Good morning everyone and Happy Memorial Day! Today is the day we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for those who are currently serving in the US Military.
If possible, please take a moment today to thank God for our country’s freedom, and if you can, thank a veteran for their service! I’d enjoy hearing in the comments below about how you celebrate Memorial Day and what it means to you.
On to the Giveaways!
Grand Prize Winner…(Abby G.)
Second Prize Winner…(Amanda)
And for random fun, I picked a third place winner…just because I wanted to! 🙂 Rosy and Gracie Marr!!! 🙂 You two will receive an Ebook copy of Even in the Grey!
Abby G, Amanda, Rosy, and Gracie, I’ll be sending you both emails as well as those Ebook prizes soon!
Thank you to all the others who participated! We really did have a whole bunch of entries this time around! Would you like to see more giveaways in the future?
– Short Story –
Readers, this story you’re about to read is different. It’s the complete opposite of the story I wrote last week. It’s a story of two men during WWII—a medic and a soldier. Before you start reading I just want to give you a heads-up.
This story does contain violence, although nothing explicitly graphic. It also isn’t 100% accurate.
Just take this story as it is. It isn’t a polished manuscript, but whoever said it had to be? I must confess I was up late last night finishing it. 😉 It’s just a story I wanted to share with you.
Despite some of the inaccuracies and plot holes, please just enjoy this story as it is. I truly hope you will find it exciting and thought-provoking.
Squirming out from beneath his threadbare blanket, little Jace sat up in bed and dangled his small feet over the icy wood floor. He was still for a moment, listening to the sounds coming from the room across the hall. Daddy was drunk again. This time it sounded like he was mad. Jace didn’t like when his Daddy got mad. It always meant a bloody nose or a black eye for him. Jace slid off his bed, momentarily enjoying the familiar bounce he always did right before hitting the floor.
Shivering, Jace pulled open his bedroom door and looked out. His father was still banging around in his bedroom. Jace watched the sliver of light under the door dance with his father’s movements.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open.
“What are you doing, daddy?” He asked solemnly, watching his half-drunk father frantically pull clothing from his dresser drawers.
“None of your business, boy.” Came the angry retort.
“Are you going on a trip, Daddy?”
“Not now, boy, I gotta think!” Swearing under his breath, the man tried to shove his clothing into a threadbare duffel bag, while attempting to drink out of his whiskey bottle at the same time.
Jace gently laid a hand on his father’s strong arm. “Can I go on the trip too?”
“Would you close that trap of yours!”
The boy’s head snapped back from the impact his father’s bottle made. Jace held his bleeding cheek, fingers lightly touching the shards of broken glass.
“You’re always ranting and raving, fool! I’m sick of you!”
Tears sprung in Jace’s blue eyes. “I’m sorry, daddy.” He whispered. “Can I go with you?”
“You ain’t nothin to me, boy.” The father pinned his son against the wall and lifted his hand. Jace coward. “You’re a heap of trash—a burden.” The punch came, and Jace couldn’t do anything to protect himself.
Tears pooled in the boy’s eyes, and he wiped blood off his mouth… “Please don’t hit me, daddy.”
“I’ll do anything I want to you, boy!” Pushing his son aside, the man swung his duffel over his shoulder and hurried downstairs. Jace stumbled after him.
“Daddy, where are you going? It’s dark outside.” Jace tried to catch hold of his father’s jacket. “Don’t leave me here alone!”
Ignoring his son’s cries, the man tossed his duffel bag on the passenger’s side of his car and climbed in behind the wheel. He turned towards his son. “Remember Jace. This is all your fault. You’re the one who killed her.” The man backed the car onto the road.
Jace ran after the car. “Daddy, Daddy, don’t leave me!” Tripping on the uneven sidewalk, Jace did a face-plant onto the cement. Looking up, he watched his father’s car disappear around the block. His daddy wasn’t coming back.
The sixteen-year-old soldier jerked, hitting his forehead on a rock jutting out from the side of the trench. The fiery light of the explosion that had startled him faded into the night.
