The Magnet 1964

The flares went up and lighted the dark sky. The stars were immersed in mud and so was Jonah. His blonde hair was black with mud, as was his face and tattered uniform. He thought his brain, his heart, even his soul was covered with the stuff as he scrambled over the broken ground toward the hills. 

He thought of home, the dirty, but oh so beautiful city; of Jean, his girl, and what fun they would have when he got back. But then he remembered. He was a deserter! The thought drove him on: “You coward!”. He could hear the words echo through his ears. Why? Because he was dirty, unworthy? No it was not that; he just wanted to live too much to die in the filthy trench with the rest of his regiment.

His face was pale beneath the mud. He

swore at himself, at the enemy, and even at God. Yet, what could he do? He had dropped his rifle in panic and was now unarmed in hostile country. The thoughts of the battle, the charging enemy, the fiery eyes, the frightened eyes, Joey lying dead in the stinking trench amid the mangled limbs ground through his head. But he ran on. 

In his mind’s eye, he could picture htmself, his legs churning, his hands groping, trying to escape from death - to where? Slowly, realization of his deed spread through him and he stopped. There was nowhere to hide.

As the giant flare of the day rose over the huge fields and hillS of endless mud, Jonah trudged slowly back to his lines.

- - Rubin Friedman, 13E