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Live Forever

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I really had no clue what war was like. My fiancée, Paige, had urged me to enlist when she began work at a factory, helping supply resources for the war effort. I had duly enlisted and trained. I did not expect to be the best soldier or to be in any major battle, but I could then say that I had done my bit.
Several months of training and exchanges of letters passed and I was transferred near the front. The voyage had not been the best, but the trip luckily didn’t take too long.
I was sitting in our tent writing yet another letter to Paige, when Teddy came in. Teddy- whose actual name was Theodore, but was affectionately known as Teddy because he was the youngest of all of us at 18 years old- sat on the threadbare cot across from mine.
“Hey,” he said as he leaned back against the tent. “What do you call a woman with the legs of a horse?”
I looked up from my letter. “I don’t know. What is she called?”
“An alien!” he guffawed.
I rolled my eyes, but smiled at Teddy’s enthusiasm. “Clever. But don’t lean against the tent; you’ll knock it down like you did last time!”
“Sorry.” He leaned forward again. “Do you think the commander will like the joke?”
“I don’t think he will, so I strongly suggest you don’t tell him.”
Teddy grinned at me, his blue eyes laughing with the rest of his expression. “The commander says we might move to Base 3 tomorrow. What do you suggest we do about that?”
“We’ll follow the commander of course, so I suggest we start packing to be ready. I better finish this letter if we are leaving in the morning.”
Teddy grabbed the letter out of my hands and began dictating in a loud voice: “My dear Paige! How I do love you, with your long golden hair and big green eyes, your melodious voice…”
George came in at that moment and looked astounded. Teddy paused and I seized the chance to take my letter back.
“What was that?” George stared at Teddy, who turned red with embarrassment.
“It was nothing. I was practicing a speech for the person I love.”
George nodded. “As long as it wasn’t to me, I’m sure that person would love that speech.”
Teddy quickly shook his head. “Sorry George, but your hair isn’t as golden as Paige’s.” He winked at me.
George laughed and slapped Teddy on the back. “Maybe not, maybe not. Still I do love my golden hair and green eyes…”
They both laughed and George lay back on his cot. Teddy got up to go, and as he opened the tent flap he was wracked by a sudden coughing fit and had to sit back down. George and I looked at him with a slight concern.
“Getting a cold Teddy? I thought bears were supposed to be naturally warm.” George looked at Teddy quizzically.
Teddy took a minute to get his color back. “I don’t know. I was with Jeremy down in the clinic and he had a cold,” he sniffed. “I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s probably just a flu going around. I’ll see you guys later.”
After that he left. George fell asleep and I continued my letter. As I was about to sign my name, Teddy’s words echoed back to me and I thought about his catching a flu from Jeremy. I looked down at the letter, where Teddy’s hands had grabbed it minutes before.
It may be the flu, I thought. But I don’t want to get Paige sick.
I tore it down the center and threw it onto the fire.
A week or two after moving to Base 3, Teddy was sitting with me and George in our makeshift cafeteria. We were due to move out into battle the next day and none of us were entirely enthusiastic about it, but Teddy was deadly silent.
George and I were munching on bread and next to us, Teddy was barely eating his soup. He had grown slightly thinner and his cold had worsened, but he refused to see the nurse. He could still train with us and even beat George in a 3 mile run. But I could sense that he was not feeling well at all.

I was about to ask him about considering going to the clinic when a man suddenly walked by the table. George and I looked at him with interest as Teddy looked into his soup. He had on a casual suit, and held a big camera in his hand.
“That must be that photographer the commander was telling us about yesterday. The guy who wanted to take pictures of us so we could live forever. Go down in history or whatever it was.”
Teddy sniffed and suddenly turned his head around to look. “I want to live forever!” he exclaimed, his voice rough but with more eagerness than I had ever heard before from him.
George chuckled. “Careful, Teddy. We’ll get a photo in a moment.”
Teddy kept looking back at the man however, so George relented and the three of us went over. The man agreed to take our picture and stood us in front of our own tent.
“Say ‘hero’!”
“Hero!” George and I smiled as Teddy gave a large grin, his arms around the two of us. A flash went off and our picture was done.
“Was that it?” asked Teddy, his voice quietening.
“Don’t worry Teddy. You’ll live forever.” I promised, and George echoed my words. Teddy did not notice, but both George and I were worried. Teddy went into the tent and George turned to me.
“I went to the clinic yesterday after the commander’s speech, and you know what I heard?”
“What did you hear?” I asked.
“Jeremy, the guy from the clinic? He died shortly after we moved-died of some kind of flu.” George looked at me with nothing but concern in his face.
I gasped. “Teddy was working with him wasn’t he? Does he have it do you think?”
“I wish I knew, but I really don’t know,” George stared back at me. “And I don’t mean any disrespect, but if any one of us here in camp deserve to live forever, it’s Teddy. He’s a good kid.”
George walked away and I was left by our tent, not knowing what to do or what to say.
The next fateful day of battle had come upon us, and we marched out to the field, positioning ourselves in the trenches. Next to me, Teddy looked truly terrible. His cheeks were pale and he trembled with fatigue. I had no doubts now as to the origins of his cold and I also knew that it was definitely more than a cold.
“Teddy, you need to go to the nurse right now! You can’t possibly fight today!”
He just stared at me with cloudy blue eyes and no expression on his face.
I gazed at him with disbelief when the commander behind us suddenly shouted and we were all running towards the enemy lines, through grass, mud and-a few seconds after we ran-bodies. I was leaping over each one and Teddy followed beside me when there was a blast next to me.
Everything felt like it was one fire for a moment and I lay where I had fallen. Struggling to my knees, I glanced over to where Teddy had fallen.
He stared at the sky and as I crawled over to him, his gaze turned to me. His nose was running, and he was breathing heavily, but hollowly. As he tried to rack in a breath, he gave a shudder and his side began turning red.
“I thought I was going to live forever.” His blue eyes became dull and he leaned back against the dirt.
I could only sit back and look at him helplessly. I spoke my final words to him. “I promise you will Teddy. You’ll be a hero.” And amidst the chaos and war, I started crying.
I am now nearly 80 years old. Paige had died a year ago of some complicated disease, and I was visiting a war memorial with my daughter and my grandson.
My daughter scanned the marble wall for the various people and places I had told her about and she beckoned me over near to the edge of the wall.
“I think this is it.” She pointed, and my grandson came running over, looking at the wall with eagerness. I knew he did not know anything about the war and that he was probably hoping for ice cream after the trip instead of thinking about the people on the wall.
However, as he looked at the wall, he pointed with a familiar eagerness at a name. “Look Grandpa! He has my name!”
I smiled, and my eyes saw a familiar photograph engraved near to the list of names. It had the outline of three men in front of a tent, showing one of the rare moments of smiles and relaxation in the war.
I did not know how long marble lasted, but I knew that this memorial could last forever if left untouched by the world. All the names and people on that wall would live forever.
“That’s right Teddy.” I sighed and chuckled. “He does have your name.”



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