The Soldier This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The soldier lay dying while the shrapnel landed all around him. The air was a suffocating blanket of smoke and it choked him. Although nothing could be seen through the smoke and haze, there were sounds. Horrible sounds. There was the sound of the bullets whizzing through the air and the boom of cannons going off. But those noises had become so continuous the last couple of days here at Gettysburg that they became almost as unnoticeable as your own breathing.

But the sound of the yells ... the yells penetrated the smoke and echoed in the boy's head. Never in his 16 years had he heard so much yelling and screaming in one place. There were yells begging for life. There were yells begging for forgiveness. There were yells begging for death.

The boy no longer yelled. He had screamed earlier, when the soldiers swarmed past, paying him no notice. He had yelled. That was when the pain had been so severe. Now it was almost like the sounds of bullets and cannons - unnoticeable. He didn't yell for death anymore; he knew it was near.

The boy's leg was gone. Just blown away from the knee down. The blood, cracked and brown, was crusted all over his once sparkling gray uniform. His stomach lurched as he thought of it. The boy's lips were parched and he longed for water. Closing his eyes, he thought of his younger sisters, Jane and Marilyn. Jane was six and Marilyn was ten. What would Pa do without him to help look after the farm? Thinking of the farm, he remembered the long- stretching fields of cotton and tobacco. He thought of walking up the dirt road leading to the house. His dog Rusty would come running and lick him and jump up at him. Then the slave quarters cabin would come into view.

The slaves would be working in the fields. The boy knew that was what slaves did and that was what they would do, but he always found himself giving them water and bread while they worked and actually talking to them. He had even secretly befriended a slave boy about his age. Of course, Pa knew nothing of this. If he had, the boy would surely have been punished.

Then the huge house where he and his family lived would come into view. The house had been in the family for generations. It had a large porch that wrapped around three sides with ten windows on each of the four sides. The paint was fresh and sparkling white. It stood tall and proud on a small hill.

The boy remembered hunting trips with his father. They would tip-toe carefully through the woods that lay behind the house. Often, he would shoot a raccoon or two. He had always had good aim with a rifle. He could hear his father saying, "Good shot there, Johnny! Looks like you just got us our dinner tonight." Glowing with prid,e he would march home with his father and show off his prize. Ma would have the meat prepared by the kitchen workers. It would be a special feast with meats and all different kinds of cheese and fresh milk and fruit and bread still warm from the oven.

His mother's fine brown hair would be in a smooth bun and she would he wearing her favorite flowered dress. They would all gather in the dining room and eat and talk and share what had happened in their lives that day.

John jerked himself back to the present. He blinked, realizing that his eyes were filled with tears. He hated this war. He struggled to pull himself up. A tremendous surge of pain ripped through his body and he fell back, breathing heavily. The boy lay still. He prayed for something to end his misery. Whether it be surrender or death, he didn't care. He just wanted it to end.

Slowly, very slowly, things began to go fuzzy. John couldn't tell where he was or what was happening. His eyes fluttered shut. The sounds and his pain seemed to fade away. The boy breathed deeply and sighed his last breath. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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forever_dancer said...
Aug. 28, 2009 at 10:14 pm
soft, sweet, and as harsh as a whip. I love it
 
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