This week's prompt is: Write a story about a winter holiday celebration gone wrong, and its aftermath.
Nobody Dies on Christmas
Sgt. Castiglione slunk out of Pvt. Cassidy’s foxhole and, in a crouch, padded through the fresh snow toward his 2nd machinegun position. As he crept, more conscious of sound than being seen despite the growing glow of the lowering morning clouds, he continuously eyed the forest surrounding Bastogne. The flakes of snow filling the air never seemed to fall; they drifted softly upon currents of air unfelt by the exposed and numb flesh of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne. The woods lie not cloaked in darkness so much as peered from behind shifting swaths of gauze. Nothing under direct gaze resolved into anything but imagination’s whims; reality abided in the corners of eyes.
Pvt. Cherry had gun 2 for the next two hours, Sgt. Castiglione knew and, despite the uninspiring connotations of the young man’s name, he found the soldier awake and watching his sector. He slipped into the hole behind Cherry and asked in a whisper, “How’s a boy?”
“Good, Sar’ant,” Pvt. Cherry whispered back, barely turning his head. He hardly needed to: the hole seemed spacious enough when he was in it alone but with Sgt. Castiglione’s 250-plus pounds, it got a little tight. He didn’t mind, really: the Sergeant’s bulk was comforting in a way. If someone that wide could go from D-Day until now without catching a bullet, a slim little guy like Cherry should have good odds on avoiding one.
“Well, keep an eye peeled, kid,” Castiglione rumbled in his low, heavy Brookline accent. “I’ve heard some squawking on the company line. Fritz may make a play at Marvie,” pronounced Mar-vee, “tonight, or actually, this morning. If you hear shelling to the south, keep in this hole but throw something at O’Hara. He can stay in his foxhole but try and wake him up. Oh, and not a peep, kid: don’t fire the .30 cal unless you see a football-team’s-worth of Jerry coming at you. I don’t want them figuring where the machineguns are too soon—and you don’t want a grenade tossed in here. Just use your M-1 if you need to pop off on some moe.”
“They won’t see the rifle’s muzzle flash, Sar’ant?” Cherry asked, his eyebrows propping into an inverted V.
“With the frozen fog they get in these French woods?” Castiglione scoffed. “You ever see theirs when they snipe at us?” That drew a dubious shrug from Cherry and Castiglione said, “Give me your phone.”
Cherry passed back the field telephone that ran to guns 1 and 3, and back to the platoon CP, over his shoulder. Castiglione whispered like an unbalanced washing machine to check the line. Satisfied, he crawled out and down to gun 1 and Pvt. McAuliffe, where a similar scene of warning and order took place. Afterward, Castiglione stopped at a couple foxholes between the guns—Pvts. Roberts’ and Abrams’—and made sure of their sectors of fire, without waking them. Kneeling in the snow with Roberts huddled under a frost-covered blanket next to him, Castiglione tried to see through the veil of flakes again. He knew it moved, it looked like it fell, but it never touched the ground. For a moment he sat on his heel and watched a patch of floating white, like a swirl of dust caught in a sunbeam, waiting for it to light on the softened curves of the snowy forest floor. It never did, though he couldn’t see it blow upward on a sudden gust of air or even hover as if on a breath. It just never reached the ground, falling perpetually.
Turning from depthless woods, he crouched along back to the CP, a slightly wider-than-foxhole hole he shared with a medic his “platoon” was lucky enough to draw. The medic, Pfc. Hanson, was also curled into a tight ball under a woolen blanket, dusted with snow like a coffeecake with powdered sugar. That thing must be frozen stiff, Castiglione thought as he dropped into the hole. He picked up the field telephone that ran back to the company CP and listened for a bit. Some chatter about what supplies dropped during the day—their first since the 101 entered Bastogne—but nothing about contact. Castiglione settled his back against the parapet, leaning the field telephone near his shoulder, and drove a hand into his pocket. The look on his face would have rivaled that of any kid who woke up in the old neighborhood, that morning. Christmas morning.
