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Christmas in the Trenches, 1914: A Short Story

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Christmas in Trenches, 1914

A Vigil for a Starry Night: A Dramatic Reading for Christmas

Snowflakes: A Dramatic Reading for Christmas

Excerpt: If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story

Latest Novel from Mark W. Sasse

More from Mark W. Sasse

Complete List of Works

Christmas in the Trenches, 1914

A Short Story

by

Mark W. Sasse

Copyright © 2016 Mark W. Sasse

All Rights Reserved

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[email protected]

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Twitter: @sassevn

Christmas in the Trenches, 1914

Private O’Malley stood in an arched huddle, leaning against the front side of the trench. His thin metal helmet covered his red hair but couldn’t hide his scrawny neck, which looked more like a neck of a child than a soldier sent to kill on the front. His build matched his neck, as did the adolescent thoughts of home, which continually swirled through his mind. Richards stood a few feet away and kept his rifle resting on the edge of the trench as he peered over the frozen terrain. Nothing moved in the wasteland, but a few hours respite from barbarity couldn’t shake the grim reality out of any trench-hardened soldier of any age. Their small notch of trench was completely vacated. Twenty yards down, another group of soldiers banded together with bantering whispers over tin cups of coffee. O’Malley’s whole body shook, and he rubbed his hands, trying to make the friction penetrate below the cold outer layer, which made him forget that his hands existed for mobility.

“I’m so cold.”

“Saying it out loud doesn’t add wool to your toes,” sniped Richards without giving O’Malley a short glance of recognition.

O’Malley raised his head and gazed out of the trench, but he wasn’t looking for anything in particular. Certainly not Germans. His stare latched on to the grey sky and wondering thoughts of Brighton where the sky typically seemed just as bleak but not as hopeless. He locked his hands together with his fingers in the formation of an earnest boy ready to pray on a Sunday pew. He longed to be in church rather than staring down an unseen enemy in a war zone, though his Anglican priest might have pointed out that the differences between the two scenarios were not as far apart as one might think. O’Malley blew hard into the middle of his hands while keeping his eyes fixed on the nothingness of the early evening air.

“What would you be doing tonight?”

“What?” asked Richards, again without moving.

“If you weren’t here.”

“Anything would be an improvement from this trench. Put me on the Titanic, and I’ll be happy to sink into the freezing North Atlantic. It might even feel warmer.”

O’Malley knew to brush off Richards’ acrimony.

“No, I mean if you were home on Christmas Eve. What would you be doing now?”

“Leave it alone, O’Malley. It’s best not to think about it.”

O’Malley put his weight on the end of his rifle that he had fired too many times into the grey nothing sky.

“Mom has a large pot of wassail warming on the stove. Hints of clove and cinnamon floating through the air,” reminisced O’Malley.

“Be quiet.”

“Father is sitting by the fire place, smoking his pipe.”

Richards kept his gaze straight ahead over the edge of the trench as O’Malley droned on. They each turned slightly to see the sergeant come up alongside Richards.

“Any movement?” asked the sergeant.

“Nothing Serg.”

The sergeant peaked a glance around Richard’s torso and saw O’Malley, wide-eyed and frozen, looking upward.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked the sergeant, pointing over to O’Malley.

“He’s smelling phantom wassail in his brain.”

“And ham,” O’Malley continued. “Mom has a hefty bone-in shank baking in the oven.”

Richards turned away from his watch and bent over to pick up a plain, unwrapped, unopened metal can. “Heck. It can’t beat this can of Fray Bentos Corned Beef left over from the Napoleonic Wars.”

“Knock it off, Richards,” replied the sergeant. “Can’t fault a guy for a sliver of nostalgia on Christmas Eve.” He turned his head to look once again at the gaunt boy. “Keep your spirits up, O’Malley. Don’t let this hum-bug be a downer.”

“Thanks, Serg.”

Richards groaned and picked up his rifle and poked it once again over the edge of the trench. They had been in this particular trench since September, and they had each become well acquainted with the peculiarities of their home away from home, which, according to the master minds of the fracas, they were to have left in early October. Two and a half months later they stood in the same mud, now partly frozen, fighting off the same rats for even less available scraps. The short war had become an endless quagmire of stalemates, one after the other. Richards had paired up with O’Malley in early August with the sergeant asking Richards to keep an eye on the lad. The sergeant outwardly had doubted the boy’s age. He could have passed for a fourteen year old on any English farm, but his papers said eighteen as O’Malley frequently confirmed with a fiery reply after Richards questioned his manhood.

