T his close to the enemy no fires could be kindled another source of misery in the merciless cold. But as he sat on a couch made of leaves and sticks beneath a snow-covered pine tree telling his brother-in-law his adventures Moe felt a tendril of warmth running through him: the warmth of family.
When he’d finished recounting his tale Abe laughed. “Welcome to combat soldier. A little different from that fancy palace where you were stationed back in England.”
Moe hastily changed the subject; his work at Bletchley was still classified ultra-top-secret and it would be awkward if Abe started asking questions.
“You once gave me a hitch in your Pontiac Captain Levine. May I join you in your limousine when you go back to base?”
“Sure. I’ll be leaving after sunrise.”
Moe lifted a surprised eyebrow. “You’re staying the night?”
Abe nodded. “You know today’s date?”
“I’ve sort of lost track these past few days.”
“December 24th. Tonight is a holiday for these men and they’re stuck out here. Some of them are literally freezing their toes off — I saw two guys back at the field hospital get their feet amputated because of trench foot. We’re not sure; could be the Krauts will take the night off but they might decide it’s a time for all good Christians to kill each other. I’m not certain if they’ll need me to help them fight off a tank attack or just to make them feel a little less homesick but I’m going to be here with them.”
Through lips that had cracked in the frigid air Moe let out a whistle. “It’s going to be pretty cold out here tonight.”
Abe laughed. “They’re my guys Moe. When your men need you you’ve got to be there for them.”
Moe had always admired Annie’s husband and here in this beautiful but desolate forest he felt a surge of pride in his relationship to this man pride mixed with a touch of envy at his brother-in-law’s easy confidence.
One day I’ll be a leader just like Abe.
Trying to imitate Abe’s casual tone Moe spoke. “Want to join me in my foxhole built for two? All the comforts of home.”
“No thanks I’ll make my own.”
“Really Abe I’ve been digging in for hours and it’s big enough for both of us. Most of the guys here are sharing holes.”
“Moe I’ve seen what a foxhole looks like if a shell makes a direct hit. I can’t put Annie’s husband and brother together while we’re under fire. If she can’t have us both let her at least have one.”
Moe couldn’t help himself: he shivered and not from cold. In the mist that had been growing thicker as night fell Moe couldn’t see his brother-in-law’s face but in his voice he could hear longing and determination but no fear.
As if realizing he’d said a little too much to a novice combat soldier Abe’s voice lightened.
“So what’s for dinner Moe? Snow à la mode? Snow meringues? Snow soup? I’ve got my supply of chocolate bars and I managed to get the cook to give me a few cucumbers. Want some?”
Moe forced himself to take the same tone. “Sounds good to me.” Suddenly he began to laugh and when he spoke the humor in his voice was genuine. “Stay here a minute.” He sped toward his foxhole and came back bearing a package. “With all the excitement of getting lost I forgot — I packed myself a nice lunch.” He ripped open the paper. “Remember Abe how you brought me salami when I finished Basic? It’s my turn to return the favor.”
As darkness fell the two soldiers ripped into Sam Braun’s half-frozen salami. It tasted incredible. (Excerpted from Family First Issue 539)
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