One Soldier’s Logistics of Trenches by Bruce Edward Sherfield

(counts his breaths)
“One day,” a soldier says to his mates, “a man invented this soap but it didn’t work so well. After you washed your hands, the blood was still there. So this man invented a special shampoo that made lots of suds. It smelled so nice as it seeped through your skull, as it cleaned out the mind and whatever happened to be on that mind at the time. It seemed to make a difference.”

(Shovels and bowls are passed out)
“A real difference,” he continued. “It washed away the sound of bones opening, the far cast on bloated faces, the loss of undergarments, and remember I told you that nice aroma the shampoo had? Well, that aroma also could dry up a trickle of bile, calm a heaving stomach, or deafen the spray of cholera hitting the bucket.”

(Crouches. Finds a man’s billfold.)
“One could lose count of the bodies, strewn like wet leaves in a park, half-frozen neighbors no longer of any concern. This shampoo was more than fantastic. It worked like a miracle—lack of recognition of a friend, Ah! This is the baker, who’d put warm bread in everyone’s hand. It’s funny. That same bread is now in some corporal’s belly. You see, I can’t recall the baker’s name, but I still smell the dough, though. Tell me if you find his arms.”

(pats down a mound)
(rinses face in ice-cold cistern)
(Shares towel with the others)

“Use it in the day, but sparingly,” he said. “Share the magic! We dig and burn again tonight.”

 

 

 

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