CALL ME FORTH
We sat outside on the porch, our cheeks flushed red by the summer heat, watching as the trucks rolled by. Single file, like beads, passed through a plumb line. They made their way down the dirt road, their engines growling like piqued cattle and their tires stirring up clouds of dust.
Men walked on either side. Torsos bent forward by the weight of haversacks, their rifles in hand, and leather cartridge boxes buckled to their belts. I watched their faces. They reminded me of statues in the park; the copper ones that were so old, patina now covered them, and you could not make out the original expressions.
“The sun…it makes the canvas on the trucks look gold,” I said.
“Mhm…” was all Jessie made in response.
He was older than me by seven years and knew more about things than I did.
We continued watching as the troops and trucks passed by. Now and then, a motor car would appear, carrying an officer of some sort in the passenger seat. Each time, I would try to catch a look at the badges that they wore and figure out what each one meant.
I turned to my brother. “Jessie, when the fighting starts, do the officers also fight?” I asked.
He frowned at this. “I don’t think so. I think they stay behind and do all the planning. That is important too, you know.”
Eventually, I grew bored of watching them, and my eyes drifted past to the fields of tussock that lay overhead. Culms of grass swayed lightly in a crisp breeze; their green was spoiled orange by the sun.
“Jessie, what happens when it rains?”
“What do you mean?”
“When it rains, where does the water go?”
“In the trenches. Won’t they just fill up with water?”
This made Jessie frown even more than before. He furrowed his brows and thought for a moment.
“I don’t think it rains that much. The trenches are quite deep, you know. They can’t fill up all the way.”
“I guess so…”
It was just then that another motor car appeared, this time carrying an officer much younger than the rest. He turned his face towards us and caught me staring right at him. He cracked a smile and waved. I raised my hand and waved back.
He turned around to the three men sitting in the back and pointed at me. All three of them turned their faces to me and together started waving.
“Sheesh…isn’t that just cute…” Jessie mumbled.
When they had gone, I turned to Jessie.
“What was cute?”
It was my turn to frown. Jessie often said things that I did not understand.
It was not long before they had all gone. When the last of the troops had turned the corner, we could still hear the distant rumble of engines and the stomping of boots, but soon enough that died down too, and it was only Jessie and I left, sitting quietly on the porch.
“Jessie, when will they be back?” I asked.
Jessie yawned and stretched and then flumped over onto his back. He closed his eyes and lay there silently for a moment.
“I don’t know, AJ. We’ll see.”
I turned my attention back to the road, where the clouds of dust were still settling and the trucks had left tracks in the dirt and the soldiers, their footprints. I tried to listen for any sound of the trucks, but by now they were much too far away.