades as the day came to an end.
“Whaddya think the family’s doing right now?” I asked. The scent of pine burning encompassed the stone house. Its sweet, crisp scent took me back to the apartment in Brooklyn where we always had a real tree.
“Gettin’ ready for Christmas eve service, I guess.” Louie’s face was illuminated in the firelight. His brown eyes were fixated on the flames as they snapped the logs.
“Then they’ll decorate the tree. And listen to the radio. Mama will sing in Italian.” I smiled as the scene came to life in my mind.
“I suppose it’s a good thing we’re not there.” Louie glanced at me, mischief in his eyes. “We’d eat all the popcorn.”
I laughed. “And Marie would slap us for eating the decorations. And her slaps hurt like heck.”
We chuckled, remembering our spunky younger sister with her big nut-brown eyes. My laughter was suddenly transforming into sorrow and pain. I could hear Mama’s sweet voice filling the apartment. I could hear dad’s newspaper crackling as he turned a page. I could hear Marie’s high pitched voice filling every corner of the house.
“You all right, Robbie?”’
I ducked my head, sucking in a deep breath. “Swell. Just swell.”
“We can’t let them have all the fun without us. We’ve got a tree. We don’t have popcorn, but we’ve got a tree. Maybe there’s some decorations around here.”
“Yeah, maybe.” I buried my face in my hands.
Louie slapped my shoulder. “Come with me.”
I slowly stood up, shuffling behind him into the bedroom where the Christmas tree stood. He picked it up and set it on a wooden crate, rubbing his hands together. “Perfect. Search around for something to put on it.”
I kneeled down, fumbling through a few boxes that lay near the tree. I opened one and pulled out a handful of tinsel and a few glass ornaments. “Here’s something.”
“Hey, good find.” Louie took a fistful of the tinsel from me, then glanced up when I didn’t do anything. “Decorate the tree, soldier. That’s an order.”
I pulled apart the glistening tinsel and began adorning the pine tree. To my surprise, it was actually relaxing … almost fun.
“I’m dreamin’ of a white Christmas—” Louie began crooning.
I viciously tossed a handful of the tinsel in his face. “That’s the last thing in the world I want to hear. Save that for the boys in the Pacific.”
Louie grinned. “What song should we sing then?”
“Anything that doesn’t involve snow.”
“I’ll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me. Please have snow—” Louie stopped mid-singing. “Robbie, I hate to tell you this, but I don’t think they make Christmas songs that don’t mention snow.”
“Well, that’s something I’ll change when I get back home.”
“You’re gonna be the next Bing Crosby, are you?”
I tossed the remaining tinsel on my side of the tree, then brushed my hands across my pants. “I might surprise you.”
Our tree was finished, and even I had to admit it looked swell.
“Time to get some sleep. Santa won’t come if you stay up all hours, Robbie.”
I smirked. “I’ll put out some C rations for him.”
Louie yawned, patting me on the shoulder. “Goodnight, little brother. And merry Christmas.”




***



What is They Have a Story? It's a monthly historical fiction link up hosted by yours truly. Once a month I'll post a historical picture. Your job (and mine ... I'm totally doing this!) is to write a short story inspired by it. It can be as short or as long as you like. Have fun with it! Post the monthly picture, your story, and blog button on your blog, then link up. Let’s see how many different stories we can get from the same picture! Link up HERE.





-Emily


Snippets From The Eastern Front


I've been busy editing/formatting Resist for its February release and thought I'd share some snippets from the student medical company's campaign on the Eastern Front. (All images via Pinterest.)



I followed his gaze out into the field and spotted a young man trudging through the flowers. It was a drastic contrast—a soldier with soot covering his boyish face, his clothes singed from an explosion, and his gait weary among the cheerful, waving sunflowers. Otto snatched a rifle that was leaning against the school and began clicking off the safety-catch. He closed one eye and aimed. —RESIST

"You Can Do Only a Few Things at All Well, and They Are More Than Enough.”

“You're not impatient any more. Then you were in a hurry, because you thought you could encompass everything in your life. You wanted to learn everything and experience everything and be everybody. In a way, that was charming and delightful in you: I used to write in my notebooks that you were zestful. But it also made you seem confused. You did things in fits and starts. You learned as a stammerer talks ... Today, you are not in such a hurry. I think you have decided that you can do only a few things at all well, and they are more than enough.” —John Hersey



In my ever increasing interest in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, I've been gathering books from various libraries to try and wrap my brain around the perilous and courageous act of the Jews of Warsaw during 1943. One of the books in my pile was The Wall by John Hersey, a 640 page novel that I honestly wasn't sure I'd get around to any time soon. But then I read the first few pages and I was hooked. It was a lot to take in. I feel like I need to read it a few more times to fully understand everything. 

