“Neither Fame Nor Glory” is a 500 word historical fiction piece that was written in response to a prompt on Amazon’s short-lived writing community, Write On. I’m not big on flash fiction, finding it often too short to really make an impact, but I thought the challenge would be good for me and really liked how this turned out. it is based on stories told to me by my dad, Richard Mac Donald.
If daylight was coming, it had better hurry up.
Low clouds tumbled overhead, dark, pinching the last of summer from the air. Soon the days would be as bitter as his mood, living like this, efforts unappreciated. There would be no parades when any of them got home, no glamour, no glory. No stories of survival against the enemy, just tales of burned-out hamlets, hollow-eyed, hungry old men and women, tired of war and tired of soldiers. Any soldiers. And here they were again. Another valley, another small town, another day coaxing decrepit tanks and GPV’s out of mud and debris and broken dreams.
He hugged himself against rain-scented air, trudging out to check the next vehicle slated to be hauled out of another barren field. He wondered when they would next bring a harvest. He hadn’t seen a tractor for months, and nowhere near here. Not that any of these poor souls had money for gasoline. Oh, they might turn it over with a plow and a team of strong draft horses, but he’d seen few enough of those. Too many had gone under the butcher’s knife. For a moment he thought he saw a dog, there by the tree line, but he knew better. Even the dogs were gone.
The tank had ground to a halt at least a year ago, a mammoth of a machine that had already been stripped of any menacing features. Still, it crouched there, a brutal reminder of what had taken place not only here but all across a land divided by prejudice and hate. He circled it out of habit, like a wrestler sizing up his adversary. They were going to need a bigger winch if he couldn’t coax it into waking. If it even had enough fuel. Fuel was a precious commodity, as were boxes of cigarettes and chocolate bars. He’d traded the latter for a camera, a pocket-sized Kodak. You could trade for just about anything. He had a motorbike parked behind the barracks to prove that. He’d never be able to afford to ship it home, of course. He’d just swap for something else…or simply leave it behind. Let someone else be fooled into thinking it made up for having to eat the same damn thing day in and day out because the folks back home had forgotten that troops were still deployed, even if bombs weren’t falling on their heads. At least tonight there would be pork sandwiches. Concertina wire made short order of the wild pigs that strayed into camp.
He scaled the mountain of metal, hoping he wouldn’t find any corpses as he descended into the belly of the great machine. God, that was always the worst–and wasn’t supposed to happen. This time it was just foul and it only took one look to realize the tank would not be driving out of the field anytime soon. He had best be about it, seeing as it looked like rain. He paused, feeling something beneath his boot. A narrow black box. Inside, nestled in velvet, a gold medal, meaningless now. He put it in his pocket. Maybe it would all make sense tomorrow.