Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)
TITLE: The Christmas Truce
By Ruth Neilson
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It was Christmas and Peter knew it was only a matter of time before blood was shed on this Holy Day. There hadn’t been a day since he arrived at the trenches that artillery shells had rained down on them.
Peter tugged his jacket closer and shivered as the wind blew across No-Man’s Land. He could hear German voices melding together in a melody that he knew too well.
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht...
Peter shook his head and sank into his trench and settled onto a board. He fished out a worn letter from his jacket pocket and began to read the last letter from his family. He missed them...
Idly, Peter wondered what they were doing. His siblings were probably preparing to go to the Christmas service. His little sister would be singing with the choir, her blond hair carefully curled into perfect ringlets.
The single word caused Peter to throw himself into the muck; he covered his head, and neck with his arms and braced himself for the impact of the shell. “God, please, I don’t want to die,” he breathed.
The object landed in front of him with a wet splat.
There was no explosion.
Peter lifted his head and stared in disbelief. A round ball had landed in front of him. It was a...a soccer ball? He had been afraid for his life because of soccer ball?!
Distant laughter filtered from No-Man’s Land and Peter pushed himself and the ball up. With one hand, he lifted the ball over his head and with the other; he tossed his helmet to the ground. Peter let out a laugh as he emerged from the trench, tossing the offending ball back across No-Man’s Land. That single motion broke the tension that seized the trench and warm chuckles slowly spread among his buddies.
“You play?” A German asked, snatching the ball from the ground. Peter found himself nodding once and the German smiled and tossed the soccer ball back at Peter. “Let’s play then, no need to be fighting today, ja?”
Peter grinned and dropped the ball before experimentally dribbling it with his knees. Finally, he offered his name, “I’m Peter.”
The German nodded. “Josef.”
Peter extended his hand and Josef grasped it. “Merry Christmas, Josef.”
“Merry Christmas, Peter.”
Without another word, Peter grinned, dropped the ball to the ground, and kicked it once towards Josef as an open invitation. The young German grinned in return and accepted the invitation.
Silent Night Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818; Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816/1818
This story is based on the actual events of Christmas in 1914. For more information, you can read about it here: http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/christmastruce.htm
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