This week's prompt at "Sunday Scribblings" Is 'Hotels'
Mine this week is a short story that popped into my head when I read the prompt.
Bastogne was cold, rigid, and tense. The snow was falling and it seemed like it'd been falling forever. Private Hank Sommers, 'Doc' as he was called by his platoon, was in his foxhole, hunkered down, weathering the wind and snow. Night fell and the mortar and gunshots slowed. He found himself drifting off to sleep. Quickly he shoved his med-kit behind his back, leaned back and covered himself with the blanket. "What a joke!" he thought to himself as he felt the bitter cold biting him through his boots and gear. He shook his head and drifted into a foggy sleep. He awoke to the 1st mortar of the day. It wasn't your typical alarm clock but he knew it meant it was dawn. He rolled up the blanket and looked out. It was still dark but he saw movement in the next hole over. "Davies!" he shouted in a whisper. "Got any rations?" "No, nothin'." he whispered back. He slid back down into the foxhole and sighed. Then he remembered he shoved a piece of gum in his helmet liner. He quickly shed the wrapper and popped it in his mouth. "Well, better than nothin'" he grumbled under his breath.
The mortar hit about 20 yards in front of him. His gum fell to the ground and he jumped out of the fox hole, running toward the hit. A medic doesn't think, he acts. Doc listened through the gunfire and panic and heard the cry for help. He was there instantly, unwrapping bandages, sprinkling on sulfa powder and administering morphine. "Dammit!" he gasped. Someone had stolen his med-bag a few days ago and taken most of his morphine. "Dammit to hell!" he said as he grabbed his last morphine syrette and jabbed it in the soldiers leg. He then pinned the syrette to the soldiers lapel, and ran off to the next cry for help. Time stood still for the medic as he worked feverishly to attend to all the wounded through the gunfire and mortar attack.
The thick cover of clouds and snow made the day seem like night. The snow was a major hinderance as he slipped and slid as he ran from foxhole to foxhole, checking on the men.
Two hours had passed and he had assessed and treated 8 men, two of which had been sent back to an aid station. There was a lull in the cross fire. It was quiet. Somehow quiet wasn't comforting as it should have been. Doc was running on adrenaline. He finished treating the last man and sunk into a foxhole for a cigarette. As he lit the cigarette, he looked at his hands, cracked, cold and splashed with blood. He sat there, staring at them. The moment of quiet was enough to allow him to start thinking. Thinking wasn't good. A combat medic needs to be a machine, ever moving, never stopping to THINK. Thinking was a bad thing. He quickly got up, jumped out of the foxhole and ran to the next one. "Give me your morphine" he said. "Gave it to you last time, Doc." was the reply. Not saying a word he jumped out and ran to the next. He knew the lull in crossfire wouldn't last for long, he needed to get morphine before the next volley started. No morphine. "Dammit!" he grunted.
The lull of airplanes could be heard in the distance. With all that cloud cover, it was next to impossible to know whether the planes were allies or enemy. They all sat, hunkered down, listening.
"Hey Buster!" someone shouted out, "can you ID those planes?" Buster, instinctively looked up, only to see snowflakes and heavy cloud cover. He listened intently. "Not yet, too far away!" he shouted back. Buster was a 6'2, dark curly hair with blue eyes. His name was Jake Brown. His platoon nicknamed him Buster Brown and the nickname, 'Buster' just stuck. He and Doc Sommers were together since bootcamp. They were the only 2 left from their entire original platoon. Even though they were only 21 years old, they were the 'old men' of their platoon and the other soldiers looked up to them. War aged these men prematurely.
