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12 / receiving life

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I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

the CULTIVATING

journal

The Last Letter from the Battlefield

April 15, 2020



 

From: Givensly Historic Society

To:  Ministry of Defense

To whom it may concern,

We at the Givensly Historic Society have been given lease to excavate the battle site of the final engagement of the War of Resilience.  Being that this site holds treasures more than one hundred years old, we have taken the greatest of care to preserve what artifacts we have been able to excavate.  It is our hope that the Ministry would see fit to display these treasures for the public’s edification and appreciation.  An inventory of collected items to be found in the accompanying box are as follows:

1 canteen (Givenslish),

17 bullet casings,

1 hand stitched flag (Givenslish),

Wooden Fife (Partial),

5 Photographs of enlisted men’s family (Presumed),

and 1 written letter.

The letter is of particular interest as it tells of this soldier’s experience of what was an unconfirmed but rumored skirmish that happened after the Thatcheries military unconditionally surrendered.  It seems that these men were not killed during the battle, as their families were informed, but AFTER the battle was meant to be over!  As the letter reports, the enemy fought their hardest when they knew there was no hope of victory, and it cost these men dearly.  We do not know what happened to this particular squad of dishonorable Thatcheries but one can surmise they were probably eventually rounded up with the rest of their men and deported back to their homeland in chains.  But had we known of their deplorable act, they never would have been sent home!

The family name of this soldier is written on the envelope.  Perhaps any surviving relatives could be contacted and allowed to view this incredible find.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Maradore Wroothe

Chairperson of the Givensly Historic Society

P.S.  I think it will interest anyone who reads this letter to know that the entire battlefield is now covered with blue plimsly flowers.

 

Hello Mother,

I’m afraid this will be my last letter.  I know you’ve heard by now that the war is over and the enemy is surrendered.  We got word over the radio just this morning.  Unfortunately, the battalion of enemy troops encamped around us did not lay down their arms when their command, I assume, radioed them of their defeat.  What was once a quiet spot on this barren, mud-soaked battlefield with rarely a shot fired has become a rainstorm of bullets and bombs.  I assume they are of the sort that would rather use up all their ammunition making us pay for the victory.  And reinforcements are too far away to get here before the enemy figures out I’m the only one in this bunker left and come to finish me off.  I’m sorry mother.  Try not to be sad.  I hope you will be proud that I die well. 

Would you report to the mothers of Harvey, Robert, Conrad and Abraham that they were all brought down defending their post and fellow soldiers?  You need not tell them the details I’ll share with you.

Harvey, as you know, was always the hot head.  He would charge the enemy single handed if our Commander would let him.  Well when we got the broadcast that the war was over, that’s basically what he did.  He leapt up on the wall and shouted… well, I won’t repeat to you, dear Mother, what exactly he said but you would have gone for the soap for sure!  He shouted and laughed at the enemy and boasted of their failure.  He pulled our flag down off the pole and waved it defiantly over his head as he paraded across the ledge  …and that’s when one of them shot him down.  We couldn’t recover him because immediately after, the hail of bullets began.

Abraham was next.  Abraham was the troublesome one of our lot.  Some even suspected he was a Thatchery spy.  I don’t think he was at all.  But Abraham did give the enemy more credit than they gave him.  When Harvey was killed Abraham snapped.  The barrage of bullets broke his spirit.  He couldn’t believe that the radio announcement was true in the face of the terror being thrown at us.  How could the war be over if the enemy fought so ferociously?  It was all too much for him.  He screamed at us about wanting out – how we were never going to win – how even if we did there was no point in it if we died now.  Then he grabbed a white rag and ran toward the enemy lines.  They stopped firing as he ran at them and he started running faster, tearing off his uniform and shouting phrases he learned in Thatchery.  They waited until he was just a few feet from their trench and then they shot him dead.

Robert, kind chap, had trouble finding his nerve each time the enemy would engage.  He’d eventually come around to it but when it would quiet down again he would spend his time in the corner with a map, plotting each possible way the enemy might surprise us.  I suppose it was his way of being a good soldier, but since the enemy was encamped ahead of us and we had a clear view of their camp most of the time, and behind us was ((GEOGRAPHIC FEATURE REDACTED)) they couldn’t have come at us that way.  I think maybe it just somehow made him feel better to imagine other dangers than face the real one right in front of us.  Robert suspected the radio broadcast to be a trap.  He didn’t believe it.  And when the fury came and we lost Harvey and Abraham, Robert just couldn’t take it, poor chap.  His face went blank.  It’s as if all his fears had come true to him and he lost all sense of hope.  He put down his gun, took off his helmet, and just walked off into the trees near the ((GEOGRAPHIC FEATURE REDACTED))

Conrad, dear, dear Conrad.  Conrad was the best of us.  Conrad brought with him a fife that he would play in the evenings.  He would even play some Thatchery songs, not because he held sympathy for their cause, but he said they were men just like we, and they were far from their homes just like we, and they were worthy of a moment of peace just like we.  He would set up our shelters like rooms at home as much as he could.  Setting up ammo boxes under drop cloths like a table.  He drew things in the dirt and even carried with him a potted blue plimsly flower that he would water from his own canteen!  When Conrad heard the radio broadcast he smiled as one who already knew.  He did not cheer like some of the others, and he didn’t mock the enemy like Harvey, but he belly laughed with such gladness!  When the fury began and Harvey was taken down with our flag, Conrad took off his coat and grabbed the drop cloth and several other bits of canvas and tarpaulin and set to work constructing a makeshift flag with our little sewing kit we were issued.  As I huddled against the wall, covering my ears from the pounding blasts and pop pop pops of the enemy guns I shouted at Conrad.  “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”  He looked up and smiled at me and said “There are other bunkers in this field with men in them who need to know that the war is won!”  He finished his flag, and crawled out of our bunker and onto the roof where the flagpole was.  He stood proudly, raised the flag, saluted it, then pulled out his fife and played our Anthem so beautifully… I know it must seem strange but the song was so clear above the noise of the blasts and bullets… so strange and beautiful that it gave my heart courage.  I looked over the wall and could see the tops of other men’s heads in their bunkers as they listened too.  It wasn’t long before the music abruptly stopped and there was a loud thump on the roof, and Conrad did not return.  But his gift still flies on the flagpole and his song still rings in my heart.

