Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Rifleman in Winter

Corporal Leo Bunin’s breath came out in a cloud in the ice cold air of the Russian winter. He had to constantly move his fingers, the tips of which were not covered by his woollen gloves, incase the skin froze on the metal of his German rifle. It was a fine rifle, one he had found under a body on the decimated outskirts of Stalingrad next to the enormous grain silo. The craftsmanship of the rifle was impressive; it’s wooden stock smooth and polished, the metal seamless. He had fired it three times. He hadn’t hit anything that he had intended to, but Leo was aware of his own capabilities and regarded this as a failure of his own skill as a marksman, rather than the quality of the tool he was using. And it was a tool. If he thought of it as a tool, it made it easier to fire the thing, than if he believed it to be the weapon it was. On the three occasions he had pulled the trigger, a wave of relief passed over him when he missed.

But now he was lining up to shoot the rifle for a fourth time. He was lying on the embankment of a ditch, his left eye closed as he lined the shot, his breathing steadying as he tried to keep still. If it wasn’t for the dreadful cold, it would have been easier to stop his shaking, but his clothes were inadequate to stop it permeating through.
In a copse of trees his target moved. A dear, startled already, by who knows what, was ready to sprint away. He had seconds to shoot before the moment was too late. He squeezed the trigger. A figure dropped from a tree but too late the dear had sprung away deeper into the thick of trees. His bullet must have wildly missed as the man was stood exactly where the dear had been.

“You Russian’s, you know how to cope with the cold. In Germany we don’t get the winters like this. It is hell.” Said Heiko. Leo laughed and bit into the roasted meat. Actual meat! Their combined thinking and organisation had given them a proper meal, and a shelter to keep warm in. In the silence of eating, a Stuka could be heard diving, even from this distance.
“I hate that sound.” Said Heiko. “It scares the hell out of me.”
“That’s what it’s supposed to do. The only thing I’m scared of is everything” he bit into the meat. After a moment he paused in his chewing. “It’s your plane though. Why are you scared?”
“It’s not my plane.”
“It is. German’s built it. You are German.”
“I can just about say I own this watch. But when I am shot, it won’t be my watch. It will be whoever ransacks my corpse. I didn’t make it. Someone who made this has a little bit of ownership in it. But does it matter if he’s German of Russian?”
“If he was Russian it would be worthless! Stuff we make always falls apart!” He laughed and Heiko laughed to. Heiko relaxed warm and full. The fire blazed briefly, throwing sparks into the air like a miniature volcano.
“But that plane. I didn’t make it. I haven’t flown it. I haven’t even seen it.” He craved a cigarette. His full belly would be better for it, he knew. “How do I know who it belongs to? German yes, but not my Germany. Probably never again.”

Monday, November 24, 2008


I went to a boy’s school in Cumbria
It was lovely a place as could be,
Except for the school
With it’s misogynistic rule,
The forced runs, it’s food
And no heating.

I loved the fells and the becks,
And the views that stretch on forever,
Over hill and dale, midst summer or gale
It is beauty irrespective of weather.

But the boys I never did like,
Which inevitably led to many a fight,
So tucked in my room
I’d read through the gloom,
Till I loved thought over fought
beauty over cruelty,
and that which appeared to me true.

So fight if you like,
Mock and make light,
Of everything you see or hear,
But that which is dear
Is a self without fear
Forthright, loving, and kind.