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All Quiet (2nd edit)

by Heckyspice 

Posted: 28 February 2006
Word Count: 276
Summary: My entry for this weeks challenge of "The idiot". I have gone over the word limit a wee bit. Sorry.I hope this is not too preachy. Added: Just edited it, to bring down the word count and tighten up a few bits.
Related Works: Speaker for the dead • 

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The mud has been much warmer these winter days.

Musk of a thousand cigarettes folds into sweeter clouds where the snow is falling. Memories of plum pudding stay wholesome in the mouth. Photographs exchanged, including those of the seductive nymph that is Princess Mary.

The hand of the enemy is flesh and blood; the breath of the enemy echoes the world that all St. Georges men have left across the water. Voices of the enemy sing carols with words just as holy. A winter sun shines proudly as the old year fades and weariness sinks into the muddy plain. Men have found peace. Pride, not duty keeps their firing pins clean.

Second Lieutenant Lucien Farrier-Smith, hates turning a blind eye to the strangers that creep into the trench at day. They are an affront to everything right in the world. God made Englishmen to lead this rabble and sweep away the solidarity that has infected the lines. Lucien remembers the apple orchards of the family estate. Teapots on silver trays, secrets he made housemaids keep and the tangled haired promise that Miss Audrey Blanchard revealed before he left for France.

That world must return.

If men will not obey, then Lucien will lead.

He watches the interloper crawl out of the trench, a sack of cigarettes and hardening pudding slung over his shoulder. Not a man moves to stop the fellow. Lucien raises his pistol and shoots down the blight before him.

Another shot, followed by another and another until the killing starts again.

Lucien believes by next Christmas all this will have passed and the world returned to the well being of true, righteous gentlemen.

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Comments by other Members

sazzyjack at 12:57 on 28 February 2006  Report this post
Nice! Very atmospheric.
Particularly loved this line;

Musk of a thousand cigarettes now folds into sweeter clouds where the snow is falling


Prospero at 03:26 on 01 March 2006  Report this post
Hi David

We tend to forget two World Wars on that King George Fifth and Khaiser Wilhelm were cousins. That before the First World War the Windsors were Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, that the Christmas Armistice was ended by actions just like the one you describe.

A beautifully drawn image of an all too familiar scenario, where some fool driven by perverted sense of the correct order of things destroys the very thing he is supposed to protect.

Well done


Heckyspice at 07:17 on 01 March 2006  Report this post
The senseless death of millions is one of the most (if not the most) idiotic action of our recent history.

My Grandfather spent 2 years fighting in the trenches and although he won medals for bravery he came back like many others, knowing that the so called order of things, social class division was destroyed and he would never fight again because the King asked him to.

I will always honour and respect the souls of the men who never had a chance to live the lives they deserved.


Cholero at 08:33 on 01 March 2006  Report this post

This is a good read. You capture the arrogance of that class and I like the way you set that arrogance back home as well, with the mc's relations with his maid and Miss Audrey...

tangled haired promise
- great.

Musk of a thousand cigarettes folds into sweeter clouds
- don't know if it was deliberate but to me this line has echoes of Wilfred Owen.

Thought - if you dropped the 1st from '1st Lieutenant', it would be a stronger start to that para, and a stronger sense of who he is maybe?

Amazing that it took a whole other world war after that to really change things.



Heckyspice at 08:50 on 01 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Pete

I guess the echoes of Owen, Brooke and Sassoon were in the air as I wrote this.

There was an excellent documentary series on the BBC in the mid 90's about World War I. It was narrated by Judi Dench with readings from letters and poems by Jeremy Irons (I cannot remember who else was reading) but I do recall Jeremy Irons reading Sassoon's poems with such bitterness that you could feel the helplessness of the men.

Also at this time I am sure Pat Barker was quite popular and Sebastian Faulks was publishing Birdsong. (An over rated book in IMO - but still a worthy read if only for the passage about Thiepvel)
I have probably spelt that wrong

As to your suggestion I was actually thinking about making the character a 2nd Lieutenant. A junior officer ambitious for advancement and resentful of the better soldiers around him. Do you think this might work better?


Cholero at 08:59 on 01 March 2006  Report this post

2nd could make the shooting more poignant still, yes Maybe it's the form that reads wrong for me and it should be First, not 1st, or Second not 2nd.

Can't get on with Faulks myself.



Heckyspice at 09:43 on 01 March 2006  Report this post
Thanks Pete,

I have changed the rank to Second.

I agree about Faulks, he is a bit ponderous. I did not get the symbolisim of the decaying mud on the river banks in the pre-war passages of Birdsong being an indicator of the death. I think that whole section was about how jealous the daughter of the mill owner was of her stepmother shagging the protagnist.


Gulliver at 19:02 on 01 March 2006  Report this post
A good evokation of the class arrogance which infested (perhaps even infests) English society. What it is so clever about this piece is that the war aspect is secondary to the clash of social ideas - a conflict which you show to be as brutal and merciless as the war itself. It reminds the reader that even when the guns have stopped the conflict between upper and lower class goes on.

crowspark at 12:01 on 03 March 2006  Report this post
Nice writing David. Wonderful language, particularly,

Lucien remembers the apple orchards of the family estate. Teapots on silver trays, secrets he made housemaids keep and the tangled haired promise that Miss Audrey Blanchard revealed before he left for France.

Nice echoes of Oh what a lovely war in your closing sentence.

He wouldn't have lasted long. They shot officers, and if the Germans hadn't shot this one his men probably would have.

Great flash.

Anj at 11:31 on 04 March 2006  Report this post

secrets he made housemaids keep and the tangled haired promise that Miss Audrey Blanchard revealed before he left for France.

Wow. What a line. Just loved it.

Lucien Farrier-Smith

Fantastic name. Wonderfully cold and silvery, somehow. Gave me a very strong visual image of him.

I would have preferred this to end at Lucien shooting the 'blight'. Until then it was a fictional piece very effectively conveying your message, but those final two paragraphs did seem to me a bit preachy (you did kind of ask, sorry).

At a bit of a tangent, my father recently sent me a photo he'd found of his Great Uncle Sidney who was killed at the Somme (and eerily looked astonishingly like my father). When I thought of incomprehensible numbers of men killed on the Somme, I wondered for the first time what happened to all the bodies. I had a horrible suspicion that I knew, but still thought it couldn't be so. Of course it was.

Wonderful writing


Heckyspice at 11:45 on 05 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Andrea, Hi Bill

Thanks for your comments. Sometimes I think it is difficult to write about this time without avoiding some type of sermon.


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