SILENCE OF THE SOMME • by Jon Tyktor

If I had awoken in no man’s land after my own apparent death, I would cry out too. Maybe not for help, exactly. Maybe just to break the silence.

We all agonized as we heard a new voice rise above the field and make its way to us. His was the third we had heard that week. Each had woken up and, after a few days, fell back into unconscious apathy. We had to bolster each other’s spirits through their crying, but this last chap was too much. Something in him just wouldn’t let go.

I rounded up Llywelyn and Cartwright, all of us asking the Lieutenant to permit a rescue party. The request was denied. He informed us that Command had us gagged. Our part of the line was well-covered by Bosch sharpshooters, and it was unlikely anything could help the poor wretch now. We’d have to leave him crying out for our own safety. I left the Lieutenant’s bunker without as much as a single word.

Out in the trenches, all I could do was press my back to the outer wall and listen. He was close. The distance would only be a few yards during peacetime. But he was miles away now, and every second spent listening only prolonged our shared agony and spread whatever infection was running its course through his body. How far had it spread while he was out in the muck of ground and flesh?

Listening to the noise, I wonder: How many of the wounded ever made it back to the front line? For that matter, how many of them actually got back home?

Bowles, a walking tree stump and a brute of a soldier, said nothing during the ordeal. After an hour or more, he only rooted around for a pair of field glasses and used them to scan the area, taking care to keep himself low to the embankment. I knew that I should’ve wanted to tell someone, or at least try to stop him then and there, but I didn’t.

After a while, Bowles climbed back into the trench. We all sat in silence as he located his rifle and resumed his perch. Being a gamekeeper’s boy, we all knew that Bowles’ shot would make its mark without incident.

I didn’t flinch when the report of the gun resounded, giving way to complete silence.

Bowles climbed back in, loading another round into the chamber. Bullets, whizzing like bees from the German line, impacted the earth on the rear end of the trench. He crouched against the outward wall next to me, holding his rifle under his arm like some country nibs come back from the hunt.

Llywelyn looked over to Bowles to say, “And what was that?”

Bowles looked back. “What? Ah, I just bagged a Bosch scout jumping ‘tween the shell holes. Who knows what information he might take home? Couldn’t have that.”

“That’s funny,” Llywelyn said. “Scouts and runners tend to move at night. Broad daylight would make them an easy target out in no man’s land.”

Bowles lowered his head and the tone of his voice. “Then I must’ve bagged a pretty stupid Bosch.”

Who says that he didn’t?


Jon Tyktor is a writer of many types, none of them professional. He is currently a co-host on a creativity-driven podcast called Tell Don’t Show.


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 average 4.3 stars • 10 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • For me the writing style never captured the horror of the situation, and I had to read twice to understand the ending. The writer appears to take a literary approach which came across to me as clumsy and ineffective.

    “But he was miles away now, and every second spent listening only prolonged our shared agony and spread whatever infection was running its course through his body. How far had it spread while he was out in the muck of ground and flesh?” is an example.

    The change in tense from past to present of “Listening to the noise, I wonder:” was a bit jarring, but I think it was intentional given the writing style. Perhaps not.

    “Bowles, a walking tree stump and a brute of a soldier,” pick one or the other, preferably NOT a walking tree stump. And I didn’t find that description compatible with ” Being a gamekeeper’s boy,”

    ““That’s funny,” Llywelyn said.” – given the setting, the use of the word “funny” to mean “odd” was a poor choice.

    And the line “Bullets, whizzing like bees from the German line,” is such a cliche amidst a “literary” effort. To me, the story screams for short sentences. The last sentence/para is not needed.”

    The lack of emotion following the final shot left me lacking any emotion for the story.

    • Joseph Kaufman
      I think a lack of emotion in a story like this is exactly what is intended (and called for, in my opinion). I can't imagine what it must have been like to be involved in trench warfare (or any sort of warfare, for that matter), but I find that I AM able to identify with the emotional numbness that undoubtedly occurs. And I thought the final line was brilliant in the way it sort of breaks the fourth wall and asks the reader themself to consider the details of this awful ethical dilemma. Probably something we should all be thinking about on this day.
      • MPmcgurty
        Since war is going on this minute, we should think about it anyway. I found the final line, as well as the couple of paragraphs before it, a stage wink at the reader.
    • Michael Ampersant
      A "walking tree trunk" is one of the better expressions (snick).
  • For me the writing style never captured the horror of the situation, and I had to read twice to understand the ending. The writer appears to take a literary approach which came across to me as clumsy and ineffective.

    “But he was miles away now, and every second spent listening only prolonged our shared agony and spread whatever infection was running its course through his body. How far had it spread while he was out in the muck of ground and flesh?” is an example.

