(A Short Story Against War)
Irat R. Feiskhanov
We found the captain in his room. He had left us a little poem:
I can stare a thousand yards
And I don’t smell so good;
There’s something that I’m covered in
I can’t get myself to sleep
Though perhaps I ought;
I thought I could cope, my friends:
It turns out I cannot.
Perhaps the weather’s playing tricks;
Perhaps it’s just the day;
If you should chance to find this note:
Just know that it’s OK.
Well, it was a sentiment.
“It’s OK,” I said to his body.
Later we sang him toward heaven, or wherever else it is they keep telling us we’re singing people toward.
We were all tired. The only reason any one didn’t off themselves was out of consideration for their comrades; but those comrades had no reason not to off themselves other than the reciprocal.
The captain, it seems, had found a way out: leave a poem, and say that it’s OK.
It is a rather common tactic: one monstrates confidence, though there is none to be found within; the idea is that expressing concern will undermine mission success.
But, none of this is meant to judge him harshly, or say that his note had no point: even if people didn’t say “Nil nisi bonum,” there would be no reason to beat a dead horse; which is to say that I’m sure the captain had his reasons, and many of us shared them. Some of us, to avoid the captain’s fate, clung to the idea that we need to keep on living. The rest just understood that there would always be time to die.
In any case: one rambles in these situations: that is another tactic. And once we faced Death again the next day, we all suddenly found a reason to cling to Life.
* * *
Well, what can I say, my friends? One can lose all the battles and still win the war: Pyrrhus taught us that. He was from Epirus. And actual Rus’ was familiar with his example.
The next day we all cursed the captain in our hearts with praise: “If only he were here!”
But he weren’t.
And bullets were hindered by piles of bodies, and bayonets grew weary of stabbing.
* * *
But there was such beauty! Every sense was sharpened.
The reveille performed by the dawn’s first volley made most of us explode with excitement. The others, it made explode in a bloody mess. We sang them whereverward later, as well; though we couldn’t really put a name to most, like the Captain.
* * *
And then it ended, and many years passed. And we thought it was over forever.
And we click on the radio, and remember the Captain.