In the heart of the Argonne Forest, Private Henry Johnson stood in his foxhole with Needham Roberts. They were both on sentry duty, watching for any enemy movement. It had been quiet most of the day, and so Needham took this silence as an invitation to run his mouth like usual.
When the German artillery finally ceased firing around sunset, Jack’s neck and shoulders slowly relaxed; he hadn’t realized he’d been tensing them all that time. The relentless shelling had forced his company to hunker in the trenches for over forty-eight hours. Now the silence unnerved him. The shelling could resume at any time, but the officers sent word that the men should rest as best they could.
The last time I saw M. Renoir, he was sitting beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, leisurely drinking coffee and glancing through a newspaper. M. Renoir, every inch the French gentleman with closely trimmed mustache and beard–gray streaking at his temples–was usually impeccably dressed, his hat and cane placed casually upon the seat of an adjacent chair. I say “usually” since, on this occasion, he appeared not altogether unlike a much poorer and less refined version of himself. I was, I confess it, rather taken aback at his appearance.
The moon’s on its way to November, sailing a sullen sky. I think the whole world breathed a sigh of relief tonight, when the major told us to find shelter, get some shut eye before tomorrow. We’re too close to the enemy for camp fire, all of us hiding behind trees, and under bushes, keeping as quiet as smoke, settling into the dirt and leaves like animals on the prowl.
“You expect me to speak to the Archbishop? Your ideas are somewhat radical Father. For you to get on in your career you need to know how to play the game.”
“Radical? I don’t see it that way Your Grace. I think we could do a lot of good. We would build bridges. We could now bring together two sides once and for all. We need to do this, not just with our religions but with them all! But we can start with what we know.”
The mountains were sunlit, like glory loose of heaven, dark as old souls at their valley roots, in the clutch of earth trembling from a sky-high battle with its last aerial shot not yet fired, its last echo of death riding the sweep of air, when the screeching, not identified, began on high. The sounds of death had breath to spare, and the U.S Air Force’s F86 Sabre pursuit fighter plane from the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, out of Suwon Air Base or Kimpo Air Base, both in South Korea, tumbled from the sky, the roar, the screech, the scream of air being sliced nearly by its atoms or other miniscule thinness not measureable by any of the troops facing each other on the ground.
Pahuac rested his head on the sacrificial stone. He would have to go through this if he wanted to find his way back home. Why couldn’t he remember?