In 1992, my first official work was published. Mrs. Kushen was the first teacher to believe in my writing. The local High School had a literary magazine that published poetry, short stories and lyrics. She encouraged me back then to become an author. I recall telling her that I didn’t think I had the ability, and that I was an athlete not an author. Her reply, “when you write your first book, I want a copy.” Her reply surprised and humbled me, I could not say back then, “I am an author,” without a question mark after the word author. She went on to submit some of my poetry and lyrics to local magazines. She also asked if she could keep some of my writing, my reply, sure? I didn’t understand what she saw in me, perhaps fear of believing, I was not ready, or as I understand now it happens when it is meant to be.
My young mind could not phantom the ideal of living in the present moment. The realization that futures are constructions that create progress one day at a time. Fears are the things we create as we predispose ideals of failures when the first step was only a dream and never an action.
The short story is based on the book All Quiet on the Western Front. The assignment was suppose to be a perspective from the soldiers at war. I was unable to see the dark side in the human, and so my writing reflected the epiphany of a soldier’s life. This is the first published short story and work. Mrs. Kushen thank you for seeing me with your eyes as I did not see myself at the time.
My name is Paul Baumer, and I am a German soldier. It might seem awkward, that a German would write a letter to his enemy, but I must tell you what I did, and how I feel.
I shall attempt to explain war, for you must at least get an idea of what a solder’s life in was is like. Otherwise, you may never know how life can cause a sudden death. How life runs through your hands, as water slides and plays with the rocks in a water fall. You’ll never know until you actually live it just like I did.
If you Mrs. Duval, could have seen from faraway, smelled what I smelled, and feel what I felt, then, you would understand what I’m talking about. If you would have been able to feel the air, the wind of death brushing against your cheeks, and sometimes unexpectedly knocking you down, one by one they perish. I’ve seen death at its worst. Nothing in war has been good. At the front the souls come and go, without a place to go. Gray, gray, gray, everywhere. Little rivers of red glowing through the gray. The smell, that awful smell of fresh blood everywhere. Only someone that has lived through this, only that person will understand what I’m trying to say.
I was lost in an abyss. I did not know the difference between life and death, “Is this life after death, or am I living it?” I wondered. How can you tell these two apart when all you ever saw was gray, red blood, and death itself. Wake-up, wake-up! I can’t. I’m not dreaming, I’m living this.
There I was living and at the same time dying.
I jumped for cover, silence, I hear foot steps, coming closer and closer. I can hear my heart beating fast, trying to keep it quiet so he wouldn’t hear me. My hands on my knife and I, sweating, waiting for the right moment. One blow is all it would take, either him or me, heads or tails, a coin toss, I win. Drove the knife right through his throat, lifeless. I got closer to him to make his death comfortable he was terrified. That is when I found out that an enemy is no monster, but only a victim, used by power, just like I was.
I was going crazy. I did not know what was going on. Confused, shock. I believed this was hell. I was in hell, and I have been dead without knowing. Nervously, I reached into his pocket. I had to do it, I had to know more about him now that I knew he was more like me. Who was this man that destiny played a game, and with no mercy has put him into my life and killed him right before my eyes. I saw his family, I looked at him. I knew I would never be able to replace the life of this man. This is when I saw you for the first time. I killed a man. I killed your husband. Forgive me.
World War I
The story of turmoil of another man. I am fortunate that I can see that life is worth living, that wars are created out of misunderstanding, chaos, and lack of communication. When the winter has passed, summer arrives. After the sun sets, morning comes and the sun rises. Fall empties the tree of it’s green and splendor, and spring revives, the life. The only race that is worth running is no race at all. We create our present.
This moment is all we are given, and my moments are of positive thoughts, encouragement, the power of forgiveness, acceptance of my own mistakes, contributions, the ability to leave those where they belong, behind, and contentment, with the present, the foundations of my better tomorrow.
Life is worth living.