“I am eighteen.”

“You look like you’re twelve.”

“I’m here to kill me some Germans.”

“You never even held a razor to your cheek.”

“I have too. And I’ll take that razor and slice a Kraut’s neck if they come here.”

“I stand corrected. Look at this. You actually have too hairs. And I gave those to you.”

“Take that back.”

“If I take those back, you’ll have none.”

“Richards, you’re lucky you aren’t on the other side of this no man’s land.”

“Or what? I wouldn’t have to babysit you?”

Such was the typical daily banter between O’Malley and Richards. Most of it in good fun, but tonight, on Christmas Eve, a melancholic glow hovered solemnly over the entire trench.

The sergeant’s voice jolted the red-headed boy out of his trance. “O’Malley. You still with us.”

“Yes, serg.”

“So your mother has the ham in the oven. What else are you doing on this Christmas Eve?”

“In your head,” snapped Richards.

“Papa brought in the Christmas tree an hour ago. The smell of popcorn and pine …”

“We have smells here too,” inserted Richards.

“And my little sister, Annie, she’s helping Papa string-up the tree. And grandpa’s sitting in the corner, fiddle in hand, slowly playing a medley of hymns.”

“Sounds beautiful,” replied the sergeant.

“As long as he doesn’t start serenading us,” said Richards.

“Silent Night, Holy Night …”

O’Malley did sing. He pictured himself in the front pew of his village church. The manger only a few feet away. Mother and father seated to his right.

“[_All is Calm, All is Bright _]…”

Richards didn’t say a word. Nor did the sergeant. Each solemn word floated in the air and out into the barren middle as if rising in resurrection from a long dormant grave. The words skillfully flew, wafting on the wings of the wind, as if a song bird had birthed a new melody out of the trenches of winter. No one joined. No one mocked. Each held their heads high and looked through the glassy-eyed memories of their own, knowing that far away happiness most likely still existed somewhere.

“Sleep in heavenly …”

O’Malley stopped short and breathed heavily. The trench and all its surroundings filled itself with a peaceful lull of reflection. O’Malley’s eyes hadn’t moved at all from the grey sky.

“Serg?”

“Yeah, O’Malley.”

“Do you think I’ll ever get to enjoy Christmas with my family again?”

“Easy kid,” said Richards.

The sergeant hesitated for a moment. “I don’t know. But we have our memories, and on a night like this, that has to be enough.”

“What would you be doing, Serg?”

Richards didn’t blink.

“Me? Me and the misses would be getting out of church right about this time. She would have filled the room with candles. She just loves candles. Probably fifty of them. And we’d be sitting in the flickering light, just the two of us, and—”

“You have no kids, Serg?”

“No.”

Weihnachts Waffenstillstand.”

A German call echoed across the barren wasteland. All three of them jolted to high alert, each gripping their rifles a little more firmly and peering out over the divide. O’Malley couldn’t see anything, but he heard the rest of his unit shuffling back and forth in the trench on both sides of him.

“What was that?”

Weihnachts Waffenstillstand.”

“What are they saying? You speak German, don’t you, Serg?” asked O’Malley.

“Quiet!” yelled Richards.

The voice rang out again, this time accompanied with some gut-roaring laughter.

“Christmas truce,” said the sergeant.

“What?”

“They said ‘Christmas truce.’”

Richards ran his eyes along the rifle’s sights as if he was a sniper trailing a target. “They’re having a blasted party over there.”

“Why not? It’s Christmas Eve,” said O’Malley.

Richards put down his rifle and reached over to shove O’Malley to the ground. He tripped on his gun and twisted his ankle while looking back up at Richards like a betrayed little brother.

“Why not?” asked Richards.

“Richards, you’re going to hurt the boy,” said the sergeant.

“I’m not a boy!” yelled the indignant O’Malley.

“Why not? I’ll tell you why not? We are knee deep in mud and crud and filth and disease and sentimental foolish notions which never come true in the middle of the depths of hell. There’s no respite for the weary, flat and freezing in a French trench.”

Richards grabbed his rifle and pointed it back over the crest of the trench.

“Knock it off, Richards,” said the sergeant.

“Why do you encourage him?” answered Richards.

“Because we all need a moment away from this place.”

O’Malley made it back to his feet and started rubbing his leg and arm.

