A Waterloo veteran and his wife, c1850s
I'm running around in between journalism work and trying to arrange details for an upcoming trip, so I'd figured I would put this out there for all you hungry readers.
As longtime readers may recall, this sort of thing strikes both my heartstrings and creative brain juices. Saturday morning, I was in a particularly fervent writing mood and quickly dashed out the following mini-piece. I posted a pre-minor edits version in the comments over at Coilhouse, but I figured I'd post it here too.
Remember that "there is no they" applies to people in the past as well as our present time. Their lives were as rich, real and complicated as our own:
It was not a young man’s war when he left for it, and he was not a young man when he returned. His shoulder had been pounded raw by Brown Bess’ continual kick. Shortly after he and his comrades paraded through the cheering streets he found that his right hand began to tremble.
He tried to hide it, some days better than others, leaving those days in the past along with his uniform, the simmering retch of amputation yards and the morning he shot a man out of a tree. All disappeared far behind ruddy cragged cheeks and a slow, even smile.
Still, he could forget things, especially all those years later. So his hat was tattered, the brim tilted and he fumbled just to get his coat over one button. The medal, however, stood polished to a shine.
She was not young either, by the time he returned. The home caught fire two years after he marched away. While she survived leaping from the window, the fall injured her jaw. It healed, but that side of her face stood out, fixed in its scars, from the other. She made no pains to hide it – hiding was not her way – and secretly enjoyed sharpening the wry expression it made so easy.
There was much work to be done. She had no time for church; the house Bible remained dusty and little-opened. On occasion she could quote it, if called for in conversation. Blessedly, she still sang. So did he, though cruder tunes than hers; she even laughed at them once in awhile, before her hands shot up to cover smiling lips.
When the photographer came, she drew the bonnet, scarf and gloves carefully out of the ancient, fire-scarred trunk. Her hands had been cleaned carefully and before she slid her fingers into the leather, took particular note to cover the clinging smell of kitchen meat with precious, saved drops of Oxford Lavender. He clasped his right in his left, to hide the twitch, leaning forward on heavy shoulders. The young cameraman’s many attempts to adjust his equipment amused her, as did his ill-concealed blushing beneath her steady gaze.
Husband and wife both passed a few years later, within the same week. Each swore on their respective deathbeds that they had never loved another so deeply, or so true.