View Full Version : Marching orders

May 1st, 2018, 01:46 PM
A story I wrote last year, coming up on ANZAC day. Have done some editing of the original, to make it better I hope. Enjoy.

Marching Orders

"YOU CAN'T MAKE ME DO IT!" Edward Hampton slammed the door as he screamed at his mother. He clicked the lock in to place, barring her entry to his room.
"You have to Eddie," Martha replied calmly, her forehead resting on the door wearily, exhausted from her effort holding back both her anger and frustration. "Your dad is in hospital, so it's up to you to walk in the parade tomorrow."
"Why me?" Edward grunted, "why doesn't Sam walk? He likes walking. Get him to do it."
"You're the oldest Eddie. If your dad can't march, then it's up to you. You need to wear the medals, for our family. Grandpa wore them to show his pride for his dad and Great Uncle Edwin. They fought for us, so we could have this way of life."
"Really? They fought so we could be told to go in boring marches instead of hanging with our friends? Gee, thanks Grandpa! I'm sooooo grateful."

Martha winced at his sarcastic tone, her anger growing. She took a deep breath before she spoke.
"They fought so we could have the freedom to live the lives we do. To have choices."

"Choices?" Edward laughed. "Like not having to march in a stupid parade, wearing medals from one hundred years ago!"

Martha could see this was a battle that couldn’t be won, not tonight at least. She believed if she let Edmund sleep, he may be more receptive to walking in the parade tomorrow. She walked away, unable to hold back the frustrated tears.

Edmund heard his mum’s footsteps heading down the hallway. Grumbling to himself in satisfaction, feeling he’d settled the marching argument, he reached over and set his alarm clock for five thirty. He’d heard his mum talking on the phone earlier, to his dad, about them getting up at six in the morning to get ready, as they had a long drive to get to the start of the march. Edmund planned to be up and out of the house well before that, so he couldn’t be dragged along to the boring parade. He looked at the ridiculous outfit, draped over the chair. The clean pressed suit, with all his great grandfather's war medals pinned to the chest.

"Stupid old man, " Edmund snorted, "with his stupid old medals." He lay on his bed, grumbling to himself about marching, skateboarding and parents that didn't care about what their kids wanted. Slowly, his eyes began to close, his voice dropping lower and lower until he fell asleep.

A sudden jolt woke Edmund, his eyes snapping open.

"No mum, I'm not going!" Edmund called out. The sound of men laughing softly alerted him to the fact that he wasn’t in bed. He realised, alarmingly, he wasn’t even in his house. In semi-darkness, holding a gun, Edmund was squashed like a sardine between other men, on a boat, heading for shore.

“Soldiers!” Edmund realised, recognising their uniforms, the same uniform his great grandfather wore in many early photos. The same uniform Edmund was wearing.

"Keep your voice down," came a stern command behind him. Edmund looked back, catching a glimmer of other boats on the water, looking overcrowded like his. A stern face, the face of what could only be an army officer, stared in his direction. The man was holding the side of the rowboat they were crammed in, a few soldiers in the middle rowing furiously.

"It's a bit late for calling your 'mummy'," someone whispered, nudging Edmund in the ribs. Edmund wanted to see who’d jabbed him, but a strange popping, kind of cracking sound, distracted him. He was about to ask what those sounds were, when he felt water splash his face. The man next to him went strangely limp. Edmund thought he must have fallen asleep.

Edmund wiped the water from his face, his fingers came away dark. He sniffed the unknown liquid. His eyes opened wide, as the familiar coppery smell filled his nose. He turned to the limp man beside him, noting the growing dark patch on the mans' chest. Edmund struggled like a chained prisoner, realising with horror that those popping noises were the sound of gunshots.

"Right'o lads," the officer called out, "you know our orders. Let's get her done!"

The boat lurched as it hit the sand, pushing everyone forward, like a signal to jump out. Edmund planned to remain in the boat. But he quickly he rolled over the side, in to the freezing water, after watching three men at the front stand up, then fall clumsily in to the water, clutching bullet holes in their chests. Edmund moved forward past the facedown men, freaking out as the water turned dark.

Not really knowing where he was going, Edmund followed men in front of him, feeling sick as one after another dropped to the ground, the sound of bullet wounds all round him. Less than half of the men from his boat hit the tiny piece of cover, all diving low to get away from the gunshots.

