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Four Years at the Mount

Inside 100 Years Ago

Formation Of Local Militia

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(3/2017) Ever since the European war began, the need of preparedness has become plainer day by day. It is important that all men know something of military affairs. It is therefore suggested that the young men of this vicinity form a troop of cavalry, or a company of foot soldiers, ready for volunteer service. After having been well drilled, the government will provide guns, uniforms and other equipment.

The world always seemed so big to George, for the first several years of his life, he didnít see much of it though. He grew up in a small town, with small people, living small lives, and he was happy. That was until he started learning all about what the wide world had to show him and he more he learned the more he wanted to see. He wanted to see people in far off exotic countries, buildings so tall they brushed up against the sky, a world of adventures he only could day dream of and all of them took place outside his small little world.

He was about to turn 15 when he noticed that the world that he was so enamored with was trickling into the minds of those around him. It had started small, grumblings heard all the way from Germany, whispers from Austria-Hungry and the Ottoman Empire. All the warring undertones grew louder with a terrible story of a husband and wife shot a world away from Georgeís small town. And George felt the tone of everything shift. It was like someone had hit the wrong cord and now the entire orchestra was playing a different tune, one that was dark and tense and building to an uncertain finale.

He was 18 when he was drafted. He remembered that his mother had cried and his father clapped him on the shoulder and said something along the lines of "make us proud" in a suspiciously wet voice. He left for Fort Meade the next week to begin training and in six and a half months, was ready to be shipped out to France.

A year later, Georgeís world had become one of passages and rooms, all with walls made of earth, metal, and sandbags. All around him, men his age spoke to one another in different languages, some he was starting to understand. Every now and then one would crack a joke and everyone who heard it would laugh; whether they understood seemed to be irrelevant, everyone just needed to laugh. He had met someone that he had gone to school with, they had been good friends what seemed to George to be an age and a half ago. The boy he had known looked older, his face marked with dirt, but they had smiled and laughed at seeing each other thereóof all places. The old boy remarked on how small the world was and together they spoke of the ghost stories of home, of clean sheets and of Mr. Hertzís ice cream parlor and the sweet-faced girls from school.

He cherished his letters from home, hiding them away incase some harm would come to them. Each one carried the precious words of banality and well wishes. He read of a home life that seemed to like an odd sort of fairytale that took place in a faraway little town, with little people where nothing happened.

George had been shot. Twice. But he didnít quite know where. All he knew was that he was being carried and that there was a tearing pain spreading throughout his body and something hot and wet and vital was spilling from somewhere. A nurse appeared, veiled in the usual white. He felt her hands press against his wound, they were terribly cold. She said something to him and though he couldnít understand what it was she said, her tone was comforting and her skilled touch worked quickly as she shouted something over her shoulder. Some part of Georgeís brain that wasnít occupied with the searing pain thought about how the nurse looked like a girl he went to school with and wondered numbly what she was doing here of all places before he realized she wasnít her at all.

When the chaos was over, he was lying in a cot, his body throbbing, but still very much alive. He looked next to him to see the boy he had known a lifetime ago, in that faraway little painless place. Half of his face was covered as well as a good portion of the right-hand side of his body. His eye gazed at George and flickered in recognition, George mumbled something about it being a small world and both of their lips twitched in response.

After the war and the fanfare and the homecomings, the world tumbled on into an almost peace. George went back home to the small town that seemed to have become more exotic in his absence. The years came and went and George was old enough to notice the inevitable change in the weather, the whispers said different things but they all boded the same; all cried out for war.

George was a man now sitting in a bar next to a group of boys in uniform, watching with a tight smile as they laughed and occasionally shoved each other. One sauntered up next to George, receiving the next round of drinks.

"Thereís a big world out there, kid," said the bartender setting down the drink and waving the payment away, "are you sure youíre ready?"

Before the boy could answer George spoke up, "The war is big, but the world? Youíll find out that itís smaller than you think."

Read other articles by Sarah Muir