Reaching up, he felt the thick scars that broken glass had created years ago. He moved his fingers up just a little and found the small bruise the rock had given him. It hurt. Jace Spencer was used to pain. He had dealt with it his entire life.
As a boy he had always tried to find ways to escape his father’s abuse. Usually it was through his imagination. He’d walk down the street, pretending to be like every other boy he saw. He’d imagine real hard that when he went home, a pretty Mama would be making supper and a big chocolate cake, and Daddy who would show him how to ride a bike.
When Jace walked through the door at night, his dreams faded as quickly as they had come. His father was a monster who drank incessantly and beat his son without restraint…and a mother?…Jace didn’t have one.
An explosion nearby caused an instant adrenaline filled jerk in the body of the young soldier. He felt his stomach churn.
He was terrified. Terrified of crawling out of the trench. He had never fired his gun in a battle, nor had he even seen a dead person until now.
Jace squeezed his eyes shut. This was that monster’s fault. If his Dad would have been a real father, he wouldn’t have ever let his sixteen-year-old son join the army. Jace had done it to get away from the Uncle who had taken him in after his Dad had abandoned him. Instead of blaming his father, Uncle Dillard had blamed Jace for all the family’s problems. Day after day, the only thing Jace heard from his Uncle’s family was, “It would’ve been better if you hadn’t been born.”
Unable to take the abuse, Jace ran away, lied about his age, and joined the war against Germany. He didn’t know exactly what he was fighting for, but he finally felt like his own man. The others respected him. He had friends and none of them ever used their physical strength to hurt him. But…No matter how he felt on the outside, he was wounded deeply in the inside and had only one wish in the whole world. To destroy the man that had destroyed his life. Jace didn’t know how he’d do it, but he would.
Warren Spencer knelt down next to the wounded soldier. His aching fingers clawed at the latches of the first aid pouch on his left, struggling to open it. His eyes caught the red cross emblem on the pouch like it always did. That red cross meant two things. Someone was hurt and he was here to help them.
“Doesn’t look good.” Philips, a fellow medic whispered.
Warren didn’t need to be told the young man’s wound was serious. He could see that for himself.
The soldier’s eyelids, swollen from crying opened partway. “Help me.”
Warren had to bite his lip to keep the tears away. Help him? With a wound like that the boy didn’t have much longer.
“Shh.” Warren touched the side of the soldier’s face. The boy wasn’t even old enough to shave. “Lie still. Philips, hold him still and get that IV in him.”
A firm hand gripped the red cross armband on Warren’s shirt, the other medic shook his head. “We can’t save him, Spencer.”
“We can try.” Warren growled.
Philips gave Warren a sharp look, but said nothing.
“I’m giving you an order Philips. Obey me.”
Warren turned back to the soldier who was following his every move with frightened eyes. “You’re gonna be alright.” Warren whispered. “We’re trying to get an IV in you. Lie still for my friend, alright?”
“I don’t like needles.” The boy mumbled, embarrassment coloring his pale face.
Warren looked up at Philips. The man was done inserting the IV and was using a stick to hold the bag of solution up.
“Hold him.” Warren ordered.
Philips, although gruff on the outside and as sensible as they came, took the boy’s arms gently in his own.
Warren cut away the fabric of the boy’s shirt, exposing the wound. He looked up for several seconds and found the soldier staring at him. The boy’s moist green eyes pleaded with Warren to do something, anything to keep him from dying.
It was at that point every time he worked on a soldier that Warren had to steel himself against being gentle. He snapped his head back down, refusing to look up again at those eyes. He laid a dressing across the wound and used the heel of his hand to press down hard. The soldier tensed beneath him and a scream from somewhere deep inside made its way out.
“Please! Please, stop!” The soldier cried, fighting against Philip’s grip.
Warren shook his head, pressing harder. He had a job to do, but his heart was breaking again. He could take the blood and the wounds, but he couldn’t take the agonized screams, or the tears…or the death.