"That could've gone better," the officer's voice drifted from nearby, sounding disappointed. "Let's hook up with the rest of the Tenth brigade, then make out way up the beach and take that damn ridge!" Edmund followed them as they started to circle north. With no real cover, the constant popping sound of gun fire was making it hard for Edmund to concentrate, with men falling to the ground left and right. He fired his gun, like the other soldiers. He'd be surprised if he hit anything. His dad and grandad tried to teach him to shoot many times, but he’d never enjoyed it. He wished he'd paid more attention to them.

"Move it Eddie!" a voice said, poking him in the side. Edmund turned to say something, but his words stuck in his throat. A face he’d seen in some old black and white photos, grinned at him. The face of his Great Uncle Edwin. But to see him here, now, was a total shock.

"Uncl...err, I mean Edwin. What’re you doing here?"

"Can't let you have all the glory little brother, can I?" Edwin grinned, winking. A bullet flew past Edmunds' left ear. Edwin ducked instinctively.

" C'mon Eddie, we better keep moving. Don't wanna get caught nappin' out here." Edmund moved as though on autopilot, still shocked to be running with his Great Uncle Edwin, as an Australian soldier.

" But Great Uncle Edwin only served during the First World War, " Edmund thought to himself as the pair moved through the underbrush. "He was badly wounded at.......Oh, shit! " Edmund realised where he was, where they were.

" Gallipoli!" he cursed. Just then, they ran in to the back of another group, a mix of Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Some were hunched down, cracking jokes as they took shots at the enemy far away, trying not to get shot themselves. Edmund fired off a few rounds in the general direction of where everyone else was shooting, thinking he was lucky if his bullets hit anything but dirt. His great uncle nearby, however, appeared to be taking great delight at shooting at the enemy.

"Just like on the farm," he grinned, the exact same grin Edmund displayed when he did something he enjoyed. Edwin stopped firing.

"What?" Edmund asked, when Edwin's expression changed from exhilarated to worried.

"You're bleeding Eddie," Edwin said, concerned.

"I am?" Edmund replied, not feeling like he’d been shot. But he'd never been shot before, so he knew he wouldn't know if he'd been shot. Funny thing was, nothing hurt.

Edwin moved closer, looking Edmund up and down as best he could in their current position. Edmund, feeling his great uncle was invading his personal space, went to push himself up, to move away, but his right arm didn't support his weight. And then the pain started. A hot knife, digging in to his shoulder. Edmund looked down and saw the bullet hole, darkness spreading out from the wound.

"Oh," he muttered, realising he had indeed been shot.

"Where's the nearest medic?" Edwin called out to another soldier nearby.

"'Bout half a click that way," the soldier turned, pointing back down the beach, "northwest of the landing point. Don't know if you'll make it that far under fire though." A bullet thudded in the sand near Edmund, spurring Edwin in to motion. Edwin turned, taking a few shots in the general direction the bullet had come from, then grabbed Edmund and, despite being crouched, hoisted him over his shoulder.

"You were always too skinny, Eddie," Edwin laughed. Like a racehorse out of the gate, Edwin took off, heading back down toward the beach. Edmund bouncing painfully on his shoulders, bullets, like supersonic mosquitoes, flying past them, or thudding loudly in the dirt at Edwin's feet. Some were far too close for comfort.

Despite the uncomfortable journey, Edmund struggled to stay awake, his eyes wanting to close. Edwin stumbled a few times, but kept getting up and making his way down the beach, before they finally reached a group of men gathered around the side of a ridge, offering some small protection from gun fire. Exhausted, Edwin collapsed, dumping Edmund roughly on the ground.

The need to sleep was overwhelming, but Edmund resisted, listening to the medics as they assessed his wound. When they were done with him, they moved to Edwin, commenting on the bullets in Edwin’s back and legs.

"One tough guy," remarked the medic, "to carry someone with wounds like that."

Edmund was hoisted on to a stretcher. He looked over to see two men lifting Edwin on to another stretcher, placing him on his stomach, his great uncle’s back covered in blood-stained bandages.

As his eyes started closing, unable to hold back the darkness that wanted to take him. The last thing he saw, was his Great Uncle Edwin grinning at him.

"We'll be fine Eddie," he said, giving a weak thumbs-up, "we'll be fine."

Martha Hampton woke up to the alarm buzzing loudly. She reached over slowly, hitting the 'OFF' button. She stretched her arm out, feeling the empty spot where her husband should be.

"He'll be home in a few more days," she thought happily to herself. But she could use his help with Edmund for today. The boy might be named after his great grandfather, but from stories she’d heard, he was more like Great Uncle Edwin it seemed. Martha got up, threw on her dressing gown and slippers.

"April feels colder this year," she said to herself. She walked down the hall to the boys' rooms. She looked in on Sam first.

