30 Stories in 30 Days #17 – “Did You Think Otherwise?”
Did You Think Otherwise?
A young boy walked around the corner of the building. Half of the soldiers pointed their weapons at him, while the other half covered them. The boy raised his hands and called, “I mean you no harm.”
Lieutenant Harkin lowered his weapon, but the rest of his platoon didn’t. “You speak English?” he asked.
The boy nodded. “I do. The men you seek are not here.”
“Is that so? I suppose you expect me to just take your word for it.”
The boy smiled. “I speak the truth. You must decide if you believe me.”
“Okay,” Harkin replied, drawing the word out. “If you don’t mind, I think we’ll still search the village.” He then gave orders and his men spread out to sweep the village.
Once his men were off, Harkin walked up to the boy. “You said the men we seek aren’t here. Do you know where they are?”
“In the mountains,” the boy replied, pointing to the north.
Harkin looked where the boy pointed and asked, “Could you be a little more specific.”
“So you could go kill my uncles and cousins?”
Harkin turned to the boy, but almost immediately looked to the ground. “War is hell,” he muttered.
“Then why do you go to it willingly?”
For several seconds, Harkin debated how to reply to that. In the end he gave a grim smile and stated, “I wonder that myself everyday.”
The boy smiled.
Over the next few minutes, his soldiers reported in that there was no sign of the enemy in the village. At last, Harkin said, “Okay, let’s move out. Leave these people in peace.” He looked around to say goodbye to the boy – who, he realized, he had never asked his name – but the boy had disappeared.
Once the soldiers were gone, the boy’s mother found him by the well. In the local dialect she scolded him, “You need to be more careful with the Americans.”
The boy shrugged. “Why should I treat them any differently than the Romans?”