Suddenly the soldier reached up and grabbed Warren’s arm. “Please!—I can’t take it.”
There was something in his voice that made Warren look-up. The soldier was ashen. Warren grabbed his wrist, feeling his pulse. It was weak. The awful truth slammed into him like a stone wall. The shock to the boy’s system was too much. Warren couldn’t save him.
The boy limply squeezed Warren’s arm. “I’m scared. I’m not afraid to die,” the boy’s voice caught. “I’m just afraid of what mama and daddy will think of me. They didn’t want me to join up, but daddy signed the papers because he knew I was trying to do my duty.” The soldier cried out, crushing the medic’s hand with his own.
Warren squeezed the bridge of his nose with his free hand. He bent forward to read the name on the dog-tags.
“Are you your mama and daddy’s only son, Charlie?”
The boy nodded, grabbing at the front of his uniform. “I have a picture.”
Warren pushed his hands aside and found the picture for him. He put it in the boy’s cupped hand. “There you are, son.”
Tears filled the soldier’s eyes as he gazed at the picture. He struggled to breathe for a moment longer than lay still.
Warren bowed his head. Not another one. In the last hours, out of all the soldier he had treated, only three had made it.
“You okay?” Philips asked.
“Fine.” Warren turned away, reorganizing his first aid supplies. He wasn’t fine. Inside he was a twisted mess.
That boy—He was so young. Around the same age his son Jace would be now. Squeezing the bridge of his nose, Warren leaned back against the side of the trench. His son. His beautiful, sensitive son lost to him because of selfish indulgence and revenge. It was too late to go back and change what had been, but with everything in him, Warren wanted just a glimpse of his son.
God. It’s too late isn’t it? I ran from you, my son, and the wonderful life you gave me. I blamed my boy for his mother’s death. I hurt him in so many ways. I wanted him to pay for what he took from me.
From his pocket, Warren pulled the crumpled photograph he kept had of Jace at five years. If he bore a strong resemblance to his father at such a young age, what did his son look like now?
Tears filling his eyes, Warren clasped the photograph to his chest. He had found God but hadn’t been able to find his son. He had looked everywhere and begged every family member he knew to give him any information about his son. They all had all slammed their doors on his face.
Warren had eventually given up. He got a good job and worked late every night to keep the pain of going back to an empty house away. It was his fault his life was like this. If he had given into Jace’s big pleading blue eyes just once all those years ago and became the father he had been meant to be, would life feel so empty now?
God, bring my son back to me. I don’t care how, just give me a chance to make things right.
Jace followed the other soldiers up out of the trench, hands clenching his gun to his chest. All around him explosions shook the ground and lit up the night sky. He stumbled once, than twice. He ducked when when splinters of razor sharp shrapnel flew overhead.
I can do this. He whispered. I can do—
Another explosion. One that left a gaping crater, and scattered hundreds of shell fragments in all directions.
Searing pain tore through both Jace’s legs and chest. For one second, everything around him became muted. He saw some men running to safety and others being cut down.
His body jerked back and before he could catch himself, Jace landed in a heap at the bottom of another muddy trench.
Screaming, he tried to sit up. Pain stabbed through him like a sharp knife. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. He wanted his revenge first. Revenge on the man that had forced him into war.
The plan hadn’t been to trip and fall headlong into a trench. He had been running and now he was here.
Warren frantically dug his hands into the muddy soil, searching for anything to keep him from falling into who knew what. No matter how hard he kicked his legs or clawed at the crumbling earth, he couldn’t keep himself from landing with a thud on the ground. He let out a muffled groan. Mud caked up around him and he crawled forward, feeling for a place that was dry. He didn’t even want to think about what could be lurking in the darkness.
His hand came in contact with something. It moved. Warren jerked back into the muddy water, trying to force his eyes to grow accustomed to the dim light. There was something or someone in here with him. The hair on the back of his neck stood straight up. Were they friend or foe? Holding completely still, Warren listened. Breathing, though soft and uneven caught his ear. Whoever it was either frightened out of his mind or preparing to attack him. Warren waited several more minutes before speaking.