“If anyone needs a moment away from this place, it’s me!,” said Richards. “I’m the only one in this hole with a family. I’m the one who won’t be able to hang up little Sara’s stocking over the fireplace. And she’ll be asking her mother if her Daddy is coming home this Christmas. Well, I might be coming home—in a body bag.”

The silence stung and no one looked at Richards, who in turn looked at no one else. “And what about my little boy? He was three months old when I left, and now he’s more than a year old and he has no idea who I am.”

“I didn’t know you had kids, Richards,” said the sergeant.

Richards grunted and looked down into the trench as if he lost something. “It doesn’t do anyone any good to try to lift one’s spirits. We can’t afford such lofty thoughts.” He looked through a series of pots and utensils which had been stacked on a small wooden ledge behind him. “Do we have anymore coffee in this darned place?”

O’Malley helped Richards look for the coffee and suddenly felt a strange affinity for the man who was a dozen years his elder. “Sorry, Tom. I didn’t know you had a family.”

“I don’t need your sympathy, just your silence,” snapped Richards, and knocked over a few tin cups with the butt of his rifle.

The sergeant motioned over to O’Malley and slowly waved his hands to tell the boy to let the scene go and not say anything else. O’Malley picked up on the sergeant’s suggestion and went back to grey-sky watching. More laughter could be heard from the other side and the entire length of the English trench gazed cautiously over to the raucous sounds of merriment. The laughter felt out of place, almost like a mocking or taunting cry which would end with the reality of a bullet through the forehead. They had all seen it too often to hope for anything else, but the sounds couldn’t help but foster a reminiscence of Christmases long past, and each pair of English eyes had their own tales of warm hearts, cherished laughter, and a heaping stove-top full of love.

Richards broke the English silence with a quick reminder of why they are there in the first place. “Stick your neck up, Kraut, and I’ll make this a Christmas Eve to remember.”

“Cool it, Richards,” said the sergeant.

“I see someone moving,” said Richards.

“Where?”

“Yes, I see it too. Hold your fire,” instructed the sergeant.

Through the mist and the dim evening air, several slow-moving images walked towards them unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. They each focused on the movement in their own ways, trying to see what sort of threat approached.

“We never agreed to any truce,” said Richards. “I got a shot.”

“Stand down.”

“What are they doing?” asked the young O’Malley.

“I hear something,” said the sergeant.

“Is that music?” asked O’Malley.

“Yes it is,” said Richards. “A requiem for Christmas Eve. I’m going to take the shot.”

“They’re unarmed!” said O’Malley emphatically.

“Stand down,” instructed the sergeant. “Listen!”

Through the air floated a tune. A familiar one. The words were foreign, but the meaning unmistakable. It was a common bond, an offer of friendship, an understanding of human commonality that all three of the British soldiers couldn’t ignore. It lisped and dived and darted on the wind, pricking the emotions of every hardened soldier staring into the frozen mud wall of their everlasting trench.

Stille nacht. Heilige nacht.”

The silent night became just that. The atmosphere absorbed the wind. The cold didn’t seem to register anymore in the frozen nervous systems of the soldiers. The words of the song poked a hole in all defenses and the nostalgic vibes of home and country and goodness and warmth flooded their emotions.

“They’re unarmed,” observed O’Malley.

The common melody rolled over their ears, and they felt at home.

“Serg, let’s sing,” spoke up the young, expectant heart.

“I’m not singing,” snapped Richards.

“Serg? What do you want us to do? Shoot or sing?”

The absurdity of the question hung in the air for a moment. Anyone would have traded bullets for chords or cold steel for a familiar melody, but Richards bristled at the thought. After all, he’s seen the cold hard facts of war one too many times.

“This is war, not the Brighton Follies,” he said.

“No, Richards. This is Christmas Eve,” said the sergeant, “as he stood up, making his neck an easy target, and started singing the familiar refrain, “[_Silent Night, Holy Night _]…”

O’Malley joined him and climbed over the edge of the trench, standing right beside his sergeant in one of the most loyal and trusting moves a private ever offered a superior.

It was at that point that O’Malley realized what he was doing: making himself completely exposed to a small contingent of enemy soldiers coming towards him, not to mention the uncountable number of rifles from the opposing trenches which pointed his direction. He began shaking, even more than the cold required of him.

“Serg, are we going to die?” asked O’Malley.

“Get back down here!” yelled Richards.