Black Friday Book Sale



It's time for the epic Black Friday book sale! Along with 70 other books by Christian Indie authors, It Took a War and Ain't We Got Fun are on sale from Nov 27 (that’s today!) through Nov 30th. The ebook copies are $0.99 and paperbacks are $6.99.

You can find free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals, and more on the Indie Christian Books website! And if your budget is depleted from Christmas shopping, they’ve got you covered with some freebies Think 70 books is overwhelming? Narrow it down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your Christmas list by using this quiz to generate a customized book list.



A note on the Ebooks Only page. All books are listed as “Sold Out.” This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted athmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Smiley

What awesome reads of 2015 are you grateful for?
 What books are you looking forward to reading in 2016?

-Emily

Pinterest Storyboard Event

Pinterest
Elisabeth Grace Foley is hosting a super fun blog event where authors share their Pinterest storyboards with each other! I have quite a few boards, some public, some private so I've chosen seven to share with ya'll. Thanks for hosting this event, Elisabeth! Hop on over to The Second Sentence to link-up and check out other writers' boards.

I'm going to start out with the storyboard for my completed novel, Resist. This board is mostly comprised of actual photographs of Hans, Sophie, Alex, Willi, Christl, and other members of The White Rose resistance group. This board just made the story even more emotional to write because I would study the pictures of these real, brave students and see their faces every day as I wrote.

Follow Emily Ann's board STORYBOARD: RESIST on Pinterest.
One of my favorite boards is Ain't We Got Fun. It was so fun to write that story with Emily Chapman, and to have somewhere to share pictures of characters and scenes. We still pin new images to that board every once in a while. 
Follow Emily's board ain't we got fun on Pinterest.
 I also have a storyboard for is It Took a War. I didn't make it until after I had written that story, so there aren't a ton of images but you can still get a glimpse of what the characters look like.

"Resist" Announcement

Munich, Germany 1942—Hans Scholl never intended to get his younger sister involved in an underground resistance. When Sophie Scholl finds out, she insists on joining Hans and his close friends in writing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets entitled, The White Rose. The young university students call out to the German people, begging them to not allow their consciences to become dormant, but to resist their tyrannical leader and corrupt government. Hans knows the consequences for their actions—execution for committing high treason—but firm in his convictions, he’s prepared to lose his life for a righteous cause. Based on a true story, Hans, Sophie and all the members of The White Rose resistance group will forever inspire and challenge us to do what is right in the midst of overwhelming evil. 


After much thought and prayer, I've decided on a new course of action for my novel, Resist. Being the control freak I am (at least when it comes to my books) I'm going to be publishing Resist under my imprint, The White Rose Press. Expected publication is February 22nd, 2016.  I'm a little bit excited. Just a little. =)

They Have a Story Link-Up | November Edition

It's time for the November edition of They Have a Story! This month's picture was submitted by Clara Stone. =)

What is They Have a Story? It's a monthly historical fiction link up hosted by yours truly. Once a month I'll post a historical picture. Your job (and mine ... I'm totally doing this!) is to write a short story inspired by it. It can be as short or as long as you like. Have fun with it! Post the monthly picture, your story, and blog button on your blog, then link up. Let’s see how many different stories we can get from the same picture!




Can't wait to see what you guys come up with!


-Emily

P.S. Good luck to all those participating in NaNoWriMo this year!

The Boy | A Short Story

I was recently inspired to write a short story based on a true event that happened in my NY hometown during the Civil War. A train of Confederate prisoners of war came through en route to a POW camp and left a dead Confederate behind. The townsfolk debated over what to do with the boy. The men didn't want anything to do with the Reb while the women thought that the boy should be buried in their cemetery. Unknown Confederate soldier buried not far from me .... hmmm, this is prime writing material! So without further ado, my little story about a Confederate soldier boy.

(If I'm going to give him a face it might as well be a handsome one.)


