“For Glory!” Bill Findley shouted diving into a field of weeds that licked his shoulders. Swarms of grasshoppers hastily flew in every direction to dodge the rampaging youth. His sharp-ended stick sliced through the brown weeds while his furred companion, Glory, jumped happily at his side helping him destroy the enemy scum with vicious canine barks.
Bill paused, he had been fighting the field’s massive army of weeds for only ten minutes and was already exhausted. Sweat dripped off his short blonde hair and stung his childish blue eyes. His face was young and still plump even though he was as skinny as a twig. His blue overalls covered most of his red and brown plaid shirt.
“Glory,” Bill looked down at the black and white furred dog pacing around his waist, “Wanna race? First un to the pond!”
Glory, not comprehending, grinned up at Bill seeming to accept the challenge. Without a count down, Bill flew down the field, occasionally being smacked in the face by the browned weeds reaching up to him with malice. Glory understood now what Bill was talking about and her hind legs launched her body upward and across the field towards the boy. The field was wide and seemed endless, but Bill and Glory both knew that on the other side of the field in a hidden patch of trees sat a calm pond that must have been ten feet deep.
“Wonder if we’ll see a snake this time?” Bill mumbled in betweens short gasps of breath, now he was trying to catch up with Glory. Glory was long gone, she galloped down to the grove of trees and almost flipped around in the air to run back to Bill who was still trying to get to the trees.
As Bill Findley continued to run he thought he heard footsteps, timed together, forcing the ground to shudder. Bill didn’t notice it for long because Glory was already back by his side running at the same pace. Man and dog, boy and girl, friend and friend.
Finally, Bill Findley arrived on the grove of trees surrounding the pond, known as his pond to everyone who knew Bill. They dodged a briar bush and slipped in between two close by trees and soon they were standing on the long narrow bolder over looking the pond like a natural diving board. Glory was already in the pond and it didn’t take Bill long to strip down and join his puppy with a sloppy cannon ball.
As he swam slowly up to the surface and gazed at the bright blue water glowing around him, he remembered his older brother. Ralph Findley was eighteen years old and was Bill’s idol. His brother had left a while back to join the Confederates and fight with his friends. Bill didn’t want to fight, he had no idea what the war was about he only wanted to be with his brother. Ralph loved Glory as much as he loved Ben. Ralph and Glory would often play in the field for days and come back after a night of sleeping in the woods. Bill was heart broken the day Ralph left. Ralph had tried to sneak away from the house unnoticed but had failed. Bill ran up to his brother and began to pound on his brother’s chest with tears running down his face in rivers, screaming, “Don’t leave, I won’ let you! I’ll come with you if I haftuh!”
Ralph was closed to crying now too and then he saw Glory come towards the back door where he was going to sneak out. Glory was a good dog, he had known, somehow, that Ralph was leaving but had acted himself. But Glory wasn’t acting himself now, he stood there watching with a hint of unspoken sadness in his eye. Ralph looked back at his younger brother and tried to smile but his lips were cracked and dry, “Billy boy, you haftuh stay! Listen to me boy, you can’t come.”
“Why, I can come, I can f,” Bill stuttered, choking on his own tears, coughed, and continued, “I can fight!”
“I know, I know,” Ralph answered. He was on his knees now holding his little brother to his chest. Ralph’s head sat on top of Bill’s and the older brother looked at Glory who watched them warily. Ralph began to cry, “But you have to stay! You have to stay for Glory.”
Bill burst into a new set of tears, he was too sad to try and stop his brother any more. He would stay, he would stay for his brother and, of course, he would stay for his brother’s dog. Bill tried to whisper something along the lines of, “I’ll miss you” but his little heart couldn’t let the words out. Slowly Ralph slipped out of his grasp and left.
Something wet touched Bill’s cheek, and it wasn’t water. Bill blinked and then sat up, he had fallen asleep in the pool against the bank. Glory sat at his side licking his face repetitively as if to assure Bill that he was there. Bill stood up wondering how he had fallen asleep in a pond and then let out a yelp. Nearby he heard thousands of gunshots. Cannons fired, and men who yelled out orders, curses, and muffled screams of pain.
“The war,” Bill mumbled as Glory ran around him in circles looking up into the young boy’s face and then through the trees where the roars of battle came from. Bill, being a curious and do-first-think-second kind of boy, took off for where the sounds came from. Glory followed barking warnings to Bill but the boy put them aside, something told him he needed to see, someone, maybe God (maybe Satan), was telling him to go see the battle.
Dust and weeds were flung into the air or trampled as cannons shot fiery murderous balls into the air. Men were crawling on the ground covered in their own blood over the bodies of their comrades and the surviving ones continued to load their rifles with pale faces as grim as the moon. Bill stood there behind a bush watching and was glad that he hadn’t gone with his brother. Then the thought struck him, what if his brother was here? His mind was focused on his thoughts and he didn’t hear Glory barking hysterically almost like a wild dog, or if you listened closely, a dog wild with the pain of a broken heart. Bill was knocked back into the real world when something grabbed his fist. A chill rode up Bills spine and he jerked away.
“Ill,” the man said on the ground, Bill couldn’t tell if his uniform was red or if it was blood. One of his shoulders was a mess of twisted charred flesh covered in dark red liquid. His right leg seemed to be hanging on only by the red soaked pants he was wearing. The man looked as if he had been mauled by a lion, or shot twice at close range by a Union Soldier. The man’s face was planted in the dirt and he was moaning something like, “Ill.”
Glory was going crazy, she nudged the man in his side and turned him over, even still he was moaning the same word over and over again, “Ill….Ill!”
Glory began to like his dirt covered face, it had scratches and was bleeding a little, the man looked horrible. Bill was standing there watching, he was frozen with fear and his face was as white as a marble statue.
“Ill,” the man moaned again, but it wasn’t a man anymore. Now that Glory had licked it clean Bill realized who it was. It was Ralph, his brother, who he had wanted to see so badly but now wished Ralph was never here in this field, this field of death. Bill knelt beside his brother and cradled his brother’s head in his arms. Bill didn’t realize it but he was moaning, moaning like his brother, “Why, why did you go? Ralph, why, why?”
Ralph smiled one last smile and then his grin disappeared and he mumbled something not understandable. Ralph swallowed as Bill’s tears fell on his face. Ralph seemed to strain every muscle in his body so he could live for just a little longer. Finally, with his face so serene and peaceful, Ralph looked up into Bill’s young eyes and held his little brother’s hand, “For Glory….”