But the sergeant reached over and patted O’Malley on the shoulder as they inched closer to the unknown.

“O’Malley, sometimes you have to be willing to step out over the crust of the trench to test the waters. And on Christmas Eve, you have to believe that what we all want is peace on earth and goodwill toward men,” said the sergeant.

“Even in the midst of war?” asked Richards from the edge of the trench.

“Especially in the midst of war. That’s what we are both fighting for—peace.”

The sergeant cupped his hands around his mouth and called out.

“Truce! Truce! Christmas truce. Weihnachts Waffenstillstand.”

Richards slowly emerged from the edge of the trench and poked himself between the two exposed soldiers moving towards the enemy.

“Is this one of those times, Searg?” asked O’Malley

“I sure hope so, O’Malley,” he replied.

“Why am I following you guys?” asked Richards, as he followed the two brave soldiers forward.

“Because you respect me,” said the sergeant in jest.

“The level of my respect for you depends entirely upon what those shadows coming towards us end up doing.”

“You still smell that wassail, O’Malley?” asked the sergeant.

“Yes, Serg. It’s really strong.”

“Hang on to it, kid. That’s the stuff life is made of.”

“I still have my sidearm,” said Richards.

“There’s no room for a sidearm in a truce.”

“This could be more like a massacre, not a truce.”

“They don’t have their rifles,” said O’Malley.

“Probably packing sidearms too,” said the cynical Richards.

“Would you two calm down, and let’s see what they want.”

The small contingent of German soldiers stopped moving. They stood in the encroaching darkness not more than thirty yards away. Their stoppage forced the three brave Englishmen to come to an abrupt stop as well.

“They stopped. Why have they stopped?”

“Want me to pull out my piece, Serg?”

“No, this is not the O.K. Corral,” replied the sergeant.

“What about Little Big Horn?” asked Richards.

“Christmas Truce. Weihnachten Waffenstillstand.”

The sergeant yelled his best and loudest, trying to reach a resolution on the Christmas Eve stand-off. They each stood with resolve but felt the movement of the earth beneath their feet. They also sensed the imaginary pull of all the eyes of the British trench upon them as if they stood on an earthquake, an unstable rift which would suck them into the ground. Time stood still. It stood tall and unmoving. A peaceful calm before the possible onslaught. An intrepid heart that didn’t believe in itself. They watched the enemy glance at each other and talk in muffled words which eluded them. And out of the darkness it came. A sphere. It may have been a gift or a Trojan horse. It may have been a bomb or a blessing, but whatever it was, it made the three fall to their knees and buckle under the uncertainty of the moment.

As the second-guessing came flying through their minds at lightening speed, O’Malley noticed the bounce. And the second bounce. And the third. By the time it reached them, he had shifted his foot to the side and stopped it against the in-sole of his shoe. He started laughing, and that made the sergeant laugh. It even loosened the stuffy and tense look on Richards’ face.

“It’s a ball, serg. A ball.”

They all laughed and looked out over the war-pocked pitch.

“What should I do, serg?” asked O’Malley.

The sergeant glanced long and hard out over the small contingent of Germans, who looked on as curiously as the English looked at them.

“Kick it, O’Malley. Kick it!”

He did. Upon contact, the opposing sides burgeoned over the crest of the trench. Shouts of laughter and peaceful banter called out in the middle of the tension. The newly emerged enemies approached the opposing team and shook hands, smiling, nodding, patting each other on the back, exchanging cigarettes, and remembering what it was that they were fighting for anyways. An ideal. A peaceful idea. A day. A savior. A blessing. A peace. A way to live in freedom and love in the midst of those whom you call family. And in the middle of it all, they found a sanctuary from the death, a moment’s release from the dark night which was weighing down their soul. They found the humanness in the midst of an inhumane struggle.

O’Malley laughed, remembering every single fragrant dish his mother would serve that night.

“Serg?”

“Yeah, O’Malley.”

“Merry Christmas.”

“Yes. Merry Christmas.”

The ball came bounding back to O’Malley with a following trail of laughter and yelling from the ever increasing amount of German players. It hit off his foot and ricocheted a few feet away.

“I’m not very good at soccer, serg,” he said.

“O’Malley. Let the Englishman show you how it’s done.”