The Boy
By Emily Ann Putzke

The Tennessee boy sat on the floor of the train car, his back leaning against the rough wooden interior. The stale air reeked of urine and sweaty wool, undertoned with the nauseating sweet scent of gangrene and disease. He lifted his face to a knot in the wood, squinting to see the world outside the crowded hell he inhabited. Trees whipped past, mere blurs of brown and green. It made him dizzy. He reclined his head against the wall once more and took deep, painful breaths.The boy longed to stretch his cramped legs, but prisoners of war were packed around him, leaving no room for the boy to do anything but hug his bony kneecaps to his chest. He no longer fit in the trousers his Ma had made him. He swam in the fabric, and the hem now reached the middle of his shins. His white cotton shirt hung off his limbs, and his boots were worn through. A young blond haired soldier standing to his left began singing a camp song, slow and mournful: From the bright sunny south to the war, I was sent, e'er the days of my boyhood, I scarcely had spent. From it's cool shady forests and deep flowing streams, Ever fond in my mem'ry and sweet in my dreams.”
“Ain’t we goin’ through enough torture with you singing atop of that?” Someone’s yell cut through the melancholy tune. The voice was bitter.
“Go on,” a bearded soldier beside the singer urged. “He’s just homesick. Keep singing.”
“Oh, my dear little sister, I still see her tears. When I had to leave home in our tender years—
“Stop it! Someone gag that bastard!” the man screamed.
A scuffle began, and the singer disappeared into the men, getting pummeled by the bitter soldier. The boy leaned his head into his knees, shutting his ears to the misery. A cold sweat slathered his youthful face, and his body trembled and convulsed with fever. He was going to die. He knew he was going to die. The question was—when?
The noise gradually settled down and the boy heard someone sobbing. He wondered if it was the bitter man or the singer. He glanced up at the soldiers around him. They were stoic, staring at the walls as if in another world. What were they thinking of, the boy wondered. Home? The future? The past?
“Got typhus, don’t you?”
The boy searched for the voice. It came from the bearded man. His cap was tugged over his eyes.
“I reckon. I feel … I feel sick as a dog.”
“How old are you, boy?”
It took the boy a moment to reply. His head swam. “Seventeen.”
“Lordy,” the bearded man shook his head in sorrow, “So young. So much life yet to live.”
Tears tore at the boy’s throat. So much life to live. He was already mourning a future he would never have. “I’m saying goodbye,” he said, closing his eyes to the spinning room. “In my heart, I’m saying goodbye.”
“To whom, boy?”
Pain racked his throat and seared his chest. “Ma, Pa … my sisters, Violet and Annalee. My girl … her name is Belle … I never told her how much I love her.”
“You are your parents only son?”
The boy nodded, raking his shaky fingers through his lice infested hair. “Ma cried when … when I left her. I’m just a boy, she said. Maybe she was right.”
“You are just a boy.”
The boy rested the side of his face against his knees. “I fought for my country … I did what I thought was right … my moral duty.”
The bearded soldier pushed his way past two arguing soldiers to get closer, and managed to knee down beside the boy. “Your parents must be right proud of you.”
The boy stared through a blurry haze. The bearded man became two men, then merged into one fuzzy image. “I hope so.” His voice was raspy. Death-like.
“Look, boy, you gotta lay down. You’re pale as a sheet. Boys, move over. This kid is dying.”
The bearded soldier shoved his elbows at the men crowding around them. They inched back, mumbling in irritation as the bearded soldier helped lay the boy in a fetal position. “We’re all gonna die,” one disgruntled soldier said between gritted teeth. “Why does that runt get special treatment?”
“Scrape up some humanity from that soul of yours and move out of the way,” the bearded man ordered.
With his ear pressed against the wooden floorboards, the boy could hear the train screech against the tracks. The car rumbled and jolted the boy’s head, sending him spiraling deeper into the whirling dark abyss that was rapidly devouring his young life. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want … He leadeth me beside still waters … He restores my soul …” the boy breathed the words to a prayer. He could feel his throat constricting, grower tighter and tighter. The bearded soldier placed a hand tentatively on the young boy’s arm as he began to violently toss and turn. The boy’s chest heaved, his cornflower blue eyes turned wild. “Mama!” he screamed. “Mama, please ... please help me!” He turned to the soldier, gripping his arm savagely. “Mama. I don’t want to die.”
The boy went slowly, his limbs relaxing, his hand falling from the soldier’s arm. His vivid blue eyes, a moment ago so wild with fever, were now empty and dull as his soul escaped from his lifeless body.  The bearded soldier sat with the dead boy, feeling an ache that was foreign to him. He had witnessed death after death in the battle fields, seen his comrades fall in the struggle, but this felt different. He had looked into the eyes of a mere child as his life drained from his body.
A boy.
The train screeched against the tracks in a violent protest as it jolted to a complete stop, sending the men falling all over each other. The boy began to roll around.
“We gotta get him outta here!” the bitter man said. “One less body. Guard!”
The door cracked open from the outside landing where a federal soldier stood, his musket ready. “What is it?”
“Why are we stopping?” the bitter man asked.
“For fuel. Sit back and get comfortable. We have a long ride still ahead of us, Reb.” The federal soldier had begun to close the door when the bitter man plunged forward.
“Wait! We gotta corpse in here.”
The federal soldier eye him suspiciously, his mustache twitching. “Where?”
The man pointed to the corner where the boy’s body lay.
The federal soldier pushed his way through the group, two more soldiers following suit. They picked up the boy by the arms and legs, stumbling to the caboose and off the train. A crowd of townsfolk had gathered at the site of the POW train, curious to get a glimpse of a Reb, or perhaps mock them to their faces if they had the chance.
“We have a dead Reb here,” the federal soldier said as they set the boy in the dirt beside the tracks. “Do with him as you like.”
“Let’em rot there,” a farmer said, swatting his hand as if the boy were an annoying gnat. “Let’em rot.”