    The change in tense from past to present of “Listening to the noise, I wonder:” was a bit jarring, but I think it was intentional given the writing style. Perhaps not.

    “Bowles, a walking tree stump and a brute of a soldier,” pick one or the other, preferably NOT a walking tree stump. And I didn’t find that description compatible with ” Being a gamekeeper’s boy,”

    ““That’s funny,” Llywelyn said.” – given the setting, the use of the word “funny” to mean “odd” was a poor choice.

    And the line “Bullets, whizzing like bees from the German line,” is such a cliche amidst a “literary” effort. To me, the story screams for short sentences. The last sentence/para is not needed.”

    The lack of emotion following the final shot left me lacking any emotion for the story.

    • Joseph Kaufman
      I think a lack of emotion in a story like this is exactly what is intended (and called for, in my opinion). I can't imagine what it must have been like to be involved in trench warfare (or any sort of warfare, for that matter), but I find that I AM able to identify with the emotional numbness that undoubtedly occurs. And I thought the final line was brilliant in the way it sort of breaks the fourth wall and asks the reader themself to consider the details of this awful ethical dilemma. Probably something we should all be thinking about on this day.
      • MPmcgurty
        Since war is going on this minute, we should think about it anyway. I found the final line, as well as the couple of paragraphs before it, a stage wink at the reader.
    • Michael Ampersant
      A "walking tree trunk" is one of the better expressions.
  • Indeed! The reason for the season. Stories like this that are written about war around Veteran’s day sort of have a free pass. It is easy to get caught in the emotion and everything reads great. This little tale stands alone, in my opinion, as a really good story due to Jon’s considerable skills. There is a prevailing down tone, a grey fog so to speak, whether intentional or something that just happened, it is the perfect atmosphere for the plot and action to take place.

  • Indeed! The reason for the season. Stories like this that are written about war around Veteran’s day sort of have a free pass. It is easy to get caught in the emotion and everything reads great. This little tale stands alone, in my opinion, as a really good story due to Jon’s considerable skills. There is a prevailing down tone, a grey fog so to speak, whether intentional or something that just happened, it is the perfect atmosphere for the insanity to take place.

  • Dustin Adams

    “The battle of the Somme was one of the largest of World War I, in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.”

    For me this reads like more of a vignette, instead of a complete story, but that’s what it must have been like for these guys. All one million of them. Snapshots, moments, instants of life/death.

    Here, for a brief time, we’re transported to one bunker, one trench, listening to the cries of one wounded man, and understanding the difficulty of another who remains alive to hear it.

  • “The battle of the Somme was one of the largest of World War I, in which more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.”

    For me this reads like more of a vignette, instead of a complete story, but that’s what it must have been like for these guys. All one million of them. Snapshots, moments, instants of life/death.

    Here, for a brief time, we’re transported to one bunker, one trench, listening to the cries of one wounded man, and understanding the difficulty of another who remains alive to hear it.

    EDIT: Oh, I seem to have missed the whole point initially. Sorry Jon. Bowles lied… Gees, I’m such a doofus.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Very much in the vein of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (my favourite novel, by the way), I found this piece quite haunting.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Very much in the vein of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (my favourite novel, by the way), I found this piece quite haunting.

  • I like the imagery – “walking tree stump and brute…” “bullets whizzing like bees…” Those lines put a face on the character and bring the setting to life.

  • I like the imagery – “walking tree stump and brute…” “bullets whizzing like bees…” Those lines put a face on the character and bring the setting to life.

  • S Conroy

    A thought-provoking story. In the perverse ethics of such a situation Bowles the brute might just have done the humanitarian thing. For me the horror of it all came through very strongly.

  • S Conroy

    A thought-provoking story. In the perverse ethics of such a situation Bowles the brute might just have done the humanitarian thing. For me the horror of it all came through very strongly.

  • Genghis Bob

    I liked this very much. That said, the last four paragraphs threw me a little. I had Bowles pegged as a few-words kind of guy, and his loquaciousness in defending his act of mercy seemed uncharacteristic. I would have been more comfortable had his lines been said by the narrator, in Bowles’s defense. This would also make all the others in the trench with him more complicit in his act, which is supported by the last sentence.

    But that’s just me. There’s nothing in the text to indicate that Bowles wouldn’t speak on his own behalf, and the story is lovely as written.

    • MPmcgurty
      I agree, GB. Bowles seemed to me, in just this short piece, to be a man of action and few words, the type to do the dirty work and let it be.
  • Genghis Bob

    I liked this very much. That said, the last four paragraphs threw me a little. I had Bowles pegged as a few-words kind of guy, and his loquaciousness in defending his act of mercy seemed uncharacteristic. I would have been more comfortable had his lines been said by the narrator, in Bowles’s defense. This would also make all the others in the trench with him more complicit in his act, which is supported by the last sentence.