Richards dribbled between his feet for a moment and sent a long towering kick over the front of the German soldiers. They yelled in awe and applauded which started it all. A pickup game on the edge of death, on the eve of life, in the middle of France, on the cusp of hope, in the year 1914. It proved once and for all that war is nothing but a game, played out on the edge of humanity, with the stakes higher than the reality in the hearts of the soldiers. After all, humans crave but one thing: an evening fire of food and fellowship on the eve of a holiday which changed history. And in that momentous fleeting span of time, each side knew exactly what it meant to be human.

 

 

THE END

 

A Vigil for a Starry Night: A Dramatic Reading for Christmas

On a night when the clouds cover the stars like an impenetrable mountain cliff,

I wait for a sign. A small tinge up my spine. A desperate plea for the ancient ways to speak once again.

I wait for the light, hoping it will come, hoping it will be enough.

The stars, spread brightly out like colored snowflakes flickering across the onyx sky, reflect a distant constellation,

and begin to re-enter the atmosphere, piercing through the fractured clouds,

giving faint and distant light to the voidless black, the empty sea, the sandless desert, the vacant abyss that is deep within me.

The light, hushed and dimmed by a millennium of travel, is all I have. Is all I ever had.

I wait for the reflection to reach me, hoping one refracted beam from a star long ago still exists,

the same ancient light that awakened the shepherd’s eyes one cool and lonely night.

Can the light that ushered in a new millennium, awaken a new epoch within me?

If so, it might be enough for my heart to go on.

In the midst of tears, in the solitude of our inner being, we yearn to be on that impoverished hill,

to understand the magnitude of that sight, a heavenly light illuminating a darkened heart,

a heavenly chorus rising to a crescendo of glory.

Will I choose to believe its truth, not blindly though because I know what the light can do for one’s soul.  

And though the unbearable pain releases not its grip, I have a question to answer: Does the light still exist for me?

Does the same sky, which God ripped open that night with his right hand,

planting angelic heralds of peace on the clouds to rustle awake the shepherds, still exist for me?

Can he reach into my clouded heart and announce the truth like a heavenly chorus?

If it is so, all suffering and cause of angst still present throughout the world will be no match for the blessed announcement:

“A Child is born.”

 

Snowflakes: A Dramatic Reading for Christmas

A hushed winterland, a joyous hinterland – uncharted, crisp and clean, untouched by man or beast,

quiet and undisturbed, slowly awakened by the audible delights of a child,

“Snowflakes,”

with cumbersome boots sinking inches into the virgin land, unspoiled and serene, until perfectly molded footprints follow him in the snow as he sloshes every waking breath into the wonderland.

Vibrant eyes, large and bold, like the static black coal of a snowman’s eye,

Pupils dilated with wide-eyed delight, writing tales of wonder on the lens of the eye.

Ruddy-red cheeks, puffy flesh, numb to the touch, indifferent to the coldness,

Warmed by the laughter and sighs and taut screams of glee directed at only one object:

“Snowflakes.”

Snowflakes piled in billions and trillions, each one exclusive and uncommon,

Each unique pattern its glories unknown by human eye alone,

But the beauty of the snowflake does not frame itself on the mind of a child,

It’s not the patterns or artistry which foolishly draws the child into the coldness,

It’s the possibilities that the falling, gentle crystal stars create,

Wet and heavy, big and slow, floating on the wings of the air,

Head tilted, eyes towards the heavens, listening patiently for the message, mouth oval-round, measuring the flight pattern as he catches the cold design on the tip of the tongue.

The mouth tastes the wetness, the nose smells the freshness, the cheeks touch the dampness, the ears hear the deafness, and the eyes, yes, the eyes see a kaleidoscope of light, sparkling and shifting as the sun peeks its frigid nose out from behind mile-high clouds,

Winter captures every sense, compelling the child to leap to the ground, to rest amidst the tranquil frozen sea and release the awaiting angel, ready to announce the joyous arrival.

Peace has come. Join us, let us rest, in the

“Snowflakes”

for Christmastime is here.

EXCERPT: If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story

 

Beatrice descended firmly into her rocker and stretched her legs towards the fire, pulling her patched quilt over her torso. A coal nugget, without giving proper warning, cracked and spit itself onto the floor.

“Now calm down,” she snapped at the flying ember. “There’s nothing to get so excited about, unless you’re planning on setting this place on fire and running me out of house and home on Christmas Eve.”

