Chicken scratch on a page shoved into a dirty envelope–that’s all I can manage.
It doesn’t really say much–I don’t want it to.
I was hoping you’d understand what I mean.
It’s raining outside and everyone’s coats are slick with mud.
I’ve got a bit of cover from the worst of it, but the muck is in my boots now and I can’t be bothered anymore.
I have closed myself off in that bubble that keeps me detached and distant from where I am and whoever tries to make conversation with me.
It’s like my body’s here, following orders and holding a gun, but not really me.
No, not me.
I lick the envelope’s sticky edge and close it.
I had wanted to tell you before, but somehow, I thought I’d have all the time in the world.
I thought youth with all its mysteries could go on forever.
I thought I could always take delight in a smile, just a smile, or find satisfaction in only a ‘hello’.
Now I know I’ll never see you again.
I think about how, years from now, my name might be mentioned at a service in my hometown, a service to remember what I’ve done. What I’m about to do.
It’s disgusting what killing can do for you.
It can make you a hero and a murderer at the same time.
When I was little, I remember I once killed a squirrel by hurling a rock at it.
My mother punished me because she said I was being ‘inhumane’.
Now I get a medal for killing men.
Lots of them.
Funny how perspective changes everything.
My parish pastor told me once in Sunday School that intention sometimes determines whether something is good or bad, but some things are always bad.
Is killing always bad? I can’t remember now.
I have often wondered what exactly my intentions are, but I can’t decide, because I’m not really intending anything.
I just follow orders.
Maybe that’s what makes us heroes.
Maybe it’s not doing what’s pleasing, but doing what’s right.
Doing the dirty work that needs to be done–doing it in the place of everyone, so no one else has to do it.
And you all will remember it.
This guy told me a few weeks ago they’ll probably end up making the poppy a symbol of us heroes.
He said he’d bet they’ll make it into a pin or something because poppies don’t grow everywhere.
I hope they don’t make it a pin.
When I imagine it–imagine people wearing it on the front of their coats, I can’t help thinking of that German I fell a week ago.
He kept coming at me even after I had put a black hole in his chest with bright red blood growing like a poppy’s petals unfolding around the wound.
That was brave–that he kept coming.
I don’t think I would have.
I guess I’ll find out tomorrow–whether I’ll keep going for a bit or just drop dead right away.
Either way, I know for sure I’ll be dead tomorrow.
There’s not enough of us.
That’s okay–I don’t want you to be sad.
I’m not sad.
I don’t care, really.
You can’t be a real hero unless you die, so that’s what I’m going to do.
I’ll die tomorrow, and when you get this letter, I’ll be dead, but at least you’ll know that I was alive when I wrote it, and died thinking of you.
I can’t do all the things I should have done now.
But at least now you know that I always wanted to.
Goodbye, and please–
Remember me when I’m gone.
And–here’s a pressed poppy for you,
Just in case you forget.
I don’t know where all of the ideas for this piece came from. I simply felt that there used to be a boy out there who didn’t feel like much of a hero–who couldn’t see the bigger picture and therefore couldn’t justify himself or his actions; a boy who just wanted to send one letter to a girl before he died.
Let us all remember today all of the heroes who sacrificed their lives In the Second World War for the sake of peace.
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Thank you for reading 🙂
Lest we forget