Waiting for Your Reply
"I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell."
-William Tecumseh Sherman
2 weeks later
Praise Jesus the curse of dysentery has lifted! For me anyway. I'm relieved I didn't lose my life to such a petty matter. Others haven't been so fortunate.
There are still others who are going through the worst of the illness (mostly replacements who are new arrivals) and are constantly cursing under their breath when they tramp off to do their business. If I didn't know any better I would laugh at them.
The heat persists in France which encourages fleas and ticks to infest our clothes and positions. Since Taylor's death and Flynn's evacuation, Grayson and I have stuck together since we really don't have anyone else. Other veterans have their friends and we don't want to get too close to a replacement.
I wonder if Mrs. Taylor will write back. It seems likely but the posties take their sweet time getting the mail to us boys at the front so I'll probably end up waiting for a while longer.
Grayson snapping at a replacement forces me out my thoughts. I glance over at Grayson who stands several feet away. My friend looks extremely angry and the replacement simply looks fearful. I watch the scene play out, feeling indifferent. It's funny how at the beginning of the war, I would have defended someone who was being bullied even if I didn't know them. But now I just don't care and neither do I have the energy to do anything.
Giving one last snappy remark to the replacement, Grayson stalks towards me, shoulders hunched in anger, cigarette firmly planted between his lips. He looks so ridiculous I can't help but think of Herbie and laugh.
"The hell you laughin at Hartigan?" He snarls.
I break out into a fit of laughter. "You look hilarious when you're angry!"
He scowls at me which makes me laugh even harder. Slowly, his face breaks out into a broad grin and his booming laugh fills the air alongside mine.
It feels like it has been years since I last laughed at something and I mean genuine laughter. Not forced laughter that accompanies a morbid joke.
After a while we fall silent, grinning like a bunch of fools at each other. "Who did I remind you of?" Grayson asks me, frowning at his cigarette lying on the ground. "Goddammit I dropped it."
I snicker. "I was thinking of Herbie."
"I look nothing like him!" My friend protests.
"That may be so," I say. "But it's the first thing that came to mind. Besides, why were you taking a bite out of that replacement?"
Grayson snorted. "It's not important. He kept whining about how much he missed home back in P.E.I. and so I told him to suck it up 'cause all of us here got a family and talking about it, let alone hearing about it, is painful enough. I told him to go bother Morrison."
I inwardly laugh at the plight of Morrison. "Well, better him than you as they say eh?"
Grayson chuckles. "Morrison was in Ortona Hartigan; he can handle that kid."
Morrison was considered to be the toughest Sergeant in our unit, next to Flynn of course. He had been in Italy the previous year and fought the Italians and Germans. Grayson, Taylor, Wright and I had learned a lot from Morrison and had a lot to be grateful for because of him. You could say he was a bit of a father figure.
Most of us felt he should be promoted; we're more willing to follow him than any officer any day. As much as we trust him, I've only come to realize now how little any us know about him. All I know is that he's from Nova Scotia and ended up in New Brunswick to work for his uncle in his fishing business. None of us have any idea if he has a wife, any children, siblings, parents, nothing. That uncle is the only relative we know of. But I suppose none of that is important out here.
I allow a curt laugh. "Good 'ol Morrison. If only Canada could get an entire army of men like him then I reckon this war would be over quickly."
"Speak of the devil! Here comes Morrison now!" Grayson exclaims. "Jesus Christ man you got the 'look'."
The Sergeant gives Grayson the stink eye. "So does everyone here Private; it's called 'a lack of sleep' and 'extreme fatigue'. I thought you of all people would know that."
Grayson appears to be unfazed by Morrison's snarky attitude and dares to grin at him in a taunting manner. "Well, aren't we a little hostile this fine summer day?"
The Sarge gives glares at Grayson, shutting him up in an instant. Morrison then turns his attention to me. "How do you put up with this jackass?"
"I ask myself the same question." I reply.
Grayson gaps at me. "Excuse you! You're the mopy poet here Hartigan. You and your flowery prose."
"I'm not a poet you moron." I snap.
Morrison puts a hand up in surrender. "Alright I'm leaving you lovebirds alone since you obviously have some issues to work out."
As the Sergeant leaves us and joins another pair of boys from our outfit, my companion has a look of disbelief on his face. "Can you believe that guy?!"
"Yes I can actually." I say.