Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Early Christmas Present



There he stopped, where it was icy and it was cold. The winds were picking up out of the west, chilling and brutal, and he wasn’t quite convinced he was ready for winter. Nonetheless, he shrugged up his rifle to his shoulder and glanced up at the yawning, innocently blue sky. Isn’t it Christmas time soon?

The troops were getting rowdy and uncomfortable. The enemy seemed to be everywhere all at once. The last thing he could have imagined was Christmas. And he shrugged again a bit, as much at another gust of cold weather as at the whole idea of the holiday. It was a double edged sword, really. It’s refreshing that everyone is so nice, but doesn’t the extra effort suggest that they could have been this nice all year? In any case, out in the mountains it didn’t really matter much. Reflecting on it at all only made him think of warmth. His burning fireplace, his smiling wife, and their snuggled children all came to his mind, like some errand he suddenly realized he’d forgotten to do. He had trained himself not to think too much about them, as hard as it may sound. But it was better to do that, rather than become distracted and get yourself killed. At that moment, however, as he gazed down the mountain at the boulders and trees, logs, and streams, he indulged in a moment. A Christmas present, he decided, even if it was a little early.

The warmth of it carried him down from the ridge a ways. He could see his sergeant's colors through the lower tree line. Three or four horsemen guarded the headquarters nearby as a brigade of volunteers were pulling a line of cannon over the Delaware River.

“Everything is to be in order by 1200 hours, Captain,” he was told. “General Washington will be here for inspection.”

“Yes sir,” he answered with a salute.

Merry Christmas. Now, back to the war.

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