Michael Castiglione had graduated from CUNY in 1943 and was drafted before the year was out. It seemed like tragedy to his family, who had sent another son and a half-dozen cousins into the service. For their good son, their college-educated son, the first ever in the Castiglione family to leave the dry-cleaning business behind and make a name for himself, to have to go off to war, it was an unwarranted burden from god. His mother had hid his draft notice when it first arrived but his father had found it: prison would have been worse, the old man said. Their tears changed to anger, though, when their son was turned down for OCS (Officer Candidate School) and went in as a Private. No reason was ever offered by the Army for its decision and Castiglione learned fast that it was useless to ask. He went off to boot camp with a hidden pleasure in the thought of joining the war. He hadn’t told his parents—who had only barely managed to get the family out of Mussolini’s Italy in the late ‘30s—that he had felt a secret shame whenever someone from the old neighborhood was drafted or when a college chum decided to drop out and join up. No one ever said he was only going to school to avoid the war; no one who ever laid eyes on Mr. Castiglione’s huge son would’ve dared. But Michael Castiglione wondered if it weren’t the truth. He could have dropped out, too, he told himself. That he wouldn’t have outlived the day if his mother had heard about it never entered his mind, but he told himself he could have dropped out. So in a sense, he was relieved when his father walked into the parlor a year ago and handed him the draft notice. He never knew how much his pride had been hurting until the pain dissipated while reading the order. He felt his pride swell a bit when he asked to go Airborne and the Army actually sent him to the school. Amid the unspoken satisfaction he felt, only one hardship tempered his mood with regret: his marriage to Lois had to be postponed.
He’d met Lois at a dance held for CUNY students and women from Barnard College. Some of the fellas seemed to know Lois and gave Castiglione the impression she would run around with anybody. All he saw her do was dance, and boy could she dance. He was a smooth mover himself, for a big guy; though, with his size, he always looked a little comical with a small woman like Lois in his arms. He was an avid boxer and thought himself in pretty good condition but she danced him ragged that evening. Almost it was a competition between them, which he couldn’t quite reconcile with her sweet demeanor. He came away that night with a stitch in his side and a smile on his face, as well as Lois’s number (she still lived at home). He also came away thinking what a bunch of louses the fellas could be, talking that way about a good girl like Lois. He thought they must have been saying that stuff because all she would do was dance. Then he thought he didn’t care what she’d done with anybody else—hell, he was no saint—so long as she’d settle down one day.
Then the Dear Johns started rolling in while the 101 was stationed in England waiting for the invasion to jump off. They’d had a few while still in boot camp, and a few more in Airborne, and then a few more were found waiting for them when they reached England. It grew to a steady number and scared the hell out of the married and engaged guys. Castiglione would watch as the men who’d already learned of their wives’ infidelities leered wickedly at the ones who had just received the letter. The kinder, the gentler, the less fit the man for soldiering, the more it seemed to satisfy the fella who’d been kicked in the teeth the same way the month before. Then-Private Castiglione told himself again and again that he trusted Lois and no one was going to make him believe she’d do a thing like that to him. The stories, bawdy, funny, sad, horrible: none of them would convince him. But as he tried to sleep on the nights they weren’t training, he couldn’t help but think of that night when she danced with half the guys in the room. He wasn’t continually wracked by doubt, though: all it took was one of her letters—sweet about missing him, artless about wanting him—and the only thing he worried about was not making it back to her.
The package was small and in a way reminded Sgt. Castiglione of Lois’s hand. He could enclose her little hand entirely in his big paw. He pulled out the little parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied with string and sat grinning and looking at it as the snow that fell but never landed melted kissing on his cheeks. Christmas morning, he thought. He read the sender’s address, ran a thumb over her name, and then closed his fingers around it, swallowing up the tiny box in his hand. He’d waited for eight months to open it. Eight months ago, May and still in England, Lois had sent it to him with a letter that said he was not to open it until Christmas. She knew how wonky the Army’s postal service was and she didn’t want him to go through a Christmas without a gift from her. He wrote back immediately and promised. He’d kept the box on him the whole time through advanced training in England and then all through D-Day, somehow holding on to it amid the confusion of those tumultuous days.
Like many of the 101st, when the division dropped behind Normandy, Castiglione had been separated from his platoon. Having only the vaguest idea where he was and what he was supposed to do, he took a compass bearing and headed for Sainte-Mère-Église. Along the way he found others wandering and lost—as well as German patrols and pockets of heavy fighting. For some reason, Castiglione found himself in charge. Though he related the incident to his parents and Lois in his usual humble tone (a tone not favored on his fellow soldiers), he was not really surprised. Castiglione was the sort who always took charge; not out of hunger for power or contempt for his fellows, he simply determined what needed to be done quickly and had the determination to accomplish it. His being a few years older—and to no small amount, intimidating—probably helped but in reality it was his certainty that he would get them through that inspired the men to follow him. They trusted him. By sunrise on the morning of 6 June, Pvt. Castiglione showed up at Sainte-Mère-Église with fifty soldiers, a mix of 82nd and 101st, just as a German counterattack jumped off. He maneuvered his makeshift heavy platoon onto their flank and drove the Germans into retreat. When Lt. Colonel Krause finally showed up at 0500, to retake the town, he personally made Castiglione a Staff Sergeant on the spot. Returned to the 501st PIR and his platoon, he found himself in charge again: none of the officers or noncoms had survived.