The small log house brimmed with the smell of freshly baked biscuits of which Beatrice had already had more than her fair share, even though a widow has immense discretion in how many biscuits constitutes a fair share. The light outside faded quickly — heaven and stars veiled by a blustery front, which drove all but the heartiest of souls inside. The warmth tingled her feet, and she leaned back, closing her eyes and thinking about last year at this time. After a moment of reflection, she reached for her Bible and opened the cover to reveal a folded parchment, discolored and worn. She gingerly unfolded the edges of the fine paper and looked at the exquisite silk needlework of an angelic figure, dainty and graceful, with wings rising peacefully out of its back like two towering, serene mountain peaks.

“Homer, this little cloth angel is all I have this year,” spoke Beatrice into the empty cabin. “It will have to watch over me for a long time, Lord willing. I will always treasure it, as I will always treasure the memories of you — even the ones that made me so gosh-darn frustrated. You had that way about you.” She paused for a moment, admiring the meticulous stitching, and glanced at the ceiling. “And Lord, watch over old Homer for me this Christmas Eve, will you? I sent him up to you, and I expect you to treat him real well. Give him a fine gift, at least as fine as this angel. And keep him warm. He always forgot to put on those extra stockings around this time of year. He was stubborn and finicky as old Snowy.”

She gazed once more at the angel and placed her finger on the golden star stitched directly above a small wooden stable.

“Merry Christmas, Homer.”

She closed the parchment, placing it back inside the cover of her leather-bound Bible.

“And Lord, if it’s not too much trouble, please watch over my other angel, my dear daughter Elly, out east.” She leaned over and picked up her needle and thread. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to do a little stitching before it gets too dark.”

She pulled at the nearly finished shawl hanging off the side of the table and skillfully bobbed and weaved the last few inches of the left tail, humming lightly a few bars of a Christmas hymn, randomly making comments to herself, most of which would have made no sense to another human being if one had been within a stone’s throw. She was ravenously intent on her shawl and stitched away for some time until Snowy, the plough horse tied up on the side of the cabin, grunted wildly.

“Now what is it, Snowy?”

Thud.

Something hit the side of the house. Beatrice stood immediately but didn’t move a muscle. She put her finger in her mouth and bit down in fierce concentration, intently listening for any other sound. She heard it. A scraping. Light and slow. It slid along the front of the cabin and stopped under the wooden, hinged panel, which swung open in the summer to let the breeze permeate the room. Beatrice stepped daintily, as if on thin ice, putting her head against the wooden shutters, packed tightly with wool strands meant to keep the drafts out during the winter months. She heard a faint whimper, like that of a frightened puppy. A hollow wailing, soft yet agonizing.

She walked over and lit the candle in the lantern, threw her new shawl over her shoulders, and slowly opened the front door. An early winter breeze startled her, but she lifted the light and shone it around the corner to the small divot in the ground where she had started digging a hole to replant her rhododendron but never got around to it. A figure, dark, blended into the night, huddled in a ball, shaking, panting softly with her head down in her knees.

“Hey, sweetheart. You’re shivering. Don’t be afraid. It’s all right. It’s cold out here, that’s for sure.”

Beatrice stepped two feet towards the shaking mass, who quickly backed away, slyly looking to her left at the lantern, which lit up Beatrice’s jolly-round face.

“Do you want to come in?”

The girl shook her head, tightening her arms’ grip around her knees. She wore rags completely torn at the bottom with shards of ripped cloth hanging down her legs. She had nothing on her feet.

“Well, I had a mind of getting a little fresh air myself. I think I’ll sit out here for a minute, if that’s all right with you.” Beatrice glanced over at the girl, who kept staring at her with no movement whatsoever. “Actually, I’m rather warm myself. I’ve been poking those hot coals in the stove all evening,” continued Beatrice. “I had the hardest time getting them to burn evenly tonight. I made a whole heap of biscuits.” Beatrice leaned in to whisper like she was about to divulge to the world a shameful secret. “Don’t tell anyone, but I almost burnt half of them. Don’t suppose you’re hungry, are you?”

Beatrice sat down on a log bench outside the front door and placed the lantern at the edge, illuminating the girl’s profile, who sat in the impending rhododendron pit.

“Well, are you hungry or not?”

The girl shook her head in a predetermined, mechanical manner.

“Well, I didn’t think so,” said Beatrice. “Young girls running through the meadows in rags on Christmas Eve are rarely hungry. Or at least that’s been my experience.”

The girl kept her eyes shifted on Beatrice, as if she was staring down a bear ready to pounce. It wouldn’t have been the first time Beatrice was mistaken for a bear, sometimes for her roaring voice, other times for her warm and fuzzy exterior.

