I love WWII. I got the idea after having a nightmare. I dreamed that the Nazis (with the help of...
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The train was moving fast now. There was only one way to describe it: it was long, really long.
Arthur slowly opened his eyes to be greeted by a blank, tan ceiling above. As he sat up, his eyes scanned the compartment. Through the large window he could see an open field with a grey sky above. Just what he needed to darken his mood. The walls of the compartment were made out of study wood. There were two long benches for seats. They were long enough to make a descent bed for Arthur’s scrawny six-foot frame. The floor, of course, was covered with carpet. The people who designed this train clearly had no taste, for the carpet was an ugly shade of puce.
As he ran his hand across the seat, a yawn struck him, forcing him to close his eyes. It had been a long night. He stood up, smoothing out his wrinkled shirt. Arthur made a mental note to himself not to wear nice clothes to bed. He shook his head in disbelief as he changed into a white t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He wasn’t normally that lazy. He moved closer to the door.
He opened his door and was bewildered by the mess—beer bottles strewn across the floors along with a couple of men who never made it back to their beds. The smell came at him like never before; he wanted to puke but he forced it back down. Slowly he worked his way down to the food car where the mess was at its worst.
The food car was a disaster. In fact, it was barely recognizable. The carpet was torn in several places, garbage covered the floor, the walls were smeared with the previous night’s dinner, and beer bottles of all shapes and colors were protruding from the ceiling. Arthur stared at the beer bottles for several minutes, trying to come up with a logical reason for their current location. None came to mind.
Arthur worked his way to the far corner where he could see someone sleeping. It was a young man close to his own age, with a shaved face and dirty pants. There were rough edges on his shirt where sleeves were supposed to be and blood all over the front. Arthur followed the path of the blood up the man’s torso all the way to his nose, which was swollen and blue. He gently shook him, attempting to wake him up. “Heh, dude,” Arthur shook some more. “Wake up, man. Are you ok?’
“Huh?” the guy mumbled, oblivious to what was going on, but as he came to, he became outraged. “What the heck did you do to me?” he screamed at Arthur. Then he winced as he felt his nose. “What the heck did you do to me?”
Arthur was in the wrong place at the wrong time. “I didn’t do anything. You’re just a little drunk. Shall I help you up?”
“If you didn’t do it, explain this!” he yelled, pointing at his face. When Arthur didn’t reply he said, “I thought so. You’re going to pay for this!”
Arthur tried to reason with him: “I-I-I I have nothing to do with this. What makes you think I did this? When do you think I did it?”
This only made the situation worse. As the man stood up, Arthur was finally able to see what he was dealing with: at least 210 pounds of muscle and fat towering over him at 6’5”. The guy weighed at least fifty pounds more than Arthur. “Who do you take me for? A fool? I know you were at that party last night you puny little shrimp!”
Everything fell into place: the beer bottles all over the floor (and the ones dangling from the ceiling), the men who were asleep in the corridors, and the man’s bloody nose. “Look, I never went to that party! I didn’t even know there was a party! I was sleeping!!”
The other guy just wouldn’t buy it. “Excuses, excuses, excuses. Of course you’d want me to believe that you didn’t go! As I said, you’re going to pay!”
He didn’t believe anything bad would happen, but he wasn’t taking any chances. He flew across the room and into the corridor, but he wasn’t too far ahead. In fact, Arthur could feel his opponent’s breath on his back. He darted into the closest compartment, barely locking the door before it began to shake violently.
“Open the door!” the man screamed. “You will pay for what you did to me! You will pay!” Arthur believed him. Why not? The man was drunk!
The door continued to shake. Arthur cowered in the far corner, not daring to move in hopes that he would be forgotten. The door stopped shaking, and for a moment, it seemed, that Arthur had indeed been forgotten. Unfortunately, that was not the case. His heart was throbbing in his chest as he watched the lock slowly turn. His eyes widened and his breathing almost stopped completely.
The door slammed open, a grin stretched across the drunken man’s face. “Heh heh heh. Heh heh heh. I’ve got you now.” He stumbled forward, an object in his hand. Arthur couldn’t tell what it was but it didn’t matter. He saw a flash and all went dark.
