Talk turned to history last night at my weekly writer's meeting. Local, regional, West Virginian and Civil War and I was reminded of the story I wrote a few years ago, based on a prompt. Hmmm...almost all my stories begin that way, with a prompt...
Anyway, the following story appeared in the online, historical journal, The Copperfield Review. The journal features fiction, non-fiction and reviews of historical novels. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy reading it and will add it to my "frequent reading links" (must find a better title, any suggestions?).
As far as I can tell The Copperfield Review doesn't archive their past issues, so for those interested I've posted the entire story below, it runs about 2500 words.
Enjoy. Let me know what y'all think.
P.S. Some of the formatting has gone all weird on me and I can't figure out how to change it, my apologies. ; 0
Are the stars out tonight?
I always hated the way she fussed over me. Treated me like a little boy, all the time. But now I’d give anything to have Mama fussing at me, smoothing my hair down and clicking her tongue. Now
I turn and try to get comfortable on this cold, hard ground. Mama would have a fit if she saw me. Bout right now I’m catching pneumonia, at least, must be below freezing. Who said the south was warm? This damp cold chills me to the bone.
I roll over again, trying to ignore
I’m wearing the shoes I wore when I left Cobleskill, just fine for farming, but not for southern swamps. My feet haven’t been dry for days, not since
North from Cobleskill and old
Peaceful night tonight, clouds have cleared and now I can see the full moon, lights up the entire valley. So clear we’ll be able to see our targets just fine. But that means the Rebs can see us too. Just look at those stars, so bright. Could
“The clouds have cleared and the moon is full. We need to be extra careful.”
I’m tired of following this Reb regiment around. If they would just stay in place all night we could get it done. This sneaking around is not my idea of fighting a war. Don’t even have a proper uniform. Better to stay in your own clothes the Lieutenant said, just in case you’re caught. Caught, geez, can’t think about that. I’ve seen the condition of the Rebs. They’re in worse shape than us, uniforms torn and tattered and many have no shoes. How can they keep marching through these fields with no shoes? Every night since we started following them we’ve killed a snake. And these bugs are not like any I’ve ever seen. Buzzing in my eyes, biting every bit of skin not covered. I’ve been thinking that maybe the Rebs are setting out these critters to attack us. I’ve scratched so much I’m bleeding. And
I can’t sleep so there ain’t no use in wasting time, we best get a move on. I shove
“We don’t know that. And I don’t know bout you, but I have a pretty gal waiting for me that I intend to stay alive for.” I pull
“Geez, I’m starved,
“We get our mission done tonight we can head back to camp.”
“Good, I’ve had enough of this grub we been carrying with us. My stomach’s aching for some real food.”
I pick up my rifle and tell
“Come on, let’s walk the ridge and see what we can find. Gotta be quiet
“Ok, let’s find us some Rebs.”
“You look worried,
“No, couldn’t. Kept thinking about home.”
“Ah, home. If I close my eyes I can smell the bacon Mama fries for breakfast.”
“Is that all you can think about
“ Well, it’s what I miss the most.”
“You miss your sweetheart?”
“But you are.”
“This ain’t war. This is spying stuff and I don’t like it. How can I go home a war hero if nobody knows what I’m doing?”
“You shouldn’t be doing it for the glory,
“Yeah, well, the
“I want to march home all decked out in a fine, clean uniform. Boots polished, buttons shiny and medals pinned to my chest.”
“Yup, just think of all those pretty girls who’ll come running to me, a war hero and all. I can spin my tales of crushin’ those rebels and fightin’ in such miserable conditions and…”
“I guess, but I don’t like not being able to tell what we’re doing. It ain’t right.”
“Looks like they’re settling in for the night.”
“They set up tents. Guess they plan on staying a while, lucky for us. Let’s see how close we can get.”
I wish the moon wasn’t so bright, almost like daylight.
Hope the crickets and bullfrogs mask our rustlings. I make my way over to
“Frank, how ya doing there?”
“Must have met up with reinforcements.”
“I ain’t never seen so many Rebs in one place, kinda scary.”
“I know. Let’s lay low and watch ‘em for a while.”
“Frank, let’s get in closer, keep your head down and your powder dry. We need to reach that knoll over there. Then we can get a clear shot down into their camp.”
I stick close to
Course with these new rifles they gave us, it’s hard to imagine missing anything. The Lieutenant says I can kill a man at
“Ok, let’s have a look. Keep your eyes open for sentries. They might be posted out at
I’m kinda surprised we haven’t run into any sentries. I guess they really aren’t expecting us, or any Yanks, or surely they’d be scouting some. Maybe it’s some kinda omen in our favor. No way we can do this without the element of surprise.
I feel queasy. How am I gonna shoot a man? Never pointed a rifle at anything but food. Proud to say none of my kills ever suffered. Never had to track a wounded animal, always a clear shot and a clean kill. Couldn’t stomach wounding and having to put it out of its misery and I sure didn’t have any choice in this assignment. After seeing
I look around, no sign of anyone out here, just the white of
“OK, Frank, belly to the ground now. We got to slink on in the last
As I reach the knoll,
That must be the officer’s tent, just like
are officers? The Lieutenant was real strong about that, don’t shoot any enlisted men, only officers, any officers, and as many as we could.
“Frank, let’s take our position right here. We have a good view of that tent and can see who’s coming and going.”
I hear rustling, could be a sentry. I motion to
I turn my head in all directions, no sign of the sentry. That was a little too close. I take a deep breath. We need to get this done. I motion to
Let’s see what I got in these iron sights. Should we be shooting into the tent? Are all six of those men officers? Wait, someone’s coming out. Three men, all look to be officers with shoulder broads and white gloves. This is it.
I can see their faces; ‘cept for their uniforms they could be
Target in sights, deep breath, squeeze the trigger, nice and easy.
Too much smoke—can’t see—did I get him? Where’s