I love WWII. I got the idea after having a nightmare. I dreamed that the Nazis (with the help of...
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Arthur awoke to find himself on the bottom bunk of one of the green bunk beds with a white pillow beneath his head. There many other beds just like his in the sleeping quarters but there were only two in this particular car, only one of which was not occupied. Seeing this Arthur thought, I’ll kill myself if that drunkard maniac sleeps here.
Above his head, Arthur could hear someone singing a familiar tune, though he could not put his finger on what song it was. He rustled beneath his sheets. Out of nowhere, a head popped upside down saying, “Howdy!” Arthur nearly leapt out of bed.
“Geez,” Arthur whined. “You nearly gave me a heart attack! I don’t need to die twice!”
“Many pardons my good sir. My name is Davis. What’s yours?”
“Howdy, I guess. My name is Arthur.” He threw off his covers and climbed out of bed, only to find himself on the floor staring at the ceiling.
“Whoa partner. It’s best you not try to do nothin’ yet. You ain’t ready.” He held out his hand to help Arthur up.
Arthur plopped onto his bed and collapsed, overcome by a sudden wave of nausea. “What happened? I’m so confused.”
“I thought you’d be. Well, what happened was this. That good-for-nothing Ryan fellow done hit you with a beer bottle, knocked you out and was beating you up and stuff. I heard he cut you with a knife too.” As he explained what happened, Davis was waving his hands about trying to act it out. To Arthur, it was just a blur of hand motions.
“What? Who? Who is this Ryan you’re talking about? A beer bottle? A knife? How long was I out?” He proceeded to ask more questions but Davis stopped him, holding up his hand.
“Questions, questions, questions. I didn’t know someone who just woke up from a beating would ask so many questions. You know what? I kinda like you. You kinda feisty. What do you say? Friends?”
“Sure, sure, whatever. But what happened? Who is this Ryan you’re talking about? A beer bottle, a knife? How long was I out?”
“Ok! Hold your horses! I was gettin’ to it. Anyway, Ryan is that guy you found with a bloody nose. You know… the drunk guy? He thinks he’s so fine!” Davis imitated Ryan strutting about the train. “So… after he knocks you out with that beer bottle, he begins slapping you silly. Must’ve been nice not to be awake to feel the pain.” He paused and stared off into the distance. “Then he gets out his knife and stabs you, at least he tries to, but that’s where I come in. I heard all the commotion and went to see what was happening. When I saw what was a goin’ on, I pull him off you and yell for help and help comes. After that, we move you to a bed so as not to have you fall and hurt yourself while you sleep. That’s it.” After finally finishing his story, Davis sits back in his chair and sighs as if he was the one lying in bed all beat up.
“Yes, yes, I get that. How long was I out?’
“Man, do you not care that you just got beat up? Well… it happened Tuesday and today’s Thursday, so I would say almost two days.”
Arthur sat there amazed. Two days he had been asleep. Two days! Then it hit him. What if he was not well enough to get off the train? What if they sent him back home? Arthur’s eyes widened.
His new companion saw the worried look on his face and asked, “Afraid they won’t let you train? That they’re gonna send you back blubberin’ like a baby to your mom?” Arthur gave a quick nod and Davis continued. “”Don’t worry. You’ll be just fine. Who knows… they might not make you train or else very little.
He gave Davis a queer look, his eyebrows raised. “You pulling my leg Davis? What do you mean I might not have to train? Then how will I be ready for war? They won’t do anything with me!”
With a chuckle Davis clutched his belly and replied: “Oh, my friend. You have a lot to learn. Didn’ your daddy explain it to you?”
“No, he didn’t.”
Ashamed, Arthur replied, “I didn’t tell him.” He yearned to tell the rest but they caught in his throat causing him to choke up and cry. The salty drops of water flowed down his face and over the numerous cuts and sores that covered his face. He winced as he felt their sting.
“Hey, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Davis leaned forward in his seat. “You were probably just afraid. You never know how some dads will react.”
“That’s not the problem.” Arthur said in an almost inaudible whisper.
“You didn’t kill him,” Davis paused, “did you?” He was half joking, half serious.
“Are you mad?” Arthur accused. “Take a look at me.” Davis looked at Arthur. “Do I really look like the Devil?”
“Let me think about that for a minute.” Davis jokingly replied. “The Devil? Not quite. Hitler? Yes.” A grin spread across his face.
“You most certainly must be mad!” He was outraged now. “I look nothing like Hitler! That man is the Devil!” Arthur shouted, preparing to stand up.
“What did I tell you about getting out of bed?” Davis inquired. “And not so loud. The whole train will hear us!” He said in a loud whisper.
“Tell me I don’t look like Hitler!”
“But you do!” Davis argued. “You have his eyes and now that I think about it, you have his nose and mouth too.”
“Stop mocking me!”
“I’m not! You really do look like him.”
There was a pause. Neither of them spoke for several minutes until Arthur broke the silence. “Davis, where are you from? You have a bit of an accent, at least compared to the way I speak.”
“Me? Well, me, I’m from Oregon. Yes-siree! That’s the place to be. How I miss my home.”
“Oregon? Really? You don’t sound like you’re from Oregon. I live up in Washington, but I have a cousin who lives in Oregon.”
“Oh. I’m the only one in the family to talk like this. The rest of them think I’m weird.”
“Really? Well… I like it,” Arthur said, hoping it would cheer up his new companion. Davis looked up and smiled and then his gaze fell to his watch.
“Yowzers! Look at the time! We best be gettin’ to lunch,” he exclaims, looking at Arthur. “Oops. I forgot. Would you like me to bring you something?”
“Sure,” Arthur replied, trying his best not to sound depressed. Davis catches the hint anyway.
