Well now Wulfe, an officer and a gentleman. And with that new spiffy uniform no lady will be able to resist Graham. (Except those two) I’m intrigued by the W.O. - he better be somebody important. MFair, I am glad the Major was this lenient, then if you think about it, sending you over to bomb Haubourdin without escort may have been punishment enough. Lou, if this philosophy works for Swany, then who am I to say otherwise?
26-27 March, 1916 Somewhere north of Verdun behind enemy lines Adjutant Gaston A. Voscadeaux
A head crowned in silver hair poked into the wall opening at the top of the ladder. “- Allô? Y-a quelqu’un ici?”
* * *
He was ripping into the white flesh of the cooked fish with his fingers and devouring it. A steaming cup of mulled wine was sitting beside and its spiced aroma was enticing Gaston to drink it. The old man was sitting beside and nibbling on his piece of the fish. “- We will have to wait for the sunset before I can ferry you down the river, but no further than the front.” The old man announced. That suited Gaston just fine. He still needed time to regain his strength. The old man’s name was Hugo. His only son was killed in ‘14 and because of his advanced age the Germans didn’t bother him too much. Hugo, on the other hand, was terribly bothered by the Germans and would do anything to spite them. The morning sun was replaced by dark clouds and heavy rains. They’ve whiled away the hours discussing this war and the one before it. The current state of affairs and France’s chances of winning this wretched contest. They’ve joked that at the current rate the men keep killing each other, there will be none remaining at the end and only women will be left to run the country. Hugo thought that would have been worse than losing to the Germans, but Gaston wasn’t so sure. As the evening approached, the sun peeked out from under the clouds in a crimson send off and soon after the world was swallowed by the omnipresent darkness. It was time. The old fisherman and the aviateur approached the small fishing boat, more of a raft than anything, with a long pole to push off the bottom. Both of them moved in silence getting drenched by the torrents of vicious squalls. Hugo cursed this weather, but Gaston praised the timing. It would mask their passage along the river. He couldn’t have asked for a better cover. They boarded the boat and the old man took his place at the stern. They floated silently along the agitated surface of the waterway looking out for any signs of German patrols. Hugo kept the boat steady as Gaston observed distant lights and fires. Ahead of them the flashes in the sky attempted to hypnotize them with each round from the 88’s and the 75’s. The old man steered the boat toward the west bank. Voscadeaux jumped off when the boat hit the shore and tied the vessel to the nearby tree stump. It was time to say goodbye. Gaston embraced the old fisherman to thank him for all his help. They both wished each other luck and as the boat was about to depart Hugo reached into his coat and passed Gaston something wrapped in an old rag. “- It was my son’s.” Hugo’s face disappeared in the rain as the boat cast off. The figure of the old man and his boat soon dissolved into the murk. Gaston was left on the shore with the gift. It was heavy and rigid. The rag came off to reveal a bayonet. “- Aha, La Rosalie. Bon!” Gaston was full of gratitude to Hugo. It was perhaps the only memento the old man had of his dead boy. Voscadeaux understood the sacrifice Hugo made, so that he could have a fighting chance. It will be useless against a rifle, but in hand to hand combat it’s much better than the hoe. Gaston stayed on the river bank a little longer holding the bayonet in his hand. The cold rain was hitting his face. Some of the drops running down his cheeks were still warm. He needed to get back across the No Man’s Land. Night was the best time, but not while he was behind the lines. Sentries would be posted every 100 meters. He decided to spend the night and try to infiltrate the trenches during the day, when the battle daze would be at its peak. For now he would look for a place to sleep and in the morning ... well, he’ll see about that when he gets there. He found one of the fields with the stacks of hay covered with a blanket and secured with crossed ropes staked to the ground. Gaston crawled into one of the stacks and settled for the night. He woke up the next morning to the happy chirps of birds. His head poked out of the hay stack just in time to see a German soldier in a stahlhelm, holding a rifle approaching him. Gaston quickly ducked back in and observed the Hun from his secret shelter. The man walked around while undoing his belt. He propped the rifle against the stack and hid behind it to relieve himself. Gaston slid out of his hiding spot and carefully approached the unsuspecting soldier with his bayonet in hand.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."