Oh Fullofit, what is going to become of Gaston? The anticipation is delicious.
Wulfe, going home briefly during a time of war can be so very bittersweet. Another fine episode.
Raine, a superb telling of the dinner gathering, my hat's off to you. And another victory for James and Mother Goose - well done!
Carrick, Emile is not alone in the dud weather. No flying at Bruay either.
Thanks as always folks for the fine reading. If you will, allow me to add my own contribution. Swany's been thinking about home too.
27 March, 1916 Bruay, France 3 Squadron, R.F.C. 2nd Lt. Randolph Arvid Swanson MC 8 confirmed victories
It was the second day all sorties at Bruay had been washed out because of the weather. Low-hanging clouds grayed the sky from horizon to horizon, and a cold mist was being blown about by the gusty winds. It was pure gloom, which did nothing to improve Swany’s mood. He’d been up at first light and gone for his morning run and was now tramping along through the woods near the aerodrome. Being out among the trees usually helped to center him and get him focused – and he needed to focus.
The young airman had been in an odd place in in his head since the gathering at the Poiriers yesterday. The affair had gone wonderfully and Georgette had proved a chef extraordinaire in the kitchen, and a delight all around. Jim’s host family were good people who reminded him in some ways of his own back home. And the arrival of the local priest and his little flock of “orphelins” had caused the whole evening to seem almost like a Christmas. It made Swany feel incredibly good, but incredibly homesick as well. While he wrote a letter to his folks at least once a week, he was careful to keep the memories and longings tucked away. They were a distraction to the task at hand, that of doing the absolute best job he could while trying to survive to do it again the next day.
It had all been great excitement in the beginning, this battle in the skies, and he had felt invincible when he first arrived. But after nearly three months of war, and the nightmares that partner with it, his outlook had changed. He’d seen men die and in horrible ways, some by his own doing. His good friends Collins and Jericho had each been very nearly killed. His first G/O, Chris Dent, had been shot up and sent back to England, and he himself had caught a bullet in his side. The stories in the papers and the tales in the boys’ adventure books were just that, stories and tales. The reality was very different; very brutal; very deadly. Winging about in an aeroplane was still wonderful and Swany loved it, but it was overshadowed entirely by the many grim ends to which this flying was simply the means. He had seriously started to question if he would survive it, and to his way of thinking this was a dangerous distraction.
Years ago, when he first began helping his uncle in the lumber business by scaling up trees to do the limbing and topping off, there had been an incident near the crown of one particular white pine where he’d slipped and fallen about fifteen feet before catching himself with his climbing spikes. While he did have the safety of the rope looped through his harness and around the trunk, the fall had none-the-less frightened him to the point where he could not move, either up or down. So he just clung there.
His uncle yelled to him, “Are you OK up der boy?”
“Vell, no, not so much”, Swany stammered back.
“Yer tinking about dyin’, aren’t chya boy.”
“Vell don’t! Von’t do you any good anyvay. Yust tink about getting’ the yob done, den go get ‘er done. Dyin’ takes care of itself, and you tinkin’ about it von’t change a dam ting except maybe make it come along sooner.”
Swany hung there that day 40-some feet up in that Minnesota pine, the leather strap of his climbing harness cutting into his back, his spikes dug deep into the bark of the tree as he stared out into the forest around him and listened to the wind whispering through the boughs. In that moment he came to understand exactly what his uncle was saying; so he cinched up his belt, took a deep breath, and turned his focus back to his work. Death would have to take care of its own affairs.
The walk in the woods and recalling his uncle’s words those years ago helped the young lieutenant. While the sky was still sullen his mood no longer was. The worrying, the longing; it was fairly pointless. He would get on with the task at hand, no matter how dangerous it might be. It’s what he’d signed on for, whether he knew that fully at the beginning or not. Dying would come in its own time. Him pondering when, or if, he would see his home and family again was only a distraction, and one that could indeed bring the Grim Reaper calling even sooner.
And on the subject of distractions, what was he going to do about Georgette.