Borne of Personal Strifeby Author / Patrick L. Kain
Borne of Personal Strife
Copyright 2017 Patrick Kain
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents (You Are Here)
Downed In A Storm
The Paper Package
Their True Colors
Connect With the Author
Downed In a Storm
The rain fell hard. Lightning flashed, creating a spider’s web in the clouds. The thunder roared and the wind whipped at the long-leafed trees. The heat made the air feel more like steam, and the fog made it thick. Rain did little to water down the soup pot in which the lone man found himself caught. His uniform was drenched in sweat and raindrops. On his back was an old Lee-Enfield rifle, polka-dotted by water drops. A helmet guarded his head, and the strap around his chin was kept loose.
The man’s pace was slowed. The road was covered in an ankle-deep layer of muddy water, and the silt beneath his boots seemed to breathe deep every time he lifted them. His breathing heaved as he walked off from the road and up a shallow slope. Near the edge of the forest, he leant against the trunk of a large banyan tree.
After a moment, he sat down. The forest floor was damp, and small patches of grass and ferns dotted the leaf litter. The man pulled his rifle around, and aimed it at some unseen enemy that no one but him could spot. Thunder continued to roar, even as the rain began to ease. With one hand, he pulled off his shallow steel helmet. The rain felt cool against his balding scalp. He leaned against the trunk of the tree, the grainy bark cool against the back of his head.
His eyes felt heavier with every minute. The pattering of the rain eased his tension as he closed his eyes. Just forty winks, he thought, maybe then the rain will have stopped. Just before entering sleep, he muttered, “Just forty winks…”
The soldier did not dream. When he awoke, the sky had cleared. The gibbous moon cast a pale glow across the forest. The only sounds were those of the forest: crickets, frogs, and birds. He was just about to nod off again until he heard a sound that stood out from the rest: the rumble of an engine. As the sound got closer, he heard a splash. A puddle on the road, doubtless. The man stood up, and in the distance he could see a dark green mass coming up the road.
The object pulled up closer. He quickly pulled his helmet back over his head, and picked up his rifle. He ran towards the edge of the road, the bright red stripes of the Union Jack could be spotted on the side of the canvas cover of the vehicle’s back end. He called, “Oi,” and waved his rifle back and forth.
The vehicle stopped, and the driver, on the left side of the cab, leant out to see him. “You’re a sight, ain’t no mistake.”
“Got shot down over Bangkok. Been taking the back roads for the past two days.”
“Caught in the downpour, were you?”
“Yep, that I was.”
“Well, no sense keeping you out here this late at night.”
“Thank you, kindly.” He jogged around the vehicle and got into the passenger’s side. He closed the door, and the driver drove on. After a moment of silence, the soldier spoke again, “The Nips have really got the place locked down.”
“Aye, I’d figure,” the driver replied, “With how rough we’ve had it here.”
“You’d think we were fighting a war.”
“True, too true.”
“Boy, am I gonna get ripped a new one when I get back to base.”
“Your officer that much a hard-ass?”
“Worse, when he’s in a bad mood.”
“Well, you have to face the music sooner or later.”
“Sure wished it was later, mate.”
“I don’t blame you.” All around them, more men in uniform marched. Chain fences and flimsy towers rose into sight as the driver pulled past the guard post. He sighed. “Well, here ye are. Hope you don’t get it too bad in there.” He extended his hand.
The soldier took the driver’s hand and smiled. “Thanks a bunch, mate.”
“Think nothing of it.” The soldier opened the door and slid out. The door shut, and the man walked slowly towards the officer’s quarters. His pace was that of a pallbearer, carrying a coffin towards its final resting place. “Think nothing of it.”
The Paper Package
“My Darling Llewellyn,” he read, “I hope this finds you well. I know it is approaching Christmas, and I’m aware that your unit is being relieved, so when better to send this to you? I hope you’re pleasantly surprised by what I have sent you. I know you will be quite pleased by these. Signed, sincerely, and with love, mum.”
He put down the letter, and picked up the paper package from his bunk. He ran his finger up and down the side. He felt a cardboard box underneath.
A man began laughing. He looked around the tent and said, “Look here mates, Lew Baines got a package from mum. Ain’t we all jealous?”
The rest of the tent began cackling, until a bespectacled, bearded sergeant looked up from his book. He closed the book, sat up from his bunk and said, “Alright, you jokers, that’s enough of that. Leave the man be, for God’s sake.”
The men calmed down. Baines sighed. He looked at the sergeant and said, “Thanks, Sarge. ‘Bout time these hyenas got told what was what.”
“There’ll be no harassment in my unit.”
“That’s not gonna stop them.”
“I’ll put them in their place, soon.”
“So, what you thinking your mum sent?”
“Dunno. Can’t think of anything she’d send me that wouldn’t be searched.”
“She send it through Red Cross?”
“Yeah. And it kinda has the smell of,” He took a whiff, “Caster sugar?”
“May be some kind of pastry hiding in there.”
“Won’t know until tomorrow. ‘Tis Christmas Eve, y’know?”
“Aye, aye. Then you aught to be sure that’s kept under close guard.”
“Aye, aye.” He laid back on his bunk, and wrapped his arms around the package. “G’night, serge.”
“G’night, Baines. See you at Christmas.” He laid back onto his bunk, and opened his book back to the chapter he was reading.