A movement caught his attention. “Who’s asking?” A young voice asked.
“A medic.” Warren tightened his grip on the strap of his canvas first aid pouch running across his chest.
A cough tore through the silence. Warren knew that kind of cough. It sounded like the man had something wrong with his lungs.
“I don’t believe you.” The voice cracked.
“I know you’re not going to hurt me,” Warren said bravely. “Or you would’ve done it by now.”
“Don’t get too confident.” Though the speaker was trying to sound intimidating, the strained sound in his voice made his bravado almost laughable. The man had to be hurt.
“Are you hurt?” Warren started moving towards him.
“Don’t come any closer!”
“It’s alright,” Warren reached forward in the dark again. “I won’t hurt you. I’m not German.”
“Sometimes Germans disguise their voices to sound American. Don’t come any closer.” The young man’s trembled, his heavy breathing filling the narrow space.
Warren shook his head. “I’m a medic. My job is to save lives.” His searching hand came in contact with a boot. “You’re hurt, aren’t you?”
The boot moved. Warren felt the soldier trembling.
“I told you not to come any closer!” A soft cry and a cough ended his exclamation.
“I didn’t even want to be out here today, but I think you need my help.” Warren looked forward. In the dim light, he was starting to make out the soldier’s face.
“I’m fine. I can handle it myself.”
Warren saw him press two shaking hands to the crimson stain spreading across the front of his uniform. Blood also stained both his pant legs. It didn’t look good.
“You’re bleeding,” Warren tried to keep his movements slow and his voice soft so the young man wouldn’t be aware of him coming closer. “I can stop it.”
“I don’t need your help, whoever you are.” The young man whimpered as he pressed harder on his chest. He closed his eyes.
Warren reached forward with one swift movement and caught the boy’s shoulders, gently lowering him to the floor of the trench.
The soldier struggled, jerking against the hands that held him. “Let me go!”
Warren paused, meeting the scared blue eyes of the soldier. There was something about those eyes that was familiar. Their gazes held.
“Jace,” Warren whispered. Reaching forward, he yanked the boy’s dog tags out from beneath his shirt. Spencer, Jace C. As if he had been punched in the gut, Warren recoiled.
The young man’s eyes revealed the same recognition. “It’s you.” Screaming, Jace wrenched himself backward. “Get away from me you, monster!”
“Jace,” Warren’s voice broke. “What are you doing here?”
“Running away from the mess of a life you left me!” Jace coughed.
Warren covered his mouth. After all these years this was when God chose to bring his son back to him, like this? Jace was bleeding to death, that much Warren knew. The front of his uniform was already soaked and who knew how much damage had been done to his lungs or other organs?
“Jace, you’ve gotta let me help you.” Warren’s voice broke as he spoke.
“Don’t you dare touch me!” Jace yelled, dragging himself farther back in the trench. “Do you think I’ve forgotten all the times you hit me?”
Warren crawled closer. “I know, I remember, and I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry? You’re sorry?” A strangled laugh came out of Jace’s mouth. “You knew what you were doing and you still did it. I have scars from that time you hit me with your whiskey bottle.” Jace’s breathing was rapid and his face was ashen. He was going into shock.
“I’m not doing this!” Warren cried, tearing the canvas first aid kits off his shoulders. “I’m not watching my son die.”
“Don’t you lay a hand on me!”
Warren didn’t listen, he crawled forward again and grabbed his son by the shoulders. Jace fought him but was too weak to pull away.
Jace gave a strangled cry and fought the hands that tore his shirt open. Warren knocked his hands away. “I’m not letting you go this time. I’m not!”
“You did it before, what’s changed?” Jace panted, sarcasm lacing his every word. “Why do you want to help me now?”
Warren pressed a dressing to the wound. “Because you’re my son.”
