Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Cup - 10-25-12 Deadline (10/18/12)
By Arlene Showalter
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"Nobody else in the company can sniff out the illegal, the unwanted, the contaminated like I can," he gloated, "and I’m the youngest in the unit."
Church bells tolled in the distance, as the sun slipped away, pulling a curtain of darkness behind her. Dieter smiled. "Hated that sound," he muttered with a grin, "when I was a boy and wanted to sleep late." His smile vanished. "How I miss those days. The carefree innocence of childhood."
He shook off the reverie. "How much better life will be when we finish the task we’ve been given."
His sharp ears sensed, rather than heard, the rustle to his left. He halted and spun on one heel, scanning the ground. Crumpled orange and yellow and red leaves betrayed a hider’s presence. He drew his sidearm and brought it to eye level.
“Come out,” he barked, “now.”
He advanced another step. “I’ll shoot these bushes to hell and back,” he growled.
A tall man emerged, with a young girl clinging to his one big hand.
“Hello, Dieter,” he said, a wide grin splitting his face. He looked the soldier up and down. “You find us good.”
“Rachel says we play the hiding game,” the man said. “You find us good.”
His stomach lurched, catapulting him back a decade. He lowered his gun. In a moment, he was 10 again.
One beautiful spring day, he and his neighbor, Ben, decided to fish after a long rainy spell. The fish bit as though anxious to provide abundant dinner for the two families.
The next thing Dieter remembered was lying in his own bed, suffocating in his weeping mother’s embrace.
“Mein Sohn, my son,” she’d cried, clutching him close and rocking him like a child. “You come back to me, alive.”
“What, what?” he’d sputtered, trying to extricate himself.
His mother turned and grabbed Ben in a hug. “Danke, thank you.” She sobbed into his strong, broad chest.
Dieter looked up at Ben.
“You good, now,” Ben had said.
“What happened?” Dieter demanded.
His mother turned and snatched him in another fierce embrace. “Ben saved your life,” she cried.
"Huh?" Dieter frowned. "I’m home, in my own bed. But, we were fishing." He shook his head.
Mother explained. “You must have slipped on some rocks and got knocked out. Ben ran all the way here, carrying you. What a fright you gave me.”
“We play hiding games a lot,” Ben said, jerking Dieter back to the now. “But it not fun like before. Rachel is scared all the time when we play.”
Dieter stared at the older man with the younger brain.
“I not scared,” Ben continued. “Your mama helps.”
“Shush, Uncle Ben,” the girl pled, cupping his elbow. “Please.”
Dieter looked at the girl, her body poised to bloom into a beautiful woman. Her lips trembled but her eyes spit hate.
"She understands," his heart told him.
“We go fishing sometime?” Ben looked hopeful.
“Too busy,” he said, scowling.
“Your Mutter loves our fish,” Ben prattled. “Remember?”
Dieter’s scowl deepened.
Distant shouts sliced the evening stillness.
“Hey Bloodhound,” one approaching soldier yelled. “Caught more fish?”
Horror flooded Dieter’s being. Again, he raised his sidearm — and stared into Ben’s trusting brown eyes.
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