Sgt. Castiglione laughed silently to himself as he shook the memories of carrying the little box out of his head, but kept the pleasant image of Lois’s face glowing warmly in the back of his mind, as he opened his fist and untied the string around the little brown box. He unfolded the paper carefully and slipped it into his shirt’s breast pocket, along with the string; anything that Lois had touched. Inside was a cardboard box with a lid; inside that was a felt-covered ring box. Holding it close and huddling over it so his helmet kept the hovering snow from blowing on it, he opened the box and found a locket and a slip of paper. He held the paper to his nose: she had scented it with lavender. He chuckled, wondering what the men would think if their Sergeant inspected their positions smelling of lavender. Tilting to the side to catch what uncertain light there was, Castiglione unfolded the note.
My darling Michael,
I don’t know where you will be when Christmas comes or what you will be enduring but know that I will be right here and thinking of you. I will have worried about you every day before you open the enclosed and I will worry about you every day afterward until you come back to me. But I know that you will be safe today. You will think I am being silly again to say it but I know it to be true: nobody dies on Christmas.
Merry Christmas, my love,
That’s my girl, he thought feeling a little choked up. Lois was always the religious type, in her own way. Nobody dies on Christmas, he thought and laughed silently. Baby, I hope you’re right. He held the note between his fingers and opened the locket. Inside he found her picture and a strand of her hair.
A quick series of explosions stamped a few miles to Castiglione’s right. “Nobody dies on Christmas,” he said. “Lois, baby, I think a few people just might.” He picked up the field telephone connected to the company CP and listened: nothing was coming through; they were probably listening to the lines connected to battalion. He picked up the phone running out to his three machineguns and whispered, “Look alive. Everyone up?” The three gunners responded all at once, the fear the sudden artillery barrage had awoke was alive in their voices. “Keep calm but keep your eyes peeled,” he whispered in a voice like a bulldog’s growl. “This may be a probing attack. A little Merry Christmas from Fritz.”
He dropped the phone and shook the medic by his boot. Pfc. Hanson twitched violently, nearly kicking Castiglione’s hand; the blanket crackled as the ice that had formed in its fibers broke. Castiglione held a finger to his lips and then pointed at the glowing grey sky. Hanson looked up drowsily and then he heard the tank fire and machineguns chopping in the distance. He fumbled for his helmet but Castiglione laid a hand on his shoulder and told him to keep his cool and keep quiet. He picked up his M-2 carbine and crawled out of their hole.
As he made his way to awaken the prone and sleeping men, in foxholes between his three machineguns, Castiglione was thrown flat by the sudden sound of gun 1 opening up with a long burst. The firecracker-red tracers lanced the veil of falling snow, stabbing at a long oblique form a hundred yards from the perimeter.
“First platoon!” he shouted, coming to his feet and throwing himself forward to gun 2’s hole. “First platoon, look alive!”
He slid to a stop behind Cherry like a ball player sliding into home. He reached out a hand and gripped the young soldier’s shoulder. “Hand me that damn phone,” he ordered in a teeth-clenching growl. With shaking hands, the Private complied. “Gun 1! Gun 1!” Castiglione shout-whispered into the phone. He frantically squeezed the plunger that sent more juice into the wires and then in a voice that may have reached the far left of his line without the phone’s aid, he said, “McAuliffe, you crazy Mick, what have you got?”
The quick bursts of machinegun fire halted for a moment and McAuliffe’s shaky voice scratched out a “Not sure, Sar’ent” before the machinegun let loose again.
“Damn it!” Castiglione shouted. “Controlled bursts. We don’t have that much ammo and we may be fighting all night.” He tossed the phone back where Cherry kept it and saw the Private torn between looking at him and at his sector. “Keep’em peeled, Cherry,” he said. “And don’t use this gun unless you see a squad or more. See’em clearly, got it?”
“Shit, Sar’ent,” Cherry hissed. “Can’t see a thing in this snow. Why the hell don’t it fall! We’re going die. We’re all going to die.”