    But that’s just me. There’s nothing in the text to indicate that Bowles wouldn’t speak on his own behalf, and the story is lovely as written.

    • MPmcgurty
      I agree, GB. Bowles seemed to me, in just this short piece, to be a man of action and few words, the type to do the dirty work and let it be.
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    The grammatical choice in the first sentence stopped me from connecting properly with the MC, and there were a few other instances of Literary Awkward that kept pushing me away. They jarred with the descriptions of Bowles as “gameskeeper’s boy” (and that sentence is an unintended howler. We’re all a “gameskeeper’s boy?)
    “If I’d wakened” would have had an immediacy and reality–even in a story with a literary flavor–I think, that would bring the reader better into this story.
    I wondered why the MC would have wanted to stop Bowles–and prolong the agony–for the wounded soldier and for himself. I can only guess about the feelings of men in war, but I’d think, after all that dreadful carnage and the mangled remains of some of those “lucky” to survive, that everyone in this scene would have blessed Bowles for having the straightforward courage to render mercy.
    It ended up sounding like a pub anecdote, where a defiant black humor is called for. Not voting on this one.

    • MPmcgurty
      Re the MC wanting to stop Bowles, I thought he was saying he knew he should want to stop him somehow, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. My take was that he was glad Bowles did it.
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Again--I know nothing about men in war. I agree he was glad Bowles did it. I found the wanting to stop him somewhat false. In WWI, before antibiotics and advanced surgical techniques, and with the first use of horrors like mustard gas, many of the wounded remained the living dead. I'd think for these soldiers, everyone would pray for a mercy killer in every platoon. It was the wanting to rescue, instead of mercifully dispatch, the wounded enemy that struck me as unrealistic. They probably hardly had enough first aid supplies to treat their own blisters and they'd seen enough men die slowly and horribly of gangrene etc...
        • MPmcgurty
          But we know from journals and other documents from the American Civil War and World Wars that the wounded did lie for hours and days, and there were not a notable amount of mercy killings. Many were rescued and died later in hospitals of infection. Even in modern wars, soldiers are not in the mindset of mercy killings; they will do whatever it takes to rescue another soldier. I think it's important to realize that in the armed services, soldiers' first thoughts go to what they "should do". But in the end, the narrator stayed silent. The idea that the soldiers first wanted to rescue their brothers rings true for me, and the dispatching of the wounded man rings less true but is fine for the point of this piece.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            But I thought this was an enemy soldier--not a "brother."
          • S Conroy
            Oh no. It's a brother. At least as I understood it. Otherwise it's a completely different story...
          • MPmcgurty
            Interesting. Where did you get that it's an enemy soldier? I may have missed it, although it doesn't change my view.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I guess I missed the whole point of the story.
          • Joseph Kaufman
            That wrong tone is what made the piece so haunting and resonant to me. I felt uncomfortable in about ten different ways, but none of them was a narrative discomfort. I do somewhat agree with you about Bowles tone when you say it sounded more like what a soldier would say after decades had given him some distance. My problem there is that I can't imagine what anyone would say in that very instant because I simply cannot imagine myself in that awful scenario in the first place...
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I thought, with the opening the author gives us about Bowles' background as a gameskeeper's son and the description "country nibs..."--and the reality that Bowles has committed what I'd think was a court-martial-worthy actual crime, with witnesses who can be compelled to testify, that a better choice here would have been to say "picked off a squirrel/rabbit/" etc. Everyone knows what's happened here, and why, and that it was a moral, ethical act of mercy. That would perhaps--at least for me--have underscored, in its leanness and denial of the truth, the absolute horror of the choices decent people are sometimes forced to take.
          • MPmcgurty
            Sarah, I sort of agree, except that I would have gone even further and had Bowles simply mumble something or say nothing at all. The chattiness at the end bothered me.
          • Joseph Kaufman
            Wouldn't the more straightforward interpretation of the rescue paragraph be that he wouldn't even let them rescue their own man? Why would they want to go save an enemy soldier, only to be shot by other enemy soldiers? And where would they be keeping POWs in their own trench? It never occurred to me the wailing soldier was an enemy one, but that is definitely an interesting angle...
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I was confused and misread the story. Went back after reading other comments and realized my mistake.
        • Paul
          I don't think the man Bowles dispatched was an enemy, but was a wounded from Bowles' own unit. This adds to the poignancy of the situation. Llywelyn's comment that scouts and runners usually move at night lends to this interpretation. The Lieutenant couldn't risk another soldier to rescue friend or foe, highlighting the often grim decisions that accompany war. I think Bowles isn't ashamed of his act. He knows it was the humane thing to do to end the suffering of one who could not be saved. But he also knows there's nothing to be gained by dwelling on it either. The MC's final comment indicates he agrees. Such are the grim realities of war, poignantly portrayed in this moving story.
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    The grammatical choice in the first sentence (I thought it was ungrammatical but the authorities disagree) stopped me from connecting properly with the MC, and there were a few other instances of awkwardness that kept pushing me away. They jarred with the descriptions of Bowles as “gameskeeper’s boy” [redacted by moderator].

