Daily Post Prompt – Not Lemonade

Not quite what I ended up with, but I go where the character goes:)

 

Not Lemonade

The ground was cold beneath his body, a remembrance of better times when the people he had known used to walk this street to and from the market or church. Visiting friends and family on Sunday afternoons. Lemonade on the front porch. Chocolate cake. The two together always made a funny taste in his mouth. He tasted it even today, years after the last glass passed his lips.

Today wasn’t then. It never was and never would be. Then was gone, leaving nothing but cold ground and him. He coughed. Shivered. Mist traced the contours of the ground, wafting over him and beyond, swallowing him in whiteness. He knew it would go. Things always did. And he was patient. He had nothing else to do, nothing waiting. No one waiting.

He’d been twenty when he signed up. Twenty and gun-ho and dreaming of glory. He’d been what he now called stupid twenty. He was twenty six now, maybe less stupid; definitely less gun-ho. The years in-between were nothing but a blur, memory covered in the same mist which now covered him. Then it had been gun smoke, lying so heavy on the battlefield the wounded and the dead had disappeared. The only way he’d known they were underfoot was when he stepped on one during an advance.

But he didn’t want to think about the war now. He only wanted to think about the house just a little way down the road. The house he loved. The house where he’d grown from a baby to a man. Sometimes he wondered if he hadn’t been happier and smarter when he was still in diapers. At least he’d been loved. It was love which had drawn him back, pulling him effortlessly home. The fancy gowns sweeping around the ballroom, candles sparkling like stars. The mud hole where he and Rand’s boy would sit for hours, watching tadpoles being born. Black and white both seeing the beginning of life together. He’d wanted it to end that way someday.

The sound of footsteps pulled him from his thoughts. A moment later Rand’s boy peered down at him but he wasn’t a boy any longer. Just like he wasn’t a boy. They were both men, both grown, both lost in an alien world.

Rand’s boy hunkered down beside him. “Looks like you in some trouble now,” he said softly, face creased with care.

“Yeah,” he managed. “Hurts like the dickens.”

“But you came home.”

Their eyes met. “I did,” he said, voice almost silent. “I wanted to see them tadpoles again.  Catch’em when they grew.”

Rand’s boy laughed, a big world-encompassing laugh. “We did do that, didn’t we? Had us some good frog’s legs.”

“Frog’s legs,” he repeated. “Wanted to come home.”

He felt a hand on his shoulder. “You home now. You home now.”

 

The doctor straightened, wiping sweat from this forehead with the back on one hand. He’d been at this long enough to know when to move on. Outside the sound of cannons and gunshot echoed through the air, sounds that never seemed to go silent.  He could smell the cordite in the air, was standing in ankle deep mud and blood.

He nodded at the nurse.  She pulled the sheet up over the soldier’s face as they moved on to the next.

 

 

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