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All Is Lost In Love and War MAG
As a Southern boy, I know all about warmth, both physical and emotional. My dad died before I was born, but my mom always had plenty of pictures of him around, and she’d talk about him all the time. She’d constantly tell me that you only get one life, one love, and one chance to lead, so don’t take it for granted. I asked her if Dad was her one love, and she said he was her whole life, and the only one she would have as my dad, whether he was gone or not. At the time I accepted this and went outside, the warm summer air seeping into my skin like a hug from the man himself. Now, however, I’m cold, I’m wet, I’m hungry, I’m exhausted, my mother died, and though I don’t know where I am, I know it’s some small, forgotten piece of Europe.
Who would live here? Milo tells me to keep an open mind: all the nothing around us is made by men, and it’s up to men to fix it. Milo has been my bunkmate since we arrived here 48 hours ago. Milo’s not even that friendly; he seems the kind of kid whom the other kids back at home would pick on, but I can’t make out why. I figured it out eventually though: the reason was, Milo wasn’t his brother.
Robbie, Milo’s brother (at least that’s what I think Milo said his name was), played quarterback at their high school. He was the kid who never said no to anybody, and while he wasn’t necessarily the smartest fellow, he got along all right. Milo never really had any super exciting stories of his own to share, but he always came up with some crazy story about a stunt his brother had pulled. I swear Milo idolized Robbie; I don’t know what would happen if Robbie died.
So, the next morning Milo gets a letter from his mom, and I catch a glimpse of the name “Robbie.” It must be an update. That’s all we ever say about our letters, they are just updates, even when they’re not and your mother is telling you they lost the family farm or something. It’s not that we’re cold-hearted or anything, there’s just no room for emotional baggage when we’re being shot at.
I, of course, never got letters, I don’t have any friends back home, I have no family, and that’s probably the reason I am writing this journal, to have something to read that’s not just my dog tag. Anyway, Milo disappears after he gets the letter, which nobody really notices, since he’s quiet as a church mouse and all. But after breakfast, I go into our tent and am surprised to find him there.
His hazel eyes are just staring at the letter that his hands no longer clutch but rather hold by gravity. Milo has a great life back home in Michigan, as far as I’ve heard. His fiancée works at the local diner – a beautiful brunette named Georgia who aspires to be a first-grade teacher. His mother, Jennabelle, makes the best peach cobbler in the tri-county area, at least that’s what Milo always says. His older sister is married with three kids, helping to run his father’s farm. Lastly, his older brother is fighting on the Pacific front, while Milo and I are doing the same on the European front. In fact, the worst thing I can think of for him to be reading on that sweaty, limp piece of paper is that his brother has died. I rule that out when I hear Milo mutter the only words I’d hear him speak for the next two days. Milo is rather shy, so to hear him say that he is going to “kill him” is rather serious. The question isn’t when, where, with what or why – but who? Who is this “him” he’s talking about? Milo doesn’t seem to notice me, so I deduce I am not going to be killed today – at least not by my bunkmate.
Eventually, I find out the man to be killed is a soldier, Milo’s brother. I shouldn’t fear my friend whose girlfriend just dumped him for his own brother! I really shouldn’t want to run into battle and not be near Milo, but all I can see when I look at him is his smiling face telling me something he said when we first became bunkmates. He told me I remind him of his brother. That used to be high praise, but now I’m not so sure.
My hands must be shaking, because when he looks at me, his sinister smile seeps into the room and seems to light it in an eerie, incandescent red glow, I drop my glass and it shatters into a million pieces. I really am walking on eggshells now, or at least, the war-rationing equivalent.
Every day at mail call Milo gets a letter from his brother. Every night the camp has a campfire. Every night my hands are not frostbitten because of Milo’s brother. It has been almost two weeks since his mother wrote him that first letter. I always say that I don’t have anything left back home in Alabama,
but at least my nothing really is nothing; Milo’s nothing means losing everything.
I begin to worry when Milo seems to be losing his mind. He just sits there at breakfast, his hand on his spoon, body skinny and limp, his head bent to one side. The creepiest part is that less-than-blank stare and empty grin. He never seems to “snap out of it,” like our sergeants would yell at him.
Yesterday, I had to shove his body into the trench, because the Germans were narrowly missing him. When he looked back up at me, he had a small shard of glass sticking out of his cheek from his glasses, which had broken. As if he was aching everywhere, he pulled his gun up slowly, not careful about where he pointed it – or so I thought. I couldn’t see his bloody face anymore because my eyes were focused on the barrel of the gun that was an inch from my nose.
It didn’t happen like in the movies back home. I could still hear gunshots from both sides being fired, and the freezing rain on my helmet, and feel the ground get soggier and soggier as we all began to sink into the sludge. He yelled at me, his voice much louder than I had ever heard it, though it cracked from lack of use. I strained to listen as he told me I should have let him die. I replied with the only thing I could think of: he was too good to be lost in the war. He asked what I meant by “too good.” Why was nobody else looking at us? I told him the truth: that he was the most honest, smart, and good man I knew, and that he didn’t deserve to be stuck here in the war. I told him that we are all going in alive, and we’re coming out the same way.
The next part happened fast. As his grip loosened on the gun, it dropped slightly. My eyes closed, I tilted my head up to face the icy rain and thanked
my momma for watching over me. Next, hot liquid splattered my neck and my gut wrenched horribly. Shocked, I looked down at my feet. Milo was dead, and his eyes were looking straight into mine, but they finally had some recognizable emotion – they were terrified. I tried to back up, but I was already against the wall of the trench. When I reached to get the handkerchief to wash off Milo’s face, my hand came up crimson and sticky, and I looked down. The bullet must have gone straight through him and into me. I heard somebody say that they were sorry about that, and then there was nothing.
The first thing I noticed before I even opened my eyes was being dry. I couldn’t remember the last time I was dry, and I began to dread what it meant. Despite my feeble attempt to open my eyes, there was a bright light that made them water. I settled for trying to sit up, but I found that brought on blinding agony that made me want to black out and go back to sleep. I heard a voice before I saw the masked figure to whom it belonged. He said something about how I should have what he is now putting in my hand. Barely hearing him sigh and beginning to tell me that there was nothing they could do for him, and how doubtful it was that I would last much longer, I looked down at my clean hands grasping something warm and hard. It read “ALLIS, MILO, 655-300-078, O POS, UNITARIAN.”.