    “If I’d wakened” would have had an immediacy and reality–even in a story with a literary flavor–I think, that would bring the reader better into this story.

    I wondered why the MC would have wanted to stop Bowles–and prolong the agony–for the wounded soldier and for himself. I can only guess about the feelings of men in war, but I’d think, after all that dreadful carnage and the mangled remains of some of those “lucky” to survive, that everyone in this scene would have blessed Bowles for having the straightforward courage to render mercy.

    Bowles’ dialogue sounded like a pub anecdote, instead of what I’d imagine would be more realistically a defiant sort of black humor. Maybe forty years after, he’d be able to take that tone. Not voting on this one.

    • MPmcgurty
      Re the MC wanting to stop Bowles, I thought he was saying he knew he should want to stop him somehow, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. My take was that he was glad Bowles did it.
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Again--I know nothing about men in war. I agree he was glad Bowles did it. I found the wanting to stop him somewhat false. In WWI, before antibiotics and advanced surgical techniques, and with the first use of horrors like mustard gas, many of the wounded remained the living dead. I'd think for these soldiers, everyone would pray for a mercy killer in every platoon. It was the wanting to rescue, instead of mercifully dispatch, the wounded enemy that struck me as unrealistic. They probably hardly had enough first aid supplies to treat their own blisters and they'd seen enough men die slowly and horribly of gangrene etc...
        • MPmcgurty
          But we know from journals and other documents from the American Civil War and World Wars that the wounded did lie for hours and days, and there were not a notable amount of mercy killings. Many were rescued and died later in hospitals of infection. Even in modern wars, soldiers are not in the mindset of mercy killings; they will do whatever it takes to rescue another soldier. I think it's important to realize that in the armed services, soldiers' first thoughts go to what they "should do". But in the end, the narrator stayed silent. The idea that the soldiers first wanted to rescue their brothers rings true for me, and the dispatching of the wounded man rings less true but is fine for the point of this piece.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            But I thought this was an enemy soldier--not a "brother." The lieutenant wouldn't let his men risk themselves to rescue that enemy who was now too far from his own lines and dying by inches in great agony.
          • S Conroy
            Oh no. It's a brother. At least as I understood it. Otherwise it's a completely different story...
          • MPmcgurty
            Interesting. Where did you get that it's an enemy soldier? I may have missed it, although it doesn't change my view.
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I guess I missed the whole point of the story. But in that case, Bowles' levity is really appalling. Could have said (and especially with that "gameskeeper's boy reference) "saw a rabbit" etc. etc. He's committed a crime under the military code, hasn't he? Don't they all need to pretend he didn't do what he did? If the story is stressing that it's their own guys stuck in no-man's-land? The tone is just all wrong for me here.
          • Joseph Kaufman
            That wrong tone is what made the piece so haunting and resonant to me. I felt uncomfortable in about ten different ways, but none of them was a narrative discomfort. I do somewhat agree with you about Bowles tone when you say it sounded more like what a soldier would say after decades had given him some distance. My problem there is that I can't imagine what anyone would say in that very instant because I simply cannot imagine myself in that awful scenario in the first place...
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I thought, with the opening the author gives us about Bowles' background as a gameskeeper's son and the description "country nibs..."--and the reality that Bowles has committed what I'd think was a court-martial-worthy actual crime, with witnesses who can be compelled to testify, that a better choice here would have been to say "picked off a squirrel/rabbit/" etc. Everyone knows what's happened here, and why, and that it was a moral, ethical act of mercy. That would perhaps--at least for me--have underscored, in its leanness and denial of the truth, the absolute horror of the choices decent people are sometimes forced to take.
          • MPmcgurty
            Sarah, I sort of agree, except that I would have gone even further and had Bowles simply mumble something or say nothing at all. The chattiness at the end bothered me.
          • Joseph Kaufman
            Wouldn't the more straightforward interpretation of the rescue paragraph be that he wouldn't even let them rescue their own man? Why would they want to go save an enemy soldier, only to be shot by other enemy soldiers? And where would they be keeping POWs in their own trench? It never occurred to me the wailing soldier was an enemy one, but that is definitely an interesting angle...
          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
            I was confused and misread the story. Went back after reading other comments and realized my mistake.
        • Paul
          I don't think the man Bowles dispatched was an enemy, but was a wounded from Bowles' own unit. This adds to the poignancy of the situation. Llywelyn's comment that scouts and runners usually move at night lends to this interpretation. The Lieutenant couldn't risk another soldier to rescue friend or foe, highlighting the often grim decisions that accompany war. I think Bowles isn't ashamed of his act. He knows it was the humane thing to do to end the suffering of one who could not be saved. But he also knows there's nothing to be gained by dwelling on it either. The MC's final comment indicates he agrees. Such are the grim realities of war, poignantly portrayed in this moving story.
  • Re: Llywelyn looked over to Bowles to say, “And what was that?”

