Hardtack

Waiting…

The sun is toasty.

Still waiting…

The view is sweet.

Too bad the three teenagers aren’t here to taste the sweetness of the view. They’re here to raise the alarm when bitterness arrives on the horizon. “I’ll rip out my eyes,” says one, “so I can leave them on watch while I go for a swim.”

“My eyes already feel like they’re detached from my head.” Says another. The boys have been waiting here for three months already without any relief. The third teenage boy is sleeping in the corner of the little concrete bunker. Their rations are running low because they’ve been eating out of boredom. The little concrete bunker smells of sweat and salt.

“Dad used to tell me all his stories form the Great War. Made it sound like sport. I bet he’s home smoking his pipe and eating steak and potatoes.”

“No. I bet you this hardtack that he’s home smoking a cigar and eating pork and beans.”

“He doesn’t smoke cigars, but you can keep your hardtack. I thought they stopped issuing those after the Boer War.”

“You may be correct. Look. The date’s stamped on the biscuit.”

“Eighteen eighty nine! That’s older than us!”

“That’s older than our parents! And when we don’t eat it they’ll give it out to the privates in the NEXT war against the Germans.”

The sobering thought of another war silences them. They both look to the horizon again. No German ships, again. The third boy has awoken. He must have gone out to pee. Suddenly there’s a shriek from outside.

“A ship! A ship!”

The boys man the machine gun – as if it’ll do anything against a German warship. One boy drags a belt of ammunition, the other sets the heavy weapon in its prone position. With the ammunition in place, they set up the radio and prepare to call their commanding officer.

“Hi chaps.” Says the previously sleeping boy. He’s poked his head playfully through the doorway and there’s no alarm in his voice. What’s wrong with him? “Didn’t you hear me? There’s a sheep out here.”

With hearts racing, the two relieved boys pack up the gun.

“What’s the matter chaps? You look like you’ve seen a German!”

Annoyed now, one of the boys throws a piece of fifty-year-old hardtack. The sound of its ricochet reverberates off the steel door. Anger abated, they all run outside to chase the sheep.

T

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