Bastogne's Bastards

I can’t stop shaking.

If there’s a hell in this world, it’s a place where the snow lies quietly and the mist moves along the ground in a fine cloud. Everyone knows what’s beyond those dark trees. (But fear is poison.)

My hands are cold, blue. I’m starving. My jaw chatters in a way that reminds me of Joey’s death rattle. There are times when I think I’ll fall asleep, but I never do, because I’m too cold.

And when the mortars come whistling down -

(He screams, “Incoming!”)

- all I can picture is graduation day, and who Ma’s going to be eating Christmas dinner with.

The first of the trees splinter like they weren’t anything but twigs, and the explosion jars me and the air and everything inside me. I can’t do anything but sink lower in my foxhole and wait for it to be over. I’ve grown numb. It’s during the tenth one that I hear it.

A high, familiar cry that echoes in the smoky air, continuing even after everything – and my quick breath – stops.

“Medic! Medic!”

I shut my eyes.

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