Arthur floated in and out of consciousness as if in a dream. He could even almost see her, his mother. Her face radiated with a golden light. Then it all came back to him and her face turned gray. It was a flashback of a moment just a couple weeks ago.
It was a clear summer day and only a couple days until August. They were in the backyard; Arthur was standing and his mom was in the hammock. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves and made the temperature tolerable at a nice 75 degrees. The bees landed on the flowers, pollinating and collecting nectar. Arthur and his mom had been fighting.
“You will not be going on that field trip! I have said it a million times and I will say it again! You will not be going! That is the end of it!” She always looked pretty when she was yelling at him. Her long, blond hair fell down to her waist and it waved in the wind. When the sun shone through, her hair turned to gold. It didn’t help that her skin was as lovely as could be, and Arthur was honored to have such a beautiful mom. He really loved her as a son should love his mom, but that doesn’t stop the fighting.
“But, Mother,” He always called her Mother when he was trying to get his way. “You can’t expect me to bail out now. Everyone is depending on me to show up!”
“Tough luck honey. You’ll just have to tell them you can’t go. You will not be going!”
Turning his back to her, he muttered, “Fine. Not that it’s going to matter anyway. I just wanted to do one more thing before I left.”
“What did you just say? Not that it’s going to matter anyway. What do you mean? What are you planning?” she screamed. It was at times like this where you could really hear her German accent come out. Arthur didn’t reply. He only dropped his head down in shame. “Answer me!” she exploded. Her face was red and her eyes were bulging.
“Well,” he said scanning the scene. “Do you really want to know?” he asked, glancing up. She frowned. “Mom… I’m leaving.”
“What?” she shrieked. “Where are you going? You’re my baby! You CAN’T leave!”
“I’ve joined the army Mom. I’m leaving in a week.” Her expression went blank. “I have to Mom and you can’t stop me! They bombed Pearl Harbor only last December. For all we know, we could be next.”
Then she collapsed and broke down into tears. Her cries could be heard from miles away, at least that’s what Arthur thought. She beckoned him to come to her. He didn’t move. “Baby, baby, baby. You can’t go. You’re only seventeen. You’re not ready for the world. Someday but not yet.”
“I don’t care what you think!” he screamed back at her. “I’m going! I lied about my age, ok. YOU CAN’T STOP ME!” He even through up his fists for emphasis.
“I see,” She was still distraught. “Go to your room!” she exclaimed, her accent kicking in yet again. Arthur turned to leave. “Wait,” she said. “What does your father think?” She didn’t have to ask, for she already knew the answer. “He doesn’t know. Does he?” Arthur didn’t know the real reason why his mom didn’t want him to join the army. He would never know.
The rest of that week, they spent apart. They didn’t speak. They didn’t even go into the same room. The night before he had to leave, Arthur packed his duffle bag. He didn’t pack much, just a few pairs of pants, shirts, and whatever else he thought he would need.
Finally, it came time to leave. Arthur and his mom stood in front of the house. His dad was at work and had no idea that he would never see his son again. Arthur’s mom stood in front of him crying, so he grabbed her hands to comfort her. She pulled away and turned her back to him. His head drooped, for he was terrified to say good-bye.
He also wondered how she would survive without him. It was only because of him the daily harassment of his mother had stopped. It would surely continue once he left. The young men of the town loved to torment his mother who was German. They wanted her gone. It was only a wonder why they didn’t pick on him too. It was probably because he learned at a young age to speak with an American accent.
“Mother,” he said, grabbing her hands once more. “I love you. I’ll miss you.” She turned away yet again. She was distraught, even more than before. There was something she wasn’t telling him.
“Mother, what’s wrong? Are you afraid I’ll die? I won’t die. I promise.”
“You’re too young!” she shrieked, facing him. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into!”
“Like you do?” he screamed right back at her. “You don’t know any more than I do.”
“Arthur,” she said, leaning against the house. “I’m feeling faint. Get me a chair. Now! Do as I bade you.” He obeyed, bringing her a garden chair and helped her to the seat. “I know more than you think. It’s a dangerous world out there!”
“Good bye Mother. I love you.” He gave her a peck on the cheek and left, walking down the road, never looking back. The words hung heavy on his heart.