“We ain’t going to die,” Castiglione said. “We can’t die today: it’s Christmas. Nobody dies on Christmas. That’s just a wives tale.”
Cherry looked back seemingly horrified. Castiglione laughed at him and Cherry rolled his eyes. “That go for Fritz, too?”
“Na,” Castiglione said. “But he’s an acceptable casualty. There! There’s one, Cherry: get’em! Use your rifle, son.”
Cherry raised his M-1 but must have doubted his aim. He rose off the mud stoop he’d fashioned in the back of the hole for a chair and his head nearly came above the parapet beside him. Castiglione grabbed him by the seat of the pants and kept him from going farther. Cherry squeezed off a round and the crawling German soldier rolled over violently, clutching his at his back.
“There you go,” Castiglione said. “Keep it up. I’ll be back when I can. I gotta go stop McAuliffe from firing off all our ammo.”
He left Cherry and crawled down the line. As he passed Abrams and Roberts, both began to fire their M-1s and the popping sound of returning fire, the sizzle of snow boiling in small holes around them, gave voice to a night growing angry. Castiglione dashed the last ten yards and crashed into McAuliffe’s machinegun position, knocking down the red-faced Bostonian.
“What the hell are you shooting at?” Castiglione barked hoarsely as they scrambled to an upright position.
McAuliffe got back on the gun and looked about, sticking his head forward beyond the parapet’s walls and then ducking back below the machinegun. “Right there, right there!” he spat and then let loose another long burst.
Castiglione tore his hands from the pistol grip of the M1919A6 machinegun. “For christsake, how much ammo do you think we have? It’s only two guys. Use your rifle!”
“I ain’t getting killed today just to save some fucking ammo, Sar’ent,” Pvt. McAuliffe said and reached for the machinegun.
Castiglione slapped him upside the helmet. “Nobody dies on Christmas,” he said. “Unless you burn up all the ammo before the assault starts and we got nothing left to beat it back with.” He raised his M-2 carbine, took careful aim past McAuliffe’s head, and squeezed off a short burst. A foot that hadn’t been pulled far enough behind the snow-covered fallen tree, behind which the German’s were taking cover, was thrown into the darkness behind them. The shouting they couldn’t understand seemed to horrify McAuliffe as much as it calmed him. “There, now control yourself. You got a whole line to cover, not just your ass.”
Castiglione crawled out and headed down the line, barking encouragement more often than orders as he passed Roberts and Abrams, Cherry and O’Hara, the doc, Middleton and Taylor, on his way to the far right flank where Pvt. Cassidy covered a drainage ditch between them and 327’s left-most element. That was Castiglione’s “Platoon:” nine men, barely a squad. But replacements had been harder to come by than supplies since the siege started. As he closed in on gun 3, the German fire intensified. It had taken him a torturously long time to crawl the hundred and fifty yards from McAuliffe’s to Cassidy’s position. All his machineguns were firing and a German MG42 now fired back, too, raking Castiglione’s line. Almost to Cassidy’s position, gun 3 quite firing.
Loud screams of “Fuck, fuck!” came from the hole. Castiglione scrambled so fast on hands and feet that his belly didn’t even touch the ground as he crawled. Somersaulting head-first into the hole, he found Cassidy yanking furiously on the M1919’s charging handle. “It’s jammed, it’s jammed!” he shouted through clenched teeth. The MG42 found them and rounds poured through the parapet’s opening. Both men fell to the floor, Cassidy still wrestling with his machinegun.
“It’s not jammed, you idiot,” Castiglione shouted as frozen dirt snapped down at him, causing him to spit as he talked. He pushed Cassidy off of the machinegun and said, “It’s out of ammo. Use your rifle, goddamn it! Taylor! Suppress that machinegun!” he added, yelling through the hole’s back at Pvt. Taylor, who had the nearest foxhole. A faint, “With what?” came as a reply, though the young Kentuckian did increase his fire.
Cassidy shot wildly, not aiming terribly well, as Castiglione pulled a fresh belt of ammo out of a can and loaded the M1919. Thrusting the machinegun back into position, he opened up on a squad of Germans who were crawling toward the drainage ditch. “Here, here!” he shouted at Cassidy, who gladly retook the gun. “If they get in that ditch, they’ll crawl right up and flank both us and the 327. Keep that ditch clear!”
“What about the machinegun?” Cassidy sputtered as dirt was shoveled into his hole by a grenade that landed within yards of him. “Can’t cover the flank if I’m dead.”
“Nobody dies on Christmas!” Castiglione said. “I’ll worry about that MG, you take care of the ditch.”
