I’ve belonged to a writing group for years. In July and December, the writing exercises are “shorts” consisting of stories 500 words or less. The mod puts up a list of topics and it’s up to the members to build a story around it. Typically, the topics are very short, often just one word.
This was my “scarlet” exercise. Since I am a Civil War buff, I always include a Civil War story in the exercises.
My Darling Emily,
It will soon be Christmas and my thoughts fly north on the wings of an angel to be with you. It is bitterly cold today and we are still trapped on the side of this mountain. Our supply train was captured three days ago and we have been reduced to a few morsels of jerked beef and hardtack. We have snow for moisture and gather it up to melt for coffee when we are able to have a fire.
How I have dreamed of your famous Christmas dinners. I visited you last night in a vision and supped at your bountiful table and, my dear, on your beauty. There you were in your green silk gown at the head of the table. Pearls glowed at your throat and throughout your splendid honey colored hair. I laughed as you smoothed the tiny curls at the nape of your neck back into the confines of the silk net, just as you always do. They never stay. Scented candles flickered amongst the pine boughs and flowing red ribbons on the table. Stuffed turkey, suckling pig, turnips, squash, mashed potatoes, onions in cream, mincemeat pie, pumpkin pie, peppermint cakes were all laid out to perfection on your mother’s crocheted table cloth. I could think of no better way to celebrate the blessed season except mayhaps to lie in your arms forever. To hold you close and know that we might never be parted again.
And then I awoke to the misery which has befallen our company. We have been on short rations for weeks but were shored up by the cheery thought that a supply train would arrive before Christmas. Now, that hope has been dashed and the johnny rebs will feast on the victuals we so desperately needed. I know that they are in no better condition than we but my heart cried out in anguish to know we would not be refreshed as we had hoped.
Captain Morgan allowed us to kill and butcher Charlemagne. That gallant horse has carried him every step of the way during this mighty conflict. The horse was wounded in our attempted retreat off this mountain and continued to worsen even though treated by the company doctor. Morgan refused to touch a morsel of the stew although he hadn’t eaten a hot meal in weeks. I cried at the sight of Charlemagne lying there but my grateful stomach dried the tears.
The pines here are lovely. You would appreciate the beauty as much as I do. I have imagined us going out to cut one and then decorating it with bunches of scarlet ribbons. I can almost see them fluttering in the breeze here on this wooded slope. Do you feel my love? Even now it reaches out to you, caressing you and whispering softly in your ear. I shall never leave you.
A sentinel shot a young reb last night just at dusk. The boy happened upon us quite by accident and fled in panic. Our sentinel was of the same age, not even old enough to shave and was equally as terrified at the sight of the butternut uniform as the reb was of us. He shot the boy in the back as he ran. He escaped us but I fear he was mortally wounded. Captain Morgan had hoped for a yuletide truce. We now start and quake at every noise wondering if that is the beginning of another charge. I would
He heard the pop. The pen slipped from his numb fingers as he thudded into the snow. His eyes stared at the trees before him and the scarlet ribbons streaking the pristine white ground. Scarlet ribbons. Pine trees. He was home for Christmas.