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Prisoner of War

France – 1918

Several weeks passed, as the fighting on Bren’s particular part of the Western Front diminished. Life in the trench fell into a blessed monotony, dreary to anyone looking in, but a welcomed relief from the constant flow of wounded from the front line. Looking up into the overcast sky, Bren wondered if the sun still shone above it all, as intermittent rain turned everything into sticky mud.

Doc, who taught Bren as much about first aid as about being a Seraph Hunter, warmed to her. Evasive about personal questions, she did eventually tell Brenzel her given name of Hatshepsut. Bren, never hearing such a name before and even less able to pronounce it, simply continued referring to her as “Doc”.


Laying in her cot one evening, reflective, Brenzel thought back to her early life as a child in the English countryside. A timid girl, Brenzel was afraid of a good many things, finding something else that terrified her at least once per month. . .

Pinned in the house against her will, the younger Bren felt true terror. Unable to move, backed into a corner, she trembled uncontrollably. This was it, her life hung in the balance, there was simply no escape!

Bren’s father, Thomas, heard a blood curdling scream emanate from their small home. Thinking the worst, he bounded as quickly as he could to her rescue, pitchfork in hand. Bursting through the door, his daughter stood frozen in mortal terror in the corner. “What is it child? What is wrong with you?” he demanded, afraid something terrible had taken place.

“Its…its…it’s there!” she said, pointing to the corner of the small room. Expecting to see a rabid animal, Thomas raised his pitch fork and approached with caution only to find a cockroach making it’s way along the wall.

A wee bug

“Why child, it’s only a wee bug!”

Brenzel, still petrified, pleaded through clenched teeth, “Make it go away, Father, please make it go away!”

“Okay, Bren, but there’s nothing to fear, nothing to fear at all,” he said.

Nearing the cockroach, Bren’s father stooped down to scoop up the bug and put it outside when the unexpected happened. Instead of being trapped and captured, it lunged headlong for Thomas’s right trouser leg. Over his shoe it ran, disappearing up his leg as the big man shouted and cursed. Seeing that, Bren dashed for the door, running and screaming as fast as she could while her father danced around with a bug in his pants.

I’m not that strong

Reflecting on this memory of the bug caused Bren to question Doc, “Doc, why am I able to bear all this? I’m really not brave. Yet, though I’ve never been in a war before, no matter what happens, I seem to be able to take it.” Bren finished with, “I don’t remember being this strong before, ever.”

“Bren”, Doc answered after a moment of reflection, “no one can do the things we do in themselves, it’s the hat and the grace we’re given that makes us able to bear it all.”

Looking up at the canvas roof, imaging the stars above, Brenzel said, “I don’t even miss my old life, and it’s almost like it’s a fading dream. Do you ever feel that way?”

Except for the faint rumble of distant shelling, the night grew deathly still. Bren waited for Doc to answer, knowing she would say something comforting and wise. After awhile Bren, worried she’d offended her mentor in some way, offered, “I hope I didn’t say anything to make you feel sad, I just honestly want to know.” Still no answer. “Doc…Doc?” Just then, in the still of the night, Doc began snoring loudly.

More Mud

Early the next morning, a private called Bren to the infirmary. There, Sam, covered with mud from head to toe, escorted a limping prisoner. Bren asked, “Sam, are you alright?”

“Yes, Ma’am! I’m right as rain! Caught this Kraut hiding in a blown-out bunker. He was a bit uncooperative, so I grazed him a little.” Sam’s graze was, in fact, a clean shot through the enemy’s left thigh. A makeshift tourniquet fashioned out of his own belt was probably the only reason he was still alive. Pale and shivering, with that thousand-yard stare battle weary soldiers get, the captured German remained quiet.

Bren, looking at the pistol wound in his thigh, knew he must be in excruciating pain. Taking a small tin from her kit, she removed a small metallic tube with a long needle protruding out of it, contained in a clear protector. “Hold still, this is a solution of morphine tartrate, it will help ease your pain, ” Bren said as she stuck the needle into cold flesh squeezing the contents into him.

All the young man said was “Danke,” as he unclenched his teeth from the agony of the painful injection.

