sauerkraut

Prisoner of War

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 to refer to her as “Doc”.

Reflections

Laying in her cot one evening, reflective, Brenzel asked, “Doc, why am I able to bear all this? I’ve never been in a war before, yet 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, 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, 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 belt was probably the only reason he was still alive. Pale and shivering, with that thousand-yard stare battle wear soldiers get, the captured German remained quiet. All the young man said was “Danke” as Bren squeezed some morphine into his thigh to ease his pain.

Later that afternoon, Doc checked off the 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 acknowledge 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.”

One more thing

Adding her last checkmark, 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”. So many young women thought that “doing their part” for the war effort was noble and romantic, but reality soon set in for every one sent up to the front. More than a few young nurses broke down under the stress, unable to cope with the constant barrage of carnage and suffering.

Doc, finding a nurse stocking supplies in the tent 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. Afterward, holding each other, Doc said breathlessly, “I’ve missed you so much, I hate being separated from you for this long.”

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

SauerKraut

Smoking a cigarette nonchalantly, 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.

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