    For me the line would have impact if spoken by the Lieutenant who denied the rescue attempt.

  • Re: Llywelyn looked over to Bowles to say, “And what was that?”

    For me the line would have impact if spoken by the Lieutenant who denied the rescue attempt.

  • Michael Ampersant

    … After an hour or more, he only rooted around for a pair of field glasses and used them to scan the area, taking care to keep himself low to the embankment …
    This is not much better than the famous Dan Brown lampoon “he walked to the tallboy, propelled by his feet.”

    This is simply not the voice of a lowly British private from hundred years ago: “Impacted,” … “and every second spent listening only prolonged our shared agony” …etc. It sounds like an American high school writing for his school paper…in this voice, there should be very few Latinate roots, for example…

    • Frank Schulaner
      Sad, ironic, that most of what we, including Jon, know of the horrors of the First War was written for us not by lowly Brit privates -- whose nation in a sense discouraged them from speaking up -- but by Latin-drenched college boys like Graves and Sassoon and, on occasion, by future prime minister Macmillan.
      • Michael Ampersant
        All the more a reason to break with that tradition and try the voice of a lowly private...
  • Michael Ampersant

    This is simply not the voice of a lowly British private from hundred years ago: “Impacted,” … “and every second spent listening only prolonged our shared agony” …etc. It sounds like an American high school kid circa 1990 writing for the school paper…in the soldier’s voice, there should be very few Latinate roots, for example…

    …the sentences should not sound constructed…

    • weequahic
      Sad, ironic, that most of what we, including Jon, know of the horrors of the First War was written for us not by lowly Brit privates -- whose nation in a sense discouraged them from speaking up -- but by Latin-drenched college boys like Graves and Sassoon and, on occasion, by future prime minister Macmillan.
      • Michael Ampersant
        All the more a reason to break with that tradition and try the voice of a lowly private...
  • This story is fine for what it is, a “slice of war” piece looking to the internal conflict of the now living and the soon to be dead.

    The story started slow for me and didn’t escalate with much emotion. However, this story is likely meant to be subdued anyway.

    I think that the first and last paragraphs pose a small hiccup for me.

    The first paragraph had me thinking about the wording and lost me into the second. The wording of the first paragraph is conflicted; I would suppose on purpose. After re-reading it now a couple of times, I might would swap the first and second paragraphs.

    The last paragraph seems redundant and didn’t add anything to the story for me. It came across as a bit like a rim shot or tag in a piece of music.

    This is one of those stories where I am so uncertain how to vote. As pure entertainment goes, this isn’t my kind of story. As far as the writing goes, Jon Tyktor does a decent job. I think that I have talked myself into a 3, 4, no 3… I don’t know. Give me a minute.

    • Frank Schulaner
      Don't you dare swap 1 and 2. We're so jaded, we need par 1 to make us react: "Huh? What the hell's this about?"
  • This story is fine for what it is, a “slice of war” piece looking to the internal conflict of the now living and the soon to be dead.

    The story started slow for me and didn’t escalate with much emotion. However, this story is likely meant to be subdued anyway.

    I think that the first and last paragraphs pose a small hiccup for me.

    The first paragraph had me thinking about the wording and lost me into the second. The wording of the first paragraph is conflicted; I would suppose on purpose. After re-reading it now a couple of times, I might would swap the first and second paragraphs.

    The last paragraph seems redundant and didn’t add anything to the story for me. It came across as a bit like a rim shot or tag in a piece of music.

    This is one of those stories where I am so uncertain how to vote. As pure entertainment goes, this isn’t my kind of story. As far as the writing goes, Jon Tyktor does a decent job. I think that I have talked myself into a 3, 4, no 3… I don’t know. Give me a minute.

