Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Postcards (08/29/05)
- TITLE: Last Words
By Julianne Jones
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Eben turned the postcard over and picked up the stub of pencil that was all that was left of the gift an unknown girl had given him at the Port Melbourne wharf. He’d written many letters since that day, sending off one by one the almost obligatory silk-embroidered postcards depicting the glory of the British Empire. The postcard he now held in his hand he had picked up on their last day in Egypt.
He crouched down in the bottom of the trench and tried to ignore the ribald jokes and raucous laughter spewing forth from a group further down the line. The men had all been together since leaving Melbourne almost five months ago. Such a large company of men had naturally formed into smaller groups, but Eben had not been admitted to any.
Egypt was amazing. The sand. The heat. The pyramids. I wish I could show you the pyramids.
Eben was only dimly aware that a young soldier had left the end group and planted himself at his feet. The butt of so many of their jokes and taunts, Eben would have preferred to be spared that tonight.
We left Egypt around the middle of last month. We’re "somewhere in France" tonight. Sitting here I can see the stars and I’m reminded of home. So still and clear. So peaceful.
It wouldn’t last. He knew that.
Eben was startled by the soldier’s voice. He had not expected the man to make friendly conversation. He nodded warily.
“We go over the top tomorrow.”
Again Eben nodded.
“They’re all scared down there.”
Eben looked toward the group of men, each holding a cigarette in one hand and cards in the other. He could still hear their lewd speech and cringed each time he caught their meaning.
“That’s why they carry on that way.”
Eben brought his eyes back to the man in front of him. Eighteen, perhaps nineteen years of age. Barely a man. Eben had seen him drunk on many occasions, had heard him boast of his exploits. He’d been one of the men who had visited the infamous “Sister Street” in Alexandria. What did he want with Eben now?
The soldier sighed.
“I’m scared as –,” the young man stopped and Eben was surprised to see him blush. “Sorry. Forgot you don’t swear. … You know, everyone else is scared, but I thought you’d be different.”
Eben found his voice.
“Not scared of dying. Just of killing. … And seeing the dying.”
The soldier stared intently at him for a few moments then looked away.
“You know, I was baptised as a baby. Confirmation classes. Church at Easter and Christmas. But I don’t find it helps much now.”
“Perhaps that’s because you were just going through the motions of religion rather than actually having a personal relationship with God.”
The other man was silent and Eben wondered if he’d gone too far. After several minutes of silence he picked up his pencil and scratched a few more lines onto the back of the postcard.
“What do you mean ‘a personal relationship’?”
“Sin separates us from God and we’ve all sinned. So God sent His Son Jesus to earth to pay the price for our sins and to bring us back into a right relationship with Him. But we have to accept His gift and invite Him into our lives. And take time to know Him.”
There was further silence and Eben hoped he’d said enough. He’d answered briefly but the man had indicated he’d had some religious training. Tonight was not the time for convoluted discussions.
“Guess it’s easy for some. I mean, you’re good enough. But me …” and he let his voice trail off.
Eben shook his head. “I’m a murderer and an adulterer.” He caught the man’s surprised look. “The Bible says that any man who hates his brother, commits murder in his heart; or any man who looks on a woman with lust, commits adultery. No one is good enough. We all need a Saviour. But you must trust Him.”
The man rose and started to move away. “Well, I’ll think on it. Thanks for talking.”
Eben watched him go with sadness, a prayer upon his lips. Tomorrow they would go over the top and Eben was afraid it would be too late then for the young man. For all of them.
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