“I’ll only be gone for a little bit. We can talk more when I bring you lunch.” Then he turns to leave for lunch. When Arthur thinks he’s gone, he hops out of bed, but seconds later, Davis’s head pops back into the room, forcing Arthur to quickly hop back into bed. “And don’t forget… STAY IN BED!” With those last few words, Davis finally leaves.
When he was absolutely sure that Davis had left, Arthur slowly got back out of bed. Now that he was alone, he had time to observe his surroundings. As it turned out, he was in a small car at the end of the train. There were only three beds: one was his, one belonged to Davis, but who did the last one belong to, if it belonged to anyone at all? Above each bed was a sturdy, wood shelf. Arthur saw things packed on the shelf above the mystery bed, so he came to a conclusion that there was an inhabitant of the mystery bed. On the far side o the car was a window, right about eye level, and through it he could see the land quickly moving behind them.
Upon conclusion of his observations, Arthur hopped lazily back into bed and just stared at ceiling, waiting for Davis to come back with a bite to eat. He dozed off and was overcome yet again by another flashback.
A strange man stood over him, examining him closely. His mother stood nearby. Arthur gazed up and asked in an innocent voice, “Where are we Mutter?”
“We are in Germany young man,” the stranger replied. The stranger had dark hair and was kind of short. Arthur smile back as well as any five year old could. “Stand up. I must have a proper look at you.”
Arthur eagerly obeyed. The stranger circled, looking intently at Arthur’s physical features, particularly his size. “Has he always been this small?” the stranger asked his mom.
“Ja, I’m afraid so.”
“What’s your name?” Arthur quietly asked.
“My name is of no importance. As for you, what is your name?”
“Peter. His name is Peter,” his mom said, fear in her eyes. Arthur was confused; his name wasn’t Peter. It was Arthur.
“Mutter, my name’s not—” Before he could finish, his mom interrupted.
“Hush darling.” Her eyes were really wide now.
“How dare you lie to me! What is his name?” the stranger shouted. This took Arthur by surprise. He did not know grown-ups could get so angry. “What is the boy’s name?”
“Arthur,” she meekly replied, “his name is Arthur.”
What happened next would be forever engraved in the five-year-old’s mind. The stranger walked up to Arthur’s mom and struck her. The blow knocked her to the floor. Helpless to do anything, Arthur was forced to watch as the stranger proceeded to beat his mom. He froze in horror. The stranger kicked his mom several times in the stomach and she gasped in pain, trying to hold back the tears so Arthur wouldn't see her pain, but he could see it anyway. He could see it in the way her eyebrows furrowed deeper and deeper into her pale face.
“No!” Arthur screamed as he lurched up in bed in a cold sweat. He blinked once and then blinked again, confused as to where he was, what he was doing in a bed. Arthur took a deep breath and when he released it, he discovered he was not alone.
“Are you ok? a new voice asked. “You scared the crap out of me, thrashing in your bed. My name’s Jacob.” He held out his hand to Arthur and chuckled. Arthur instantly snapped out of his dream. He was no longer five years old, watching some stranger beat up his mom. He was seventeen years old, staring at yet another new face. Jacob’s face was like a long oval with a long nose. Blue eyes hid beneath brown hair and he sported a small beard beneath wide, skinny lips. It appeared to be a friendly face.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He shook Jacob’s hand. So this was the other inhabitant of this car. “My name is Arthur.” He was clearly shaken up by the memory.
“Are you sure you’re ok? You look awful. Are you afraid of Ryan? I heard what happened.”
“I’m fine. Just a bad dream,” Arthur replied, trying to shake it off but was obviously unsuccessful.
For a while they just stared at each other, not bothering to speak. It was said a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about a look? Looks could say everything or nothing at all. Some said, “I hate your guts!” while others said, “I’m bored.” It was a way to speak your mind without having to say anything at all. Jacob wore a said face, an eyebrow raised, not quite sure about the message he wanted to send. It kind of looked like he was trying to say sorry. Arthur’s expression said nothing. His eyes were simply half opened and he looked like he was going to crash.
There was no chance for that because at that precise moment, Davis came bouncing into the room, a tray of food in his hands. “Howdy Arthur! I see you’ve met Jacob. I brought you some food just like I promised.”
Arthur had forgotten just how hungry he was, but that changed the minute he smelled food. “Thanks Davis,” Arthur said as he reached for the tray, which conveniently happened to be just out of reach. “Damn it, Davis! Am I not allowed to have food either?”
“No, it isn’t that. I just thought you might like a table first.”
“Did they not teach you logic when you were in school? A starving man cares not about formalities, for his only objective is to fill his aching stomach. I am that starving man!” Arthur angrily remarked.
“You’re a laugh, Arthur.” He hands Arthur the tray, which is covered with a gourmet hamburger, fries, and a glass of ice-cold milk. “Did they not also say that you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you?”
“Shall I bite your hand? I have my food now so it would make little difference to me. There’s more than one hand that could feed me. You alone have two hands. Do you not?”
“Yes I do have two hands. What are you getting at?”
“How many people do you see not counting me?”
“Are you suggesting Jacob would get your food? That shrimp? You need someone that can actually reach the table.”
“I would too get his food!” Jacob interjects, standing up at full height, which was only about 5’5”. “In fact… I’ll get him diner tonight! You best watch out. This shrimp is feisty. You don’t know who you’re dealing with!”
“How dare you! Do you not see the shark in me? Snap! You have become my meal,” Davis replies, a smile on his face.
“Arthur, you be the judge. Do sharks eat shrimp?” Jacob asks, eager to prove Davis wrong.
Arthur said nothing, heard nothing. He was too busy scarping down his food.