Later that afternoon, Doc checked off a list of supplies. As a couple of buck privates worked quickly, a dashing man in a leather coat approached her. Looking up from her list, Doc acknowledged him with a nod, then turned to the soldiers, saying, “Hop to it boys, I ain’t got all day!” Turning to the handsome officer, Doc questioned dryly, “To what do I owe a visit from the chair-bound infantry?”

Scowling momentarily, her guest replied, “Officer Macintosh is the proper way to address me, Doctor.” Ignoring his protest, Doc simply went about finishing her duties as he watched. Mac, as his fellow soldiers called him, turned women’s heads wherever he went. About six foot three inches tall, dark regulation cut hair and a strong jaw line completed the perfect image of someone you would definitely write home to momma about. Add to that, his cool, collected demeanor, and women couldn’t resist trying to get his attention by practically, in some cases, any means possible.

One more thing

Adding her last check-mark, Doc said, “Everything accounted for, sir. Will there be anything else before you go?”

“Yes, there’s one more thing. I have a message from headquarters.”

“Yes, of course, Officer, we can speak in the supply tent,” Doc said as she led the way.

Upon entering the supply tent, a poster on the canvas wall declared, “Make Nursing Your War Job.” It pictured a handsome young soldier holding an attractive young nurse in his arms, obviously infatuated with her. Contrary to the propaganda, many young women found that “doing their part” for the war effort was anything but romantic. For most, harsh reality soon set in for those sent up to the front. Tending to wounded army boys morning, noon, and night, seeing mangled bodies, each seemingly more severe than the last, broke more hearts than anything else. Some young nurses cracked under the stress, unable to cope with the constant barrage of carnage and suffering. Yet Doc, far from cracking under the stress, seemed to thrive in it.

Finding a nurse stocking supplies in the med tent, she shooed her out, then turning abruptly to Officer Macintosh said, “What’s on your mind, soldier boy?” The well-chiseled man smiled and, taking Doc into his arms, kissed her deeply and passionately as she melted into his embrace. Afterwards, holding each other, Doc said breathlessly, “I’ve missed you so much, I hate being separated from you for this long.”

“I know dear, but it’s one of those necessary evils, it won’t last forever.”


Smoking a cigarette nonchalantly as he sat in his cell, the prisoner stared at the wall. A slight young man, fair-haired and rather effeminate in appearance, Sam’s captive oozed with a sense of studied detachment. Captured over a week ago, still in a great deal of pain, Hans sat on the dirt floor in silence, having barely said a word to anyone.

“Hey Kraut! Move away from the door!” Sam commanded gruffly, looking through the wire mesh of the makeshift stockade. “It’s okay ma’am, I’ll be watching this Jerry like a hawk, so don’t you worry.” Bren smiled, confident that Sam would do just that, as she slipped past him into the cell.

“Please pull down your trousers, sir”, Bren asked kindly as she readied new bandages and some antiseptic. Dutifully, Hans obeyed. As Bren worked, Hans suddenly spoke, “You are a kind soul, Fräulein.”

Bren looked up and, briefly as their eyes met, she felt her stomach move in that funny, yet familiar way. Quickly looking at his leg, Bren said, “Thank you. This is all such a nasty business. I’m sorry you were shot.”

“It is war Fräulein, it happens. Besides, this country bumpkin got lucky.”

“Hey, Kraut, watch your mouth! You’re ‘lucky’ I didn’t miss and shoot off your German nuts instead.” Sam growled.

“Boys!” Bren said sternly, “Stow it!” And both men, though glaring at each other, quieted.

Things aren’t always as they seem

As Bren went out of the cell, Sam bolted the door behind her, and said, “Ma’am, I know you’re nice and all, but why do you have to be so nice to that Ratsky?”

“Ratsky?” Bren quizzed.

“German” Sam replied.

“Oh,” she said slowly, rolling her eyes, catching the meaning of the young man’s slang. “Sam, things aren’t always as they seem. I know we’re in a war, but wars don’t last forever,” Bren offered, looking into Sam’s brown eyes.

“You know Ma’am, I’m sorry, I can’t agree with that. I’ve seen up close what these bastards can do and I don’t think they’re human.”

Bren, looking up at Sam, put her hand lightly on his heart, seeing him tremble with rage. “You know soldier, someone once said to me, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll all work out in the end.'” And, giving him a brief kiss on his cheek, left Sam in wide-eyed silence.