———

Widow Hudson pushed through the surly men as they cursed the young boy who lay on the earth before their feet. Her breath caught in her throat when she realized how young the boy before her was. His face was smooth, his full lips were parted and his golden hair was tousled about his head as if he were just a child sleeping.
“You mock humanity.” Widow Hudson turned to glare at the men. “You mock God.”
“Excuse me, ma’am?” The farmer stepped forward, his arms folded.
“You toss out insults at this dead boy, condemn his soul to fiery gehenna, decide among yourselves to let him rot where he lies instead of giving him a decent, honorable burial. You mock goodness and decency.”
The farmer gritted his jaw. “Boys like him killed my three sons and left my youngest one maimed for life. He’s our enemy. Our enemy, you hear me, woman?”
“I hear you loud and clear, sir, and I don’t agree. I lost my husband and son in this war. I have every right to be as bitter as you. But I’m not.”
“Then you’re batty!” The farmer turned to leave, but Widow Hudson placed a hand on his arm to stop him.
“Aren’t you curious to know why I’m not bitter, sir?”
The farmer turned, shrugging his shoulders. “Not particularly, ma’am.”
“Well, I’ll tell you anyway.” Widow Hudson kneeled beside the boy in her black mourning gown, ignoring the dirt and filth around her. She placed a hand on the boy’s soft head of hair and stroked it gently. “My boy fell in Virginia. They couldn’t send me his body. I can only pray to God that someone buried my boy properly … honorably. Perhaps a southern woman had pity, knowing that he was someone’s son. Well, this boy in front of me is someone’s son … someone’s brother, grandson, nephew, friend. His family is mourning him as much as I mourn my own husband and son. The least we can do is bury him … this child. We have no war with him. He is no different than our own sons who marched off to defend their family and their homes. Do not take your anger out on him unless you would have the same anger thrown upon your loved ones who die on the fields. Have some humanity. Have some respect.”
A hush fell over the men and women gathered. The only sound was the trainload of prisoners rattling away, leaving behind the dead boy to be debated over.
“She’s right,” one woman offered, stepping forward to stand beside Widow Hudson. “You can all see for yourself, this is just a child who was far from home and fighting for what he thought was right.”
“Yes,” another woman said. “We must bury him in our cemetery. It’s the decent thing to do.”
The men shifted, mumbling among themselves. “I won’t stand by and see this traitor honored like some war hero. Never!” The farmer stormed off in a cloud of dust.
The men followed him, equally embittered. “That boy’s our enemy. He’s a traitor. You would dishonor our own boys in that way?”
Widow Hudson watched with horror as they walked away, leaving her and two other women with the boy. “I’m afraid I have underestimated their decency and humanity.”
“We’re with you,” one woman said. “We’ll help you bury him. We’ll get a coffin.”
Widow Hudson nodded, hot tears trailing down her cheeks. She placed a hand on the boy’s cold face. “I wonder what his name was.”

****

-Emily