Castiglione crawled out of the hole and over to Pvt. Taylor’s foxhole. The MG42 found him as he crawled and a burst almost caught him before he huddled nearly on top of Taylor’s prone body. The thin young man struggled to breath with Castiglione’s huge bulk on him.
“Where’s that doohickey for the rifle-launched grenade?” he asked Taylor. Taylor couldn’t get enough air to speak so he pointed to a canvas bag at his feet. “Here,” Castiglione said and gave Taylor his M-2 carbine.
Rolling on his side—much to Taylor’s relief—he fitted an M7 grenade launcher to the end of Taylor’s M-1 rifle; he then unloaded the rifle and inserted a special blank cartridge that could propel the rifle-launched M7 grenade. After fitting the grenade to the M-1’s muzzle, he said to Taylor, “Cover me, son; those fellas are liable to get a bit touchy if they see me trying to use this thing on’em.”
He sprang into a kneeling position and gazed in the direction of the MG42: the never-falling snow now swirled, as if the exploding gasses of their weapons made eddies in the faint air upon which the twinkling flakes danced. Amid their innumerable pale orbs, a harsh orange knife stabbed again and again. He brought the weapon to bear against the hateful color and squeezed the trigger. The firing grenade was almost comical in its flight; it honked when it left the M-1. Castiglione laughed to himself as he dropped next to Taylor and traded back for his M-2 (now out of ammo). The crushing explosion of the grenade was like thunder under ground.
“Goddamn, Sar’ent,” Taylor said and swallowed. “I thought that bastard had us there, for a second. Thought I’d get to go see my pappy, what died two year ago.”
“Not today you don’t,” Castiglione said, preparing to crawl back along the line. “Nobody dies on Christmas.”
As he reached Middleton’s foxhole, a strangely muted explosion and gust of dirty white flew from Cherry’s position. As the dusty cloud it left raised into the unmoving air, Castiglione could see Cherry lying a half-dozen feet behind his hole, arms raised like the “Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus.”
“Shit! Goddamn it,” Castiglione shouted, pounding the snow with his fist, exhaling a cloud of breath. Nearly pulling the Private out of his foxhole by his belt, he said, “Come on, Middleton, let’s go.”
They crawled as fast as they could to the center of their platoon’s line. Castiglione pushed Middleton toward the hole where a German grenade had just ejected Cherry and said, “See if the gun still works and get it going. Doc! Doc, up!”
He took Cherry by the back of the collar and dragged him back to the CP, keeping on his knees and one hand. Doc leapt out of the whole and scrambled forward. Together they slid Cherry into the CP and tore open his shirt. There were at least a dozen holes in his chest but most only oozed blood. One in his belly, though, was bleeding freely. Doc Hanson tore open a dressing packet and held it in place with one hand as he fished the tails around Cherry’s chest.
“Not good,” he said. “Not good.”
“He’s fine,” Castiglione shot back. “Nobody dies on Christmas!”
“The gun must have taken some of the fragments but he’s bleeding pretty bad,” Doc said, ignoring him.
“You got plasma?” Castiglione asked.
“I don’t even have sulfa,” Doc said. “The only supplies they dropped yesterday were ammo and a little food.”
“Not that we got much of either,” Castiglione growled at the frozen floor. “Battalion aid?”
“Maybe,” Doc said hopelessly. “If I could get him there, but what are you going to do if someone else gets hit?”
“What the hell are you going to do here without any supplies?” Castiglione said. “Turn around!”
He hefted Cherry onto the Doc’s back, waited until the Doc gave a nod, and then pushed both of them out of the hole and running back toward the battalion aid station. Castiglione shook his head and then reloaded his M-2. A squawk and then a curse buzzed from the platoon phone, followed by Cassidy shouting, “Shit, Sar’ent, it’s really jammed this time! And they’re going for the drain again!”
Castiglione leapt out of the CP hole and ran flat out for gun 1’s position but after three steps he was suddenly in air. His feet came out from under him and he was amongst the never-falling snow, lying on his back watching the glow of morning brighten the sky above. The sound of machineguns and rifles, grenades and distant artillery, all drown in the sudden embrace of myriad twinkling flakes. He knew he hit the ground a moment later, he guessed it but couldn’t feel it. He tried to breathe in, to taste the icy points that danced before his face: he couldn’t. His chest would not rise. Confused, without fear or urgency, he looked at the deliberate motions that swam gracefully and slowly between the veils that swathed the gauzy distance. A stab of pain in his chest made him wince and the motion in the distance took shape: it was a man, kneeling in the snow; he clapped his hands together and then reeled back, one arm cast far behind him. Like a comet, the man-shape appeared, flying toward Cassidy and gun 1. The stab of pain made a noise in Castiglione’s chest, harsh and unlovely. He raised his M-2; the small carbine looking like a child’s BB gun in his thick, red fingers. He squeezed the trigger and each successive round sounded louder in his ears as he croaked, and croaked, and drew an agonizing breath.
