Today I was nervous, but normally my constitution is a scattered ball of nerves covered with a thin coating that can easily be punctured and pulled back by family, friends and strangers. But mostly strangers. I wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time I imploded…. This is the first page of a story I wrote in my senior writing workshop that might be evidence of a vigor that flowed through my veins throughout my youth. Or it might be drivel.
Salivating soldiers struggled in a hail of gunfire. Body after body is pulled back to a crowded trench deep in the roots of French soil. Limbs rested, triggers fired and eyes fluttered at the sight of the death that piled breathlessly around the wounded. A montage of horrific images collided with the flicker of hopes and dreams that capsized like a steel coffin that sinks in the sea.
“Dig! Dig! Find the fucking…” Flowing rivers of blood trickled and nourished the deadening earth. I sat, resting against the cold steel of my machine gun and the dead appendages that held me steady. Screaming voices hovered above. Orders and terror exited mouths as quickly as the ears that they are spoken for. Images in and images out, like empty commands, left nothing solid to focus on. Until, like a snake, I slithered through the sediment and heaps of corpses, wounded and looking for escape.
“Find the fucking…” Enclosed and surrounded by death and memories from the past, my soul and mind floated in a steel coffin. It rose and fell, rose and fell in a sea of crimson. Babies walked, faces smiled, keys typed, fences picketed, houses erected, skin wrinkled, flowers bloomed, graves were filled.
“Dig! Dig! Find the fucking story.”
The waves ceased. Blinded by the light above a surgeon’s head, I kicked and winced in pain. Screams followed. My body numbed with anesthetic, my eyes followed fragments being pulled from an open wound in my abdomen. (1946)