Doc Sommers needed morphine. He knew the lull was a temporary one and he wanted to use the time to stock up on much needed supplies. He popped out of his foxhole and ran to Stg. Blaine's. "Hiya Sergeant" he said, out of breath. Sergeant Blaine offered him a cigarette. Doc took the cigarette and tucked it in his pocket. "I need morphine." he said. "I gave you my only syrette..." "I know" Doc interrupted. I need supplies. I need them now. I'm out of morphine, I have a few bandages left but not enough." he said. "Can you send someone back?" he said, eyes ablaze, wiping the snow off his eyelashes. "Ain't go nobody to send." He said, taking a drag of his cigarette. "I'll go" Doc said. "I'll go, I have hardly any supplies, I don't have a gun and I can't do ANYTHING without supplies" he said rushed. He was surprised when the Sergeant said, "Alright, but be fast. Leave your med-kit with Hicks. Get what you can and high-tail it back down here. Be careful" he said Doc Sommers scrambled out of the fox hole, ran over to Hicks and dropped his med-kit in the foxhole. He croched down and said, "I'm running for supplies." And with that he vanished into the forest.
He knew his way to the field hospital. It was about 5 miles back. He had been there a few times, never walked it though, went by jeep last time. The snow was deep. The forest offered some cover and he had to be ALERT. There were enemy patrols everywhere. He was unarmed. He tripped and fell, landing on a branch that poked him in the gut. He let out a grunt, layed still and waited. Five minutes passed and he saw no movement. He got up quickly and kept trudging. "Damned snow." he muttered. His hands were on the verge of frostbite but he didn't even give them a second thought. His mind was on the morphine and aid supplies. Without them, he was completely useless. The idea of being idle or useless made him anxous. He picked up the pace and pushed on.
He heard voices. He was coming to the road and he saw the bustle of medical personell rushing in and out of a hotel. It was a beautiful, regal looking building. "Hotel Chantelle" was lettered on the front in gold. The woodwork was intricate and lacey. As he entered the lobby, the bookshelves were built into the wall and were stained a beautiful cherry. They were filled with hundreds of books. The lace curtains framed beautiful hand-crafted windows. On the floor were intricately woven rugs, obviously imported from Persia or possibly asia. The clerk's desk was a hardwood, carved in the same style as the outer carvings. Everything was so beautiful. For a moment, he forgot why he was there. The hotel was being used as a field hospital. He laughed as he shook his head, thinking that he sure wished he was at this hotel under different circumstances. He knew where to go, straight back, down the hall. "Sommers!" someone called out loudly. "Sommers!" he stopped and turned. It was Jed Handy, his old buddy from high school. "Well small world, ain't it?" Jed said "Well if it ain't Jed Handy!" Said Sommers. "Small world, indeed!" What brings you out to Hotel Chantelle?" he asked. "I am in desperate need of supplies. I'm out of morphine and running low on bandages and sulfa powder." he said, smile dropping off his face. "Well then, you've come to the right place. I'm the supply officer here. Let's go see what we can fix you up with." the men walked, side by side down the hall chatting home, old times and Mary Claire, The girl back home.
The explsion rocked the hotel. He fell to his knees, spilling the supplies all over the floor. He scrambled to recover them all and shove everything into his pockets. The second explosion was closer, it sent bookshelves in the lobby crashing to the floor. The chandelier fell and crushed a table chair. He looked around, found a door and ran. A mortar exploded in the street in front of the hotel. It blew off half the front and collapsed the second floor into the lobby. He ran around the back went in and started helping with the wounded. The hospital was being attacked.
They did all they could, moving soldiers to adjacent buildings, to the basement and trying to get as many out of the Hotel as they could. When they got the last person out, he quickly started back towards the lines. From across the street he turned and looked back. The front half of the hotel was completely gone. As he approached the woods, he heard his name, "Hank!" he turned around and saw Jed running towards him. "Here, take this back with you." he said as he handed him a few packs of cigarettes. "We have to move everything and can't take it all in one trip. Good luck out there." he said smacking him on the helmet, turning and running back to the smouldering mass that once was the Hotel Chantelle.
"yeah, good luck" Hank whispered to himself and disappeared back into the mass of trees from which he emerged not 20 minutes earlier.