19th of December: James Husum
James Husum writes in multiple genres, but mainly in the science fiction, fantasy and mystery genres (sometimes in various combinations of the three). He writes for all ages, from adult to YA to kids books. He strives to make his works entertaining for his readers, offering them a distraction from the real world.

To find out more about James visit his homepage.

Christmas Dinner

by James Husum

Tom sat by the small fire. It provided some comfort against the cold and the encroaching darkness, after he'd been separated from his regiment during their last skirmish with the Union blues. Setting up camp for the night seemed like the best idea and he could continue his journey back to them in the morning.

He was only seventeen and didn't have much education, but he knew how to hunt and shoot. It was one quality that the Confederate Army had valued in the young man. His rifle lay empty on the ground next to him.

He held his hands out to the fire, trying to will the heat into his palms and then through the rest of his body. His supper for the evening was a bit of hardtack and jerky. Not very tasty but it was better than nothing.

A twig snapping in the bushes made him alert and he reached for his rifle. A voice came from out of the gloom.

'Hey there! May I approach your fire?'

'Identify yourself!'

'Just a soldier, like you, looking to share your fire for a bit.'

'Come on, then.' Tom kept the rifle pointed in the direction of the voice. Just because he didn't have any bullets didn't mean they had to know it.

An older man stepped out of the bushes, wearing the Union blues, his rifle slung over his shoulder and a dead rabbit in his hand.

'You're one of them Damn Yankees! Stop, or I'll shoot!'

The man held up his hands. 'Hold on there now, boy. No need to get all flabbergasted. I just want to share the fire and maybe cook this rabbit.'

The grumbling in Tom's stomach urged him to consider the man's offer. 'All right, you can come closer. Sit over there.' Tom motioned at a spot with his rifle. 'You try anything funny and I'll shoot you dead.'

'That sounds like a fair deal.' The man sat on the spot Tom had pointed to, laying down his rifle and pulling out a large knife. As he skinned and gutted the rabbit, Tom kept his rifle trained on the man.

'My name's Horatio.'

'Tom.'

'Nice of you to share your camp, Tom. Could you hand me that stick over there? I'd like to set this to cooking.'

'I don't do nothin' for no Union scum.'

Horatio sighed. 'Can we put all that aside, just for tonight? Especially this night. No Union, no Confederacy, just two lost souls sharing a bit of warmth and a meal?'

'We're at war. Killin' Yankees is how I'll go home a hero!'

'There aren't any heroes in war, boy. Take it from me.' Horatio's voice turned cold. 'You ever shot a man? Seen his face when you pulled the trigger, knowing that you just took someone's son, or brother, or husband off God's green earth? That he'll never return to his family, the people he loved and loved him back? There's already too much death in this world. Too many that have gone from this life too early…' Seeing the look of anguish on Horatio's face, Tom became sharply aware of the distance separating him from home.

'I killed my share.' Tom didn't feel as much pride in the statement as he had before. 'I guess I hadn't looked at it like that before.'

'The young never do. I can't blame you, really. There's always some old man like me, who should know better, filling your heads with dreams of honor and glory and noble sacrifices. It took one man to come into this world and try and teach us a new lesson. I'd say we haven't learned it very well. Tomorrow we celebrate His birth. How about for one night, we put the killing aside? I've got a family I want to get home to, and I'll bet you do too. Truce?'

Tom hesitated a moment, considering the man's words. He set his rifle down, then picked up the stick and passed it to Horatio.

'Don't burn it, or all we'll have is tack and jerky.''Wouldn't dream of it.' Horatio skewered the rabbit and set it over the fire.

They ate, each wrapped up in their own thoughts of home, and the Christmas dinners to come.

 

come back tomorrow for more...

If you like this story, visit James' homepage.

 

© Karen Lynn, 2015ff