Do you remember how Grandmama would try to get us to behave with stories of the dark one who lived in the middle of the earth?  The creature who made bad things happen?  You would tell her to stop that nonsense but she would start back up again when you left the room.  Don’t think too harshly of her for this please.  Sister and I liked her stories.  The reason I ask is that once she told us that the dark one had already lost its battle against its enemy… I think she called it ‘the good light bringer’ or something, and that it was so mad that it meant to do as much damage before being locked away forever, even hurting and killing the children of the light bringer if it could.  She said that we shouldn’t be surprised when bad things happened more and more and more because it meant that the dark one knew its time was almost over.  Grandmama thought that the world getting worse meant that things were getting better?  I don’t know if I understood everything she meant, but I hope she’s right because things feel very bad right now. 

I guess all that’s left for me is to choose how to die.  Shall I try to run?  Shall I try to bargain with the enemy?  Shall I despair?  Or shall I believe, as Conrad did, that regardless of what it seems like around me right now, that the victory has already been won?  There is no more ammunition to kill men, so shall my enemy now be the dark one, not the Thatcheries? 

Conrad knew we had won.  I’m going to spend my last moments living like it’s true and helping others believe it too.  Maybe he and Grandmama were wrong.  I hope not.  But even so, since I can choose, it’s a better way to meet my end.  I will live these last few minutes as if I am home with you.  I will set my table and eat my final ration as if it is one of the holy day feasts.  I will plant and water Conrad’s flower with what is left in my canteen and I will sing as loudly as I can songs from home, so that anyone who can hear my voice above the fray will know that the victory is won.  (Grandmama told me the dark one especially hates music.)

I love you, Mother.

Your Good Lad

 



The featured image is by Noah Boyer on Unsplash. We are grateful for his generosity.



 

Adam R. Nettesheim

comments

  1. Matthew Cyr says:

    Adam, this is hands down my favorite thing I’ve seen from you. I love everything about this idea. So much allegory in such a small space here. A great reminder that the war is truly won despite appearances and ongoing skirmishing. I’m glad such a fine photo of plimslys in bloom was available as well.

  2. This is brilliant, Adam. What a great idea – and it works. Man, I love it.

  3. mary miller says:

    Adam, I was deeply touched reading your tale this morning. Lest we forget . The battle is already won. The dark one wants us to believe we have been defeated but he has already been conquered and defeated. Sewing a flag today from the remnants of scattered hope and lifting it triumphantly.

  4. Sarah says:

    Oh man. Grandmama did some beautiful gardening in his soul. Thank you for these words! I loved imagining it as I was reading. The victory is ours.

  5. Adam R. Nettesheim says:

    Mr. Cyr thank you! It’s an honor to be in a company with writers such as yourself. I’m glad the idea resonates. It gave me comfort to think that things getting worse is actually a sign that the enemy is in the throws of defeat.

  6. Adam R. Nettesheim says:

    Thank you Mr. Clark! Hearing something works is a great relief for me! I sure do appreciate you.

  7. Adam R. Nettesheim says:

    Mary thank you for taking the time to say so! Yes the flag stitched together with bits of this and that often feels like what we do doesn’t it? Thank God He can use even patchwork flags to declare his victory!

  8. Adam R. Nettesheim says:

    Thanks Sarah! We owe a lot to those who’ve gone before nurturing the soil of our hearts with ancient stories don’t we?

  9. Amy Lee says:

    Adam, this is my standing ovation for such a beautiful story. Three cheers for this brave, dear lad who held his ground to the end in every way that mattered.

    One question (from an overly interested reader): who redacted the geographic features? Why was the redaction necessary when the war was over?

  10. Adam R. Nettesheim says:

    Many thanks Amy! May we all be so brave in our various battles, as you said, in every way that matters.

    I’m delighted the quirky little redaction detail fascinated you! The simple answer is I thought it was fun and it would add a bit of real worldiness to it and though I had that question myself, I chose to leave it in. The more I think about it the more I think it was to give a tinge of grey to the Givensly society. Even our best examples of society have their dark points or go through their dark periods. The hero was much less this particular nation, though that nation is far more honorable in action than the Thatcheries, but the hero is more the lad who chose to live well in the spirit of the light than a blind type of nationalism, though he was certainly a patriot for his country. Not trying to disparage the Givenslies, but accept that we all are fallen in some way, as will be even our best institutions, but how do we live well when even things are not perfect?

    Maybe that’s more than it really is but I love that it caught you. Hope it was a pleasant rabbit hole, not a distracting plot hole. 🙂

  11. Adam R. Nettesheim says:

    An additional note for Amy’s question as I remembered more about writing this:

    My Grandmother was an archaeologist (the name of the historical society was a reworking of her name) and I thought also that if this letter was to be displayed beyond the Military it would be wise to redact specific features since it’s an active excavation site. So these are being seen by someone other than the point military person. Perhaps it’s being displayed in a museum since it catalogs the items and tells of the current state of the battlefield as it pertains to the flowers?

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