    • weequahic
      Don't you dare swap 1 and 2. We're so jaded, we need par 1 to make us react: "Huh? What the hell's this about?"
  • And, to my fellow veterans who may read or post here, I render you a hand salute. Jeff

    • MPmcgurty
      And I would like to belatedly say thank you to you and all veterans here at EDF. Glad you are here with us.
  • And, to my fellow veterans who may read or post here, I render you a hand salute. Jeff

    • MPmcgurty
      And, belatedly, I would like to say thank you to you and all veterans here at EDF. Glad you are here with us.
  • MPmcgurty

    I liked the story and the narrator’s voice, except for the first and the last couple of paragraphs (and a few bumps along the way). The last line is unnecessary; in this case, bringing us into the story does nothing. In fact, I’m not crazy about the last couple of paragraphs, as they seem to be winking at the readers.

    I give fiction a lot of leeway, but in this story I must say…if it’s broad daylight and someone climbs up on the embankment to shoot someone else, it’s not going to be a secret. I’m thinking there are going to be consequences, besides the feelings of guilt. Like the lieutenant coming to see who fired off a shot. Still, I can look the other way if the ending were more subtle and left us without the two explaining what happened.

  • MPmcgurty

    I liked the story and the narrator’s voice, except for the first and the last couple of paragraphs (and a few bumps along the way). The last line is unnecessary; in this case, bringing us into the story does nothing. In fact, I’m not crazy about the last couple of paragraphs, as they seem to be winking at the readers.

    I give fiction a lot of leeway, but in this story I must say…if it’s broad daylight and someone climbs up on the embankment to shoot someone else, it’s not going to be a secret. I’m thinking there are going to be consequences, besides the feelings of guilt. Like the lieutenant coming to see who fired off a shot. Still, I can look the other way if the ending were more subtle and left us without the two explaining what happened.

  • MPmcgurty

    Does anyone else lose their comments when they refresh?

    • I think they re-align in chronological order
      • MPmcgurty
        It's usually when I've replied to someone. They are gone just for a few minutes. Strange, but at least I quit repeating myself.
  • MPmcgurty

    Does anyone else lose their comments when they refresh?

    • I think they re-align in chronological order
      • MPmcgurty
        It's usually when I've replied to someone. They are gone just for a few minutes. Strange, but at least I quit repeating myself.
  • joanna b.

    a practically flawless story starting with the title.

    the title brings home that silence during stand-offs in battle can be as threatening as the mad chaos of the noise of bombs falling, artillery firing, multiple screams and curses. that what you hear during those silences is sometimes as dreadful and unforgettable as the noise.

    in my childhood, i overheard some adults talking about trench warfare during WWI. one of them described a soldier who was shot and the shot pushed him backward into a barbed wire fence on which he then hung for many hours. at one point in midafternoon, he screamed out in anguish, “Oh, God, take the sun out of the sky. It’s burning me up.”

    you, Jon Tyktor, have put meat on the bones of that image that has haunted me for years. you have killed that agonized soldier and made it an heroic act, whether criminal or not.

    (btw, what i overheard may be an apocryphal story. i don’t know. i’ve never checked it out.)

    i can’t decide if it even matters whether the wounded soldier was one of ours or one of theirs. it never occurred to me that it might NOT have been one of ours, but in fact, the compelling humanity of Bowles’ act might well have been addressed, not to enemy or friend, but to a suffering human being.

    when i said “practically flawless” above, the one thing that took me out of the story for a nanosecond was the second half of Bowles’ first comment: “Who knows what information he might take home? Couldn’t have that.”

    it wasn’t so much that Bowles seemed like the strong, silent type and being garrulous would not be out of character. it was that what he did was an act of mercy and did not need to be justified. and having done it, he wouldn’t have felt the need to justify it.

    anyway, anyway, Jon Tyktor, thanks for this incredibly written story. five stars.

  • joanna b.

    a practically flawless story starting with the title.

    the title brings home that silence during stand-offs in battle can be as threatening as the mad chaos of the noise of bombs falling, artillery firing, multiple screams and curses. that what you hear during those silences is sometimes as dreadful and unforgettable as the noise.

    in my childhood, i overheard some adults talking about trench warfare during WWI. one of them described a soldier who was shot and the shot pushed him backward into a barbed wire fence on which he then hung for many hours. at one point in midafternoon, he screamed out in anguish, “Oh, God, take the sun out of the sky. It’s burning me up.”

    you, Jon Tyktor, have put meat on the bones of that image that has haunted me for years. you have killed that agonized soldier and made it an heroic act, whether criminal or not.