“Well, here …” Beatrice moved quickly to her right and put the shawl around the girl’s neck. The girl flinched backwards and started panting heavily. “Now stop moving so. I told you I was warm. Remember, I was poking at those coals. Let’s get those arms of yours covered up. You’re shivering.”

The girl wriggled some more.

“Stop that,” snapped Beatrice, gently repositioning the shawl over her arms in a motherly fashion. “So, where you headed?”

The girl clung tightly to the shawl but said nothing.

“You can talk, can’t you?”

The girl slowly nodded her head.

“Well, I’ll believe it when I hear it. So, where you going in such a hurry on Christmas Eve?”

“Canada,” the girl replied softly.

“Canada, oh my! It’s going to get colder yet. If you think you’re shivering now, just wait till you’re in the land of the polar bears. But they’re nice polar bears. They won’t bother you up there.” Beatrice stood up, picked up the lantern and walked towards the door. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of those biscuits. I guess I’ll have to feed them to the birds in the morning.”

As she said this, she pointed the lantern towards the girl, looking for a reaction. The girl slightly lunged forward with her entire body, her eyes glaring at the light, and her mouth gaping open, not unlike a cod fish.

“Maybe you could eat just one?” asked Beatrice coyly with her hand on the door latch.

The girl nodded quickly.

“Good. Come on in.”

 

THE ENTIRE STORY IS AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY AT AMAZON.COM for KINDLE AND KINDLE APP

 

 

“Which Half David: A Modern-day King David Story”

Available in Kindle & Paperback

 

“Redemption at its best … another masterpiece.” – Dolores Ayotte, Inspirational Authoro

 

“An amazing, entertaining read.” – Charlene, Collected Works

 

“Which Half David” is a modern twist on the centuries old tale of King David. Set against the lush backdrop of the fictitious Southeast Asian island nation of Sulu, it is the story of one man’s dramatic fall from grace and his struggle to come to grips with both halves of who he really is. 

American mission worker Tobin Matthews faces off against two imposing giants: a vicious gang of human traffickers and a corrupt justice system ready to imprison a group of hill tribesmen. But his greatest foe remains within as he finds himself wrestling with a broken marriage and a crippling set of doubts. When his brazen ex-lover shows up with her own agenda, she becomes the greatest temptation of his life, and he must decide how far he is willing to go to have her.

“5 Stars – Deeply affected me” – Charlene, Literary R & R

“5 Stars – Much more than a love story” – inspirational author Dolores Ayotte

“5 Stars – A must read” – book reviewer Danielle Urban

 

As nightly raids burn the capital city, the mundane existence of Gerald Sanpatri takes a dramatic shift when Rosia walks into his life bringing laughter and unexpected love. She inspires the ex-writer to once again take up his pen and write the impossible: a love story for an entire nation. A Love Story for a Nation chronicles the explosive and heart-warming journey of one country’s brush with history through the eyes of a courageous man who dared to stand up, smile, and think the unimaginable. 

Complete List of Works by Mark W Sasse

 

 

Novels

 

[_A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far _](2017)

Which Half David (2016)

A Love Story for a Nation (2015)

The Reach of the Banyan Tree (2014)

The Recluse Storyteller (2013)

Beauty Rising (2012)

 

 

Plays

 

“Theatrical Duets” (2016)

“The Secrets of the Magic Pool” (2015)

“Grandparents’ War” (2013)

“Romans on the Couch” (2012)

“Spy Blue” (2012)

 

 

Short Stories

 

“Christmas in the Trenches, 1914” (2016)

“If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story” (2014)

 

 

 

 

 


Christmas in the Trenches, 1914: A Short Story

Christmas Eve, 1914. Young Private O'Malley, staring over the crest of a trench deep in the heart of France, regales his comrades with nostalgic images of home as he describes his parents' Christmas preparations back in Brighton. But when a curious group of German soldiers singing Silent Night step out of the trenches and approach the British line of defense, O'Malley and his mates have to decide if there's enough Christmas magic in the air which would allow the weary soldiers a brief respite from the ravages of war on the holiest of nights.

  • ISBN: 9781370658084
  • Author: Mark W Sasse
  • Published: 2016-12-10 02:25:13
  • Words: 5919
Christmas in the Trenches, 1914: A Short Story Christmas in the Trenches, 1914: A Short Story