"Hey mummy," he said, his eyes half closed. She walked in and kissed him on the forehead.

"Hey Sammy, time to get up. We have to leave soon."

"For the parade?" Sam said excitedly.

"Yep," Martha replied, wishing Edmund was as excited about the parade as Sam.

"Breakfast in five minutes buddy," she said, walking out the door. Butterflies filled her stomach as she approached Edmund’s door. She knocked, but there was no answer. She tried the handle, expecting it to still be locked from last night. It wasn't. She opened the door slowly, looking in to her seventeen-year old son's room. He wasn't in bed. She entered the room. Her son was not in his room. Neither was the outfit she’d chosen for him to wear during the march. The medals were gone too.

Martha went over and checked his desk, looking under the mess of papers and books. Nothing. They weren't on the floor either. Where could they be? And where was Edmund?

A cool breeze blew through the bedroom window, fluttering the curtains. Martha worried he’d gone out the window, snuck out last night, or maybe this morning, to hang with his friends.

Shaking her head in disappointment, she headed out of the room. She turned at the sound of footsteps, expecting to see Sam. She gasped. Edmund came out of the bathroom, dressed in his suit, medals dangling from his chest. Tears trickled down Martha’s face.

"I...I thought thought you weren't going to march in the parade?" she asked, holding back a flood of emotions that threatened to overwhelm her.

"I had an interesting nights sleep," Edmund said. Martha walked over to her son and hugged him, unable to hold it all in. She cried on her son's shoulder, relieved he was going to march today.

After what felt like forever, she stopped crying. Then she leant back a little, looking at him.

"Well, it must’ve been some dream," she said, "you look like hell."

"No, I just look tired," Edmund thought to himself, "but I've seen what Hell looks like."

May 1st, 2018, 08:49 PM
Mick what can I say for a plot line this is as interesting as they come, a War story told from the POV of a modern teenage boy, in a dream, clever. There are a few times where (I don't know if it's just me) but I found myself reading certain sentences I rearanged two words For example: Martha replied calmly...I kept reading it as Martha calmly replied.

I did find this read good, it was for the most part a smooth reading pace, with nice grammar and language used to convey the intended imagry. You held my attention from beginnning to end. I found how you switched between past and present within the story was seemless for me.

May 2nd, 2018, 12:11 AM
It is hard to revisit stories written previous years. One would think a writer's writing had developed over that time, so how they express things would be changed. Hard word, but not impossible.

Here is one of my thoughts. I liked the story better when started here:

A sudden jolt woke Edmund, his eyes snapping open.

I know, you are thinking, my gawd, he's suggesting cutting tons of words. But I think your opening in this short piece, needs more of a pop; like how his eyes pop open. It doesn't say that he is dreaming that his eyes pop open, so the reader can be mis-lead cleanly. I think the war scenes could be drawn in better, experienced closer, by the mc. He felt too distant. He's a kid but compares a bullet to a hot knife; it seemed an odd comparison to make.

I do like the possibilities. I believe you should pursue them, but take a look at show and tell, how to use them both for the story, when to use one over the other. When it is not understood, often a scene is over-written, as everything is drawn twice most times.

Best writing to you


Jack of all trades
May 2nd, 2018, 01:17 AM
I really enjoyed this story!! I think the opening and closing bookending the dream is terrific.

I have only a couple of minor points that I think need work. One was a typo. You had "out" instead of "our" in one spot. Unfortunately I didn't copy that line right away, because I was so caught up in the story, and now I can't find it. You fixed it already, maybe?

The other is the names. I got a bit confused at one point with the three Eds.

Other than those two things, this is very well done. You should submit it for publication somewhere.

Anita M Shaw
May 4th, 2018, 07:54 PM
I liked this story as well. I'm okay with people with similar names; I do it myself sometimes. Only I thought the boy's name was Edward in the beginning - which for no real reason, I feel fits him better - and then suddenly he's called Edmund. There's the confusion for me. That he had uncles and other relatives with Ed type names didn't bother me.

I like that it starts with a confrontation with his mom. Without some sort of conflict in the beginning like that, the dream would lose its significance in helping to change Eddie's mind -I say Eddie because it's a nickname that could be used for either Edward or Edmund - and getting him to see the sacrifices his soldier relatives had made then.

A revision is needed, though. Some words are repeated constantly, like using dark for describing the blood spilling about. Can you really hear a bullet wound? I noticed the typos too, but wasn't terribly distracted by them. Easy fixes when you read it over to do a rewrite.

Overall, I enjoyed it!