    (btw, what i overheard may be an apocryphal story. i don’t know. i’ve never checked it out.)

    i can’t decide if it even matters whether the wounded soldier was one of ours or one of theirs. it never occurred to me that it might NOT have been one of ours, but in fact, the compelling humanity of Bowles’ act might well have been addressed, not to enemy or friend, but to a suffering human being.

    when i said “practically flawless” above, the one thing that took me out of the story for a nanosecond was the second half of Bowles’ first comment: “Who knows what information he might take home? Couldn’t have that.”

    it wasn’t so much that Bowles seemed like the strong, silent type and being garrulous would not be out of character. it was that what he did was an act of mercy and did not need to be justified. and having done it, he wouldn’t have felt the need to justify it.

    anyway, anyway, Jon Tyktor, thanks for this incredibly written story. five stars.

  • JD Evans

    So much in need of an editor. The story certainly has emotional attraction. For me, that’s about it. Sorry.

    • Joseph Kaufman
      As an editor who did try to help with this piece, I'm curious as to something you feel is in need of editing? Always more to learn, and I'd love to hear what you have to say!
  • JD Evans

    So much in need of an editor. The story subject certainly has emotional attraction. For me, that’s about it. Sorry.

    • Joseph Kaufman
      As an editor who did try to help with this piece, I'm curious as to something you feel is in need of editing? Always more to learn, and I'd love to hear what you have to say!
  • I have been waiting for someone to refer to the law of command in the military. To go against an order from a superior officer, particularly during WWI, will get you shot. I do believe this was the motovation behind the dialogue after the mercy killing. Awkward in the telling I admit, but the source just the same.
    I do not do well on Veterans Day. Prone to absence and tears at a drop of the hat, but I wish to expresses the deepest of graditude to all our Vets for their service, and pray that one day, because of them, peace on earth will be a reality

    • Frank Schulaner
      I agree about the purpose of the dialog. Most civilians think "covering your butt" is a joke, along the lines of "the boss'll eat my privates for breakfast." In the military, it's life or death almost, sometimes more than almost. I'm told African Americans in that war suffered the most from that. But not in National Guard units, led by non-career officers. And I agree: Not again. Not again.
      • That seems to make sense from the Civil War to Nam. The thing about WWI that blows the back of my head away is the ignorance and subsequent treatment of PDS (shell shock). When I imagine the conditions on the ground, I mean truly get over the shock myself and learn of the conditions, it is a miracle anyone came home.
        • Frank Schulaner
          A miracle. I told myself to cut all this commenting and get down to writing stuff, but you got me going about the Civil War. It led to advances in prosthetic limbs, but absolutely nothing for behind the eyes. Which led to all those loose cannons prowling the country, especially on the frontier -- the "bad guys" of the cowboy movies we watched as kids.
  • I have been waiting for someone to refer to the law of command in the military. To go against an order from a superior officer, particularly during WWI, will get you shot. I do believe this was the motovation behind the dialogue after the mercy killing. Awkward in the telling I admit, but the source just the same.
    I do not do well on Veterans Day. Prone to absence and tears at a drop of the hat, but I wish to expresses the deepest of graditude to all our Vets for their service, and pray that one day, because of them, peace on earth will be a reality

    • weequahic
      I agree about the purpose of the dialog. Most civilians think "covering your butt" is a joke, along the lines of "the boss'll eat my privates for breakfast." In the military, it's life or death almost, sometimes more than almost. I'm told African Americans in that war suffered the most from that. But not in National Guard units, led by non-career officers. And I agree: Not again. Not again.
      • That seems to make sense from the Civil War to Nam. The thing about WWI that blows the back of my head away is the ignorance and subsequent treatment of PDS (shell shock). When I imagine the conditions on the ground, I mean truly get over the shock myself and learn of the conditions, it is a miracle anyone came home.
        • weequahic
          A miracle. I told myself to cut all this commenting and get down to writing stuff, but you got me going about the Civil War. It led to advances in prosthetic limbs, but absolutely nothing for behind the eyes. Which led to all those loose cannons prowling the country, especially on the frontier -- the "bad guys" of the cowboy movies we watched as kids.
  • Rose Gardener

    Joannab largely expressed my sentiments.The author drew me right in. Through the characters he gave me an opportunity to empathise with the soldiers of WW1. It made me wonder what I’d have done if I’d been the one listening to another’s suffering, forbidden by those in charge to go to his aid. I can imagine that would impact me far more than being shot at, or wounded. It’s the stuff of nightmares that would haunt you long after you came home from the war.

    It hadn’t occurred to me the wounded soldier might have been German until I read the comments. But I don’t think it matters a jot – not to this story, nor in the comparative reality. I don’t believe Bowles would have cared either way when he pulled the trigger. There are times in war when compassion transcends which side you’re fighting for. Moments when we react to suffering as one human being to another, regardless of the colour of your uniform. And this story was all about finding human compassion in circumstances where it seemed to have been abandoned.