“Y-You gave fathership up the day you drove away. I’m not your son—augh!
“I know it hurts.” Warren whispered. “I’m going to give you something for the pain.”
Jace squeezed his eyes shut.
Quickly, Warren gave him a shot of morphine, then turned back to apply pressure on the wound.
It took him only a moment to realize Jace had subconsciously placed a hand on his arm and was squeezing it to block the pain. Warren laid his bigger hand over it.
“You’re going to be fine, Jace.”
“Please, don’t talk to me. Just do what you have to do and let me be.” Jace trembled as he spoke and his breathing was getting more labored.
“You need a transfusion.”
“What’s that?” Jace looked up at him, confusion blurring his eyes.
“When we give a wounded man blood to replace his own.” Warren swallowed, changing the dressing for the third time. There was something wrong.
“That’s creepy. Sharing blood like that.” Jace tried to lift his head to see what Warren was doing, but his Dad wouldn’t let him.
“Just lie still and relax.”
What scared Warren the most was that in the matter of several seconds, Jace had gone from fighting for his life and everything else, to languidly lying there. He was losing too much far too quickly. His pulse was dropping rapidly.
Warren only had one option. Get Jace back to the field hospital where a surgeon could attend to him. That would mean hauling Jace’s dead weight across his shoulders. Who knows what the two of them would meet in the growing darkness?
Right now, he couldn’t let Jace give up.
“Jace, you need to stay with me,” Warren said, grabbing his son’s jaw. “I’m going to get you help. Do you trust me?”
Trust? How on earth could Jace bring himself to trust the man that for eight years had made his life a living nightmare? Ever since he could remember, Jace had wanted revenge. Now he was powerless. His father again had the upper hand. How long would it be before he started showing his true colors?
Jace lifted his head while his Dad pressed another dressings to his chest wound. He watched his Dad’s face. Those hard angry lines he used to have weren’t there anymore. His Dad didn’t have the cruel face he used to have.
And his hands? Instead of rough and clenched, those hands were gentle, yet firm as he went about his task of attending to Jace’s ugly wounds.
“Please—Let me die,” Jace whispered. He didn’t want to risk trusting his father. He’d rather die than be betrayed again.
Warren knew time was running out. Jace’s left knee was shattered, but if they got him to a surgeon in time, both legs could possibly be saved. It wasn’t the leg injuries that bothered him. Jace’s chest wound was bleeding profusely and no matter what Warren did, it wouldn’t stop. It was too dark to access the real damage and only a trained surgeon would know the cause.
He glanced up at Jace’s face again. His son looked so much like him. He didn’t blame Jace for not wanting to trust him. Not once in his entire life had he given the boy reason to.
Bowing his head, Warren blinked back tears. “Jace, let me carry you back to the field hospital. I promise you that if you don’t ever want to see me again, I’ll respect your wishes.” Warren reached up and tangled his fingers in his son’s hair. “Just please let me help you. I can’t lose you again!”
Warren held his breath.
His father certainly didn’t sound like the same man. Jace blinked through the haze. He wanted to look into his father’s eyes again. Their gaze met. Those blue eyes that had for every day of Jace’s life been stormy, were now peaceful, yet sad. Tears were pooling in them. Jace had never seen his Dad cry.
Slowly, Jace closed his eyes and nodded. “I trust you.”
“You think you can hang on when I lift you?” Warren didn’t think so. Jace’s eyes were already wandering. “Hey, Jace. Try to stay awake for me. I know it hurts but you have a better chance if you keep your eyes open. Did you hear me?”
It didn’t matter if he heard or not. The clock was ticking. “On the count of three I’m going to pick you up and pull you over my shoulder.”
Jace groaned. “How are you going to get out of the trench?”
“Let me worry about that.” Warren made sure the bandage across Jace’s chest was secure. “You just stay with me.”
Gently, Warren put his hands under his son’s arms and lifted him up. Jace cried out, his legs buckling. “I got you, son. On the count of three I’m going to lift you.”