“Sar’ent! Sar’ent?” Taylor shouted as he came crawling—without his weapon in hand—clumping through the snow on all fours.
“Get back,” Castiglione tried to shout but coughed and wheezed. “Get back to your foxhole and shoot! What are you, out of your goddamn mind?”
He was on his stomach, he was standing, he was running in a crouch. He crossed the fifty yards to gun 1 in a sprint.
“Cassidy, use your rifle!” he shouted as he drew near. “And aim this time!”
He slid into the hole again, cursing the pain it caused in his chest and wrestled open the receiver cover of the M1919. A cartridge had turned and gotten rammed into the chamber sideways. Though burning hot—and with ejected rounds from Cassidy’s M-1 falling on his helmet and down the back of his jacket—Castiglione pried out the offending cartridge and got the gun back in order. “Here, here,” he said, throwing Cassidy bodily at the machinegun.
“They’re already in the drainage ditch, Sar’ent,” Cassidy shouted. “I can’t see’em!”
“Suppress the rest of that platoon,” Castiglione shouted back as he crawled out of the hole. “And call Middleton and tell him to swing his gun around to help.”
He crawled, without cover, to the edge of the drainage ditch and began chucking grenades in on top of the squad of Germans who were making a push between 1st Platoon and the 327. They returned fire but wildly, not knowing exactly where the grenades were coming from. Once out of grenades, Castiglione slipped down the edge of the drainage ditch and used the bodies for cover as he opened up with his M-2 on what remained of the assault platoon that had crawled in under Cassidy’s fire. Caught on two flanks, they broke and few weaved through the three automatic fires that chased them back into the gloom of the woods.
Castiglione crawled back to gun 1 and had to physically restrain Cassidy from burning up the last of their ammo. Looking down the line, now lighted with the growing morning, he could see no muzzle flashes in the woods or hear the distinct sound of Mausers. He shouted, “Cease fire, cease fire!” The command was echoed down the line. After waiting for five minutes to see if the Germans would reform and immediately attack again, Castiglione clapped Cassidy on the shoulder, which sent the young man into a mix of laughing and crying for a moment, and then scuttled down the line checking for casualties and how bad the ammo situation was. The ammo was pretty bad—but everyone was alive and unhurt. He straightened all the way up and heard his back crack, before shuffling off to the platoon CP.
He was listening to the company phone when Doc Hanson dropped into the hole next to him.
“Cherry okay?” Castiglione asked, his wide eyes’ blueness now discernable in the light of morning.
“Yeah, surprisingly,” Hanson said. “I thought he was dead when I got to battalion but he was conscious. The had him hooked up to a bottle of plasma before I left. How’s everyone here?”
“Hunky dory, kid,” Castiglione said, his usual grin returning with the news about Cherry.
“Tough night, I take—holy shit, have been shot?” Hanson asked and reached forward to stick a finger in a bullet-sized hole in Castiglione’s field jacket.
“Yup,” he said, grinning even more broadly.
“Shit,” Hanson repeated. “Let me take a look at it. Why didn’t you say!”
Castiglione removed the medic’s hands from his person with exaggerated dignity and said, “No need, doc. I thought I told you.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a locket. A lump of lead shaped like a mushroom stuck in the locket’s lid. Castiglione plucked it out and held it up for Hanson to see. “Nobody dies on Christmas,” he said softly. He opened the locket and looked at Lois’s picture, stroking the edge of the strand of hair, the lid no longer opening enough for him to fit his whole thick finger inside. He tilted the locket so Hanson could see. “My girl,” he said and his voice broke.
I hope you enjoyed reading this short story. I also have a few novels published through Amazon’s Kindle Store, the newest being The Parnell Affair. Thematically, not very similar to the above but hopefully a good read, too; it’s a political thriller about a betrayed spy, a relentless journalist, and the hidden truth behind a President’s demand for war. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem: Amazon provides free apps to view all of the great—and inexpensive—Kindle content on your phone, PC, or Mac, here. Thanks and happy reading!