    Some commenters saw a lack of emotion (and tension) in the story. The way I saw it, Bowles, as a gamekeeper’s son, must have sometimes had to put a suffering animal humanely out of it’s misery. Hearing a wounded man, howling in pain like an animal, well – he did his job, no more, no less, because it was the kindest thing to do. Some may see that as detachment, but I read it as a mask which hid the strong undercurrent of sympathy. Hard enough to bring yourself to do the deed when it IS an animal, your personal responsibility, and part of your job. Never something you’d do lightly, even after 4 years of war.

    Same with the bantering dialogue at the end. I don’t think he was justifying his action at all, or even trying to avoid awkward questions from higher command. His words simply put an end to speculation and discussion in the trench by normalising it for his comrades-in-arms as ‘just another enemy killed’.

    The tension, for me, was partly in waiting to see whether they would succeed in their mission, partly from trying to imagine myself struggle with the decision. I do that with stories – put myself in the characters boots, make the decisions alongside them.

    So to my mind this is a five star story, well executed and memorable. It isn’t often a story moves me so much that I write a comment, let alone such a detailed one.

    Jon Tyktor, this is a fitting tribute to the unforgotten soldiers on Remembrance Day. Thank you,

  • Rose Gardener

    Joannab largely expressed my sentiments.The author drew me right in. Through the characters he gave me an opportunity to empathise with the soldiers of WW1. It made me wonder what I’d have done if I’d been the one listening to another’s suffering, forbidden by those in charge to go to his aid. I can imagine that would impact me far more than being shot at, or wounded. It’s the stuff of nightmares that would haunt you long after you came home from the war.

    It hadn’t occurred to me the wounded soldier might have been German until I read the comments. But I don’t think it matters a jot – not to this story, nor in the comparative reality. I don’t believe Bowles would have cared either way when he pulled the trigger. There are times in war when compassion transcends which side you’re fighting for. Moments when we react to suffering as one human being to another, regardless of the colour of your uniform. And this story was all about finding human compassion in circumstances where it seemed to have been abandoned.

    Some commenters saw a lack of emotion in the story. The way I saw it, Bowles, as a gamekeeper’s son, must have sometimes had to put a suffering animal humanely out of it’s misery. Hearing a wounded man, howling in pain like an animal, well – he did his job, no more, no less, because it was the kindest thing to do. Some may see that as detachment, but I read it as a mask which hid the strong undercurrent of sympathy. Hard enough to bring yourself to do the deed when it IS an animal, your personal responsibility, and part of your job. Never something you’d do lightly, even after 2 years of war.

    As for the bantering dialogue at the end. I don’t think he was justifying his action at all, or even trying to avoid awkward questions from higher command. His words simply put an end to speculation and discussion in the trench by normalising it for his comrades-in-arms as ‘just another enemy killed’.

    The tension, for me, was partly in waiting to see whether they would succeed in their mission, partly from trying to imagine myself struggle with the decision. I do that with stories – put myself in the characters boots, make the decisions alongside them.

    So to my mind this is a five star story, well executed and memorable. It isn’t often a story moves me so much that I write a comment, let alone such a detailed one.

    Jon Tyktor, this is a fitting tribute to the unforgotten soldiers on Remembrance Day. Thank you,

  • Liz Gray

    It was a great story and I hate to be a pedant but the slang for German was ‘Boche’ whereas Bosch is the electronics company

    • Ellie Tupper
      And the English called the Germans "Huns" anyhow. "Boche" was a French term used in WWII. But it's a lovely story anyway.
      • Tyk-Tok
        There are primary documents from the British Military that make reference to the "Bosch" or the "Bosche."
  • Liz Gray

    It was a great story and I hate to be a pedant but the slang for German was ‘Boche’ whereas Bosch is the electronics company

    • Ellie Tupper
      And the English called the Germans "Huns" anyhow. "Boche" was a French term used in WWII. But it's a lovely story anyway.
      • Tyk-Tok
        There are primary documents from the British Military that make reference to the "Bosch" or the "Bosche."
  • Dre

    A tough read, but a good one. Chilling and haunting. At one point I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end . . . it will stay with me for quite some time.

  • Dre

    A tough read, but a good one. Chilling and haunting. At one point I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end . . . it will stay with me for quite some time.

  • This is a horrific story and I can understand that the ‘normalisation’ of suffering and death would make the soldier matter-of-fact in his approach. Good stuff.

  • This is a horrific story and I can understand that the ‘normalisation’ of suffering and death would make the soldier matter-of-fact in his approach. Good stuff.