Jace nodded, his eyelids starting to close.
“One, two, three—lift!” Warren pulled Jace over his shoulders. He bit the side of his cheek, refusing to let his son’s cry of pain break his heart. If he had been the father he should’ve been, Jace wouldn’t be here right now. He’d be on summer vacation like every other boy his age. “You’re alright, Jace. I’ve got you. Just relax.”
Warren now faced the trench wall. He didn’t particularly want to venture into the darker areas of the trench, uncertain of what he would find. Time couldn’t be wasted. He had to go up and over. With his free hand, Warren grabbed a hold of a plank sticking out of the trench, he gave it a tug and it held. Planting his foot on a lower plank, Warren used the one above his head to pull himself up. The bottom plank gave out. Warren’s ankle twisted and he landed on his knees.
“Dad?” Jace mumbled.
“Don’t worry. I’ll have us out of here in no time.” Warren felt along his ankle. It hurt bad enough to be fractured.
Pulling himself up, Warren ignored everything around him, including the pain. He had to get Jace and himself out of here.
Jace drifted in and out of unconsciousness unable to fight the pain. His Dad kept talking to him even as he huffed and puffed trying to crawl up the steep side of the trench. Jace could hear muted gunfire. He had no idea how close it was.
Warren crawled on his knees away from the edge of the trench. He scanned the area. Bullets and shrapnel were flying everywhere. He wasn’t quite sure how he was going to get back to the field hospital without getting caught in the cross-fire. The only way was to crawl.
Laying Jace on the ground, he checked his son’s vitals and bandages. He was still hanging on. “I’m proud of you, keep fighting, Jace.”
A little hint of life colored his son’s ashen face. “Thanks, Dad.”
Warren took off his jacket and put it around Jace’s shoulders. It would protect his back as while being drug across the ground. Looping an arm around Jace’s chest, Warren started to drag him, staying low to the ground. The field hospital was close. He knew it was. If he could only get beyond that far trench he could get more men to help.
“You’re a strong young man, Jace,” Warren said. “You’re going to be fine.”
Something hit Warren’s left shoulder and he winced. Shrapnel…a soldier’s worse enemy.
“You okay, Dad?” Jace’s eyes opened.
“Fine, son.” Warren smiled, pressing a hand to his wound for a second. “Just a little shrapnel.”
Jace’s eyes filled with concern. “You’re bleeding.”
“Don’t worry about it. Everything’s going to be alright.”
Warren was growing concerned. They should’ve reached the field hospital by now. How far had he come in the first place anyhow?
His wound was a little more serious than he first thought, but he tried to ignore it. Jace was his only concern now.
Warren had worked out a system. Drag Jace for several minutes, then rest. Drag for several minutes, then rest. At least the shelling at stopped for now.
“Rest Dad,” Jace said softly. “For just a second.”
Warren opened his eyes, seeing only a blurry face. Someone slapped his cheek. “Wake up, Spencer. That’s it, open your eyes and let us know you’re alive.” Philips leaned over him, rubbing his arm before inserting an IV needle. “You’re completely exhausted.”
Warren narrowed his eyes in confusion. What was he doing lying here? With a free hand, he reached up and rubbed his forehead. It hit him. He had found his son, Jace.
“Where is he!” Warren yelled, trying to sit up. “Where’s my son?”
Philips pushed him down. “Hang on, son? The kid? I wondered why your last names were the same. Lie still and recover yourself a bit before you faint again.”
“You don’t understand, where’s my son?” Warren slapped his friend’s hands away.
“He’s right here, beside you. They’re getting him stable, just like I’m trying to do. Now be a good boy and hold still while the other medics set your ankle.”
Philips nodded. “Just relax.”
Warren felt hands on his ankle and then came the painful jerk. He yelled, pressing his head to the stretcher. A warm hand slipped into his.
Warren turned his head and saw his son smile at him for the first time in years.
– The End –
(Who knows, maybe there will be more to this story in the years to come!)
Happy Memorial Day!