There’s a lull in the rifle fire. For just a second everyone takes a breath. The enemy is quiet. The illusion of victory is an easy one, all the men are bruised and dirty. They want it to be over, but they can’t stop fighting until they have victory. The men think they have it and they are starting to smile.
“Peters and Johnson, you’re with me!” booms the voice of the captain. It breaks the hush as if it were a BAR shot. “We’re flanking left, the rest of you watch the enemy line and shoot anything that moves!”
The tall captain leaps from the foxhole. His hair is dark when it’s not shaved off, but today it’s the same length as his beard. He’s wet from perspiration, making the black grunge stick to his calm, determined face. The young soldiers are looking at him. These are the worst of times, and they need his guidance. They’re his responsibility. That’s why they can only see confidence and courage. They don’t get to see the fear. They may not see the panic in his heart. No, that’s just for him. It drives him. Keeps him focused. The heavy Thomson seems like a part of his strong arms, he’s hasn’t taken his hand off it in days. As he runs, crouched, towards the enemy line, his mind is clear, his breathing is fast. He knows his task. He has to clear the enemy burrow, it’s not over until his troops are bunkered there. Only then can he relax. Relax. What a strange word to use in this chaos. But that’s exactly what he’ll do. Relax. This little victory will only last a day. The soldiers
will need their strength in the morning. That’s tomorrow problem. For tonight he’ll calm his troops and get them to sleep. It won’t be sound, but it’ll help.