Lee tugged at the back of the glove with his teeth, wriggling his stiff fingers into place. “Man, I ain’t seen it this cold since the blizzard of ’54. At least the rain stopped. It ‘as all I could do las’ night to keep my powder dry.”
Behind the embankment Sergeant Sommers rolled over and squinted at him. “Shut up and put some more ashes on your face, Private. It’s near as white as the snow on them hills over there.”
“Yeah, Lee, keep yer’ head down ‘fer it gets shot off.” Lenny bit off a piece of dried jerky and shoved another piece at the pimply teen. “An’ let’s hope ye’ don’t need that powder today,” he whispered.
Lee took the jerky and snuck another peak over the embankment. There was a town less than a mile away and he could see little dots moving about. People were going about their daily business, probably making plans, meeting friends, and hoping for peace. The only thing he still had in common with them was that wish for peace.
“Lord, will there ever be peace in this war torn world?” he breathed.
“My peace I give you.” It was a whisper in his ear, his mother’s voice reading from scripture.
“Look’it ‘em skatin’ on that pond.” Lenny had taken a peak too. “I remember doin’ that. My girl, Cassie, she kin skate. ‘An she sure looks purty doin’ it.” Lenny smiled at the remembrance.
“Lord Jesus, looks kinda’ like home to me…” Lee started to say.
“You boys keep down an’ shut up. Them Yanks ain’t that far off.” Sommers grunted as he got up and moved further down the line.
“You got a girl? I never even had a girl friend yet,” Lee whispered.
“Ah, Lee, you’re hardly off milk. Anyhow, I got a picture of her right here.” Lenny drew a daguerreotype print from his coat pocket. “She’s gonna be my bride come spring and the war’s over.”
The silver-grey sky hovered overhead through the morning, quiet and peaceful.
Twilight and an ominous rumbling sounded from the east. No storm clouds. This was artillery, on the move.
Lights winked on in the town, warm, golden, and homey. The boys rubbed their hands up and down the sleeves of their threadbare coats. Frost hung on their breath. They resisted pulling the flaps of their caps down over their ears, straining instead to hear.
Scouts reported enemy troop movements only a mile away.
The order came from Sommers – make ready the weapons. “Men look to your powder.”
“Here it comes,” Lenny tensed.
Lee tugged his glove off to load powder into his musket. His frozen fingers, trying to sift it into the small chamber, were clumsy and spilled almost half. “War in winter,” he muttered.
Cannons on the low hillside just above them thundered a volley overhead. Screams in the field before them spoke of their effectiveness. Lee shuddered.
“I’m afraid, Lord, sore afraid.”
“My son, I too have been afraid. I am with you. I will not forsake you.”
Answering volleys poured over the earthen barrier. A ball struck Sommers in the thigh. His scream was obscured by the sound of muskets close at hand.
As the embankment began to crumble under the assault Lee glimpsed the lights of the town for the barest instant. Their peace – that’s why they were fighting this war. The thought gave him strength.
“Lee, I’m hit.” Lenny’s voice was raspy and Lee stared in horror at his friend’s eviscerated chest.
“Hang on Lenny, hang on brother! Oh Mama! Oh Jesus! Just hang on!”
“Lee…I’m…scared. Tell me…your…Jesus…is real. Is he…real Lee?”
“Help me Lord.” Lee barely breathed the prayer.
“I am with you always.”
Peace enveloped the younger man. He knelt by his friend and prayed.
“I seen…it…Lee. In…your eyes…I …seen it. Peace. I…want…that peace. I want…your Jesus.”
“Lenny, I think you jus’ found Him. Or He done found you.”
Another blast – too close.
A red fog enveloped him and Lee was blinded. His musket fell to the frozen earth.
Spring came and they danced among green fields – sweet alyssum, hollyhocks, bluebonnets, and twined around the trunks of mighty oak trees was fragrant wisteria. Soft light suffused the entire earth. Here, there was no war.
Lenny smiled as he introduced his beloved Cassie to Lee.
And the One to whom they turned with reverence and delight welcomed them to the mountaintop mansions of home.
“Well done, good and faithful servant...come and share your Master’s happiness.”
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