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Poppy




It's raining. It's 2 pm. The clouds are grey and you can hear the distant thunder rolling. My boots are wet. My clothes are drenched. All I hear are muffled voices coming from either side of me. Dirt surrounds me. Mud squelches under me. I can’t, I just can’t. How much longer is this going to last? How many more days are we going to hide in these trenches? I can’t. I miss home.

           

BAM. A gun shoots.

            BAM BAM. My gun shoots. A lifeless body falls in front of me.

 

I miss ma. I miss Lola. I miss my little brother, Tommy. I cannot bear to think of them missing me and crying over my dead body. What will they do if I’m gone? No, I can’t think about this.

 We were set to get married, you know? We had planned it all out. A small wedding, in a pretty little church where I first saw her. We were going to have 3 kids, two boys and one girl. Jack, Eddy, and little Sarah. We would have a cat too. Lola’s fond of cats, you know? She’s always wanted to be a mother too. It was all planned out.

           

BAM.

I’m pushed to the ground.

 

I keep their photos with me. I stare at a picture that Lola gave me the day I left. ‘I’ll be waiting when you come back.’ She couldn’t stop crying. Tommy hugged me tight bringing me to my knees. He came close to my ear and in the smallest voice possible, whispered, ‘come back in time for my birthday, and bring me back a poppy. I hear there’s plenty in the fields’. 

 

            The rain is harder now. 

How can anyone hear anything? Why is everything so silent? 

            BOOM. The thunder is close.

 

It’s been days. How many? I don’t know anymore.

           

I received a letter. A letter from Lola, she’s pregnant. I’m going to be a dad. I can’t believe it. My child. Jack. I’m going to be a father. She says her and ma are fine. Tommy has a cold but he’ll be fine soon. They can’t wait to see me again, they can’t wait for me to hold little Jack in my arms.

 

I can’t see anything. I’m running, alongside my comrades. Who are we fighting for? For our mothers? Our fathers? Our children? Our lovers? Who is this fight for? Are we fighting death itself? Are we fighting the war?

           

            BOOM. The thunder is back. BOOM BOOM.

THUMP THUMP THUMP. It's the sound of all of our boots stomping in unison, in courage, and in fear.

 

Tommy isn’t doing well anymore. His cold has become a fever. Lola says he’s fighting very hard. I promised him I’d be there for his next birthday, to bring him a poppy. 

 

I made a friend down here, Matthew. He’s a talker he is. Always smiling, making tools from makeshift items. He’s 25, has a girl waiting back for him at home too. Lilly. ‘Perfect name for a perfect girl. She’s mighty handsome.’ he always says. Lilly and Lola would be friends, out of this war, out of these fields, I’m sure.

One day, on a cold morning, he walked up to me. He brought a kitten that he found lying in the mud, near a tree. ‘She’ll be good for the rats. No more diseases and half eaten crackers everywhere. What should we call her?’ 

Poppy, I said.

 

She’s the starlet down here. She keeps the rats away. Her purrs, her affectionate and loving licks. The only form of acknowledgement of one’s existence, that you matter. Matthew is her favourite. Then me. Poppy. Our little Poppy. 

We’ve decided to live close together when the war is over. Me with ma, Lola, Tommy, and Jack. Him with Lilly. Poppy will live with both of us. Getting enough love for any cat in the world. Jack will play with her and she will protect him. The way she has protected us.

 

It's been raining continuously. Day and night. Our soldiers dying of exhaustion, disease, and wounds.

 

We sit by a lamp. Talking of our loved ones. Of the food we will eat, the kisses we will give, the children we want to embrace. Of when the war will be over. Of when we will be back to our mundane jobs that we so terribly miss. Of our lives.

           

            PRRRR. Poppy nuzzles me, she has curled up beside me now. 

Lola wrote to me again. She fears Tommy may not make it before I am back.

            Matthew is coughing, Poppy goes to him.

 

We lost 3 today. Who is going to come for them? Who will weep over their graves? Who will know these fallen men who fought for the war?

 

COUGH COUGH. Matthew has been coughing for the last 3 days. He’s caught something. He keeps saying he’s fine, that the war will be over soon, and he will be back in Lilly’s arms soon. Any sign of worry and he dismisses me with a sway of his hand. ‘I'm not going to leave you to fight this war on your own. We have to take Poppy home to Lilly’.

 

            Matthew is burning up.

 

We are out of the trench. We are running again. He is not able to run. It's raining again.

 

            BAM. Where did the pistol go? Who did it shoot? ‘RUN MATTHEW’ I yell. I’m running. But I don’t hear anyone next to me. I look behind. He is on the ground. The rain is gently draping his skin. There is a red mark on his chest. The blood isn’t stopping. No, it's seeping out of him. His breathing is slowing down. ‘No.’ I pick him up and drag him back to the trench. ‘Keep your eyes open Matthew, we’re getting you help, you need to go back home to Lilly.’

 

‘I already have.’

 

            The thunder rolls again.

 

It's not been the same without him. Poppy no longer runs around. She’s left the rats to chew out the rest of us, the rest of the bodies. I stare at the rats. They feed on anything they can afford to. I see them feeding on each other.

 

 

I got a letter from Lola, Tommy passed away last night.

 

Days are rolling by. The rain never stops. I don’t see Poppy. 

 

When will it be my turn?

 

‘GO, GO, GO’. It’s night. Soldiers are out. PRRR… I know that sound. The world falls silent. I know that sound. She’s in there. I get up. I see her. I am running. I run to get her. Bullets fire. People are falling. But all I want to do is save her. I am running, I am pushed. I run to her, but she falls to the ground. Poppy. The rain is pouring. I am on my knees, her in my hands. The thunder insults my scream, reducing it to a mere whisper. My tears, masked by the rain.

 

            BAM.

 


 

 Edited by Natalie Cheung, Essays Editor

 

 

 

 

 

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