Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Torch


Every Sunday about 2:00 PM, during that long summer's visit, the pair of them went out the lane between the poplars and down the smooth dirt road.

He walked, infantry stiff.
She skipped beside him, her honey hair shining and bouncing in the leaning, lazy sunshine.

Just beyond the clapboard church, the monument stood among the clover and the cicadas. Grandfather always rumbled about bringing the scythe next time.

She pulled away from her grandfather's worn and nobby hand and climbed the smooth steps of the stone base.

As always, she demanded he recite the litany as she touched and traced the foreign names with chubby fingers: Vimy, the Somme, Passchendale, Amiens... and on the other side, Anzio, Ortona, Falaise, the Scheldt...

She liked to hear his deep voice drum out the cadence. The burr was always stronger then for some reason.

She looked up at the bronze figure who leaned on his rifle and gazed forever over the quiet fields to the river.

She waited until Grandpa brought down his hand. She did not ask him what he saw when his face went still like that.

There was no need. She understood the rows of bright ribbon on the uniform packed in Grandma's trunk.

"Grandpa?" she said, "Grandpa. When I grow up I'm going to be a soldier."

32 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

Wonderful!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik.

MissWrite said...

I just love that! I really like that picture you posted along with it too. The spirits of soldiers looking down upon past battlefields. It gives a chill.

I especially liked that last line, what a wonderful display of fresh-faced optomism in the face of grave loss.

Ric said...

My, my, aren't we a roll this week?
Nice stuff, generational, loss/hope for the future,

You are looking for places to publish these things?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Tami.
My daughter is in Afghanistan right now.

Ric, thank you. No, just sharing for the moment... still waiting on the book.

Scott said...

What a nice little piece this is Bernita. Inspirational really. What a great way to introduce why a kid would be motivated to put herself in harms way as an adult.

Bernita said...

Very glad you liked it, Scott.
I have one who wanted to be a soldier since she was 13 - and not for glory.

EA Monroe said...

Lovely, Bernita. I was going to ask if you had loved ones in Afghanistan, but you answered my question to Tami, and the inspiration behind your last two pieces. Good luck and blessings to your daughter.

Carla said...

This is lovely. Understated, but all the depth is there.

Good luck to your daughter in Afghanistan. May she come safely home.

MissWrite said...

Prayers for you daughter in her brave mission, and for you and your family during her absence. I come from a military family (father was career airforce), and know the mixture of pride, and worry well.

Jaye Wells said...

Really great. The imagery was clear and moving.

I can't tell you how many battlefields my father made me go to when I was young--mostly Civil War. Your story ellicited some of the same feelings I had standing at Gettysburg or Appomattox--oppressive stillness with an echo of chaos.

Best wishes for your daughter.

Bernita said...

Thank you, EA, Carla and Tami for your good wishes.
If all goes well, she'll be home next week - this was a special deploy, not as standard roto.

We build on what we know, EA.

Glad it came through, Carla, thank you. One is never sure.

Somehow though you might understand, Tami, for some reason.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jaye.
A little surprised( though pleased) that it echoed or you those battlegrounds - this scene is just a humble place - a place replicated by its thousands across the country.

jason evans said...

Very well written. The scene and the emotion came alive.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Cool! I didn't expect the last line...that was refreshing....LOL...I sorta' got the hint that something was coming 'cause you kept saying...she!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jason.
That's high praise.

Hope you liked it, Bonnie.

kmfrontain said...

Love that little girl. Poor gramps. Like to give him a heart attack, thinking of his little darling going off to war in honor of him. Another of your wonderful twisty bits, Bernita. :D

Bhaswati said...

Vivid and poignant. A lesson in memoir writing. Can I sign up for your class? Honestly, you should be charging money to teach writing :)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Karen!
You know, I've never been able to decide.

Kind of you, Bhaswati.Thank you.

Bhaswati, btw, doesn't need lessons. She's a memoir finalist. You can read her charming piece on her blog.

Dennie McDonald said...

awww.......

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I did! and I especially like the picture. It reminds me of the armies of heaven!

M.E Ellis said...

This was a very good passage!

The voice was especially clear.

Fave line was the one where his voice rumbled.

WOOT!

:o)

Bernita said...

Indeed, Dennie, I had the same reaction to Bhaswati's memoir.

See what you mean, Bonnie, having been brought up on "Onward, Christian Soldiers."

Makes me happy,Michelle. Thank you.

Gabriele C. said...

Another of your Expressionist paintings - a few deft strokes and there's a stunning image.

Ballpoint Wren said...

Bernita! How did I miss that your daughter is in Afghanistan?

Now I really don't like that John character. What a dope!

Zinnia said...

Perfect pic to go with that tale!

Bernita said...

What a lovely comparison, Gabriele! Thank you.
~ shall cherish that~

Remember, he's a man, Bonnie...

Pleased you like it, Zinnia.

Jeff said...

Very nice, Bernita. :)

Bhaswati said...

"Bhaswati, btw, doesn't need lessons. She's a memoir finalist. You can read her charming piece on her blog."

Which, btw, you helped polish, Bernita. I still need a few lessons all right. :P

Sela Carsen said...

Lovely imagery, Bernita. We don't have the standing war memorials in every village here the way I saw in England. I loved seeing those. It keeps the memory -- and the purpose -- of sacrifice in the front of your mind.

Safe return for your daughter, B.

Bernita said...

Pooh, Bhaswati...the odd phrase was all.

Thank you, Sela.
Here, in Canada, there is seldom a hamlet, a village, a community without one, it seems.

anna said...

I didn't have time to read all the comments but I can well imagine they are the same Wonderful!

This touched me!