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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Time-consuming (02/24/11)

TITLE: Russian Roulette in the Trenches
By Rachel Phelps
03/03/11


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Whir. Click.

Whir. Click.


You think you’re doing the right thing.
You’re off to save the world.
Gonna be a hero when you get home.

Whir. Click.



Then you get here and you realize
there ain’t nothing
but death and stink and mud
and counting the seconds



Whir. Click.


before the shell hits.



We’re all just waiting, you know?
Just passing the time.
Waiting for the trench fever
for that whiff of gas before the mask goes on,
for that shell with your name on it.
We’re all just waiting to die.


The War to End All Wars.
And our lives, while we’re at it.

Whir. Click.

They say it’s to show how brave you are.
I say spinning that chamber
Just fills the time till
the gas or bombs get you.

You can ignore it if you like.
Make pretty trinkets out of bullets and
Write home about the bully job we’re doing.
Maybe even read the Bible Mum sent along with you.

All the “love thy neighbors” you can preach
Don’t keep the rats from feeding on you
when you sleep.
Or pretend to.
It won’t even drown the whistle of
The bombs or the moans from

No-Man’s Land.



Whir. Click.




You start thinking about things.
Just to pass the time.
You wonder if we were wrong from the start.
Maybe this isn’t the way.

Maybe we don’t fight fire with fire.
Aren’t our neighbors those blokes across the line?


Maybe we got enemies closer than the next trench.
Closer than the mud, the lice, the stink.

Maybe the guns shouldn’t be pointing at each other.

Whir.

Whir.

You think. You wonder.

You maybe reach for that Bible.


Maybe even crack it open.
Just to pass the time.




You might find something there.
Something to make you want to keep going.


Something to make the days and nights seem worth the living.
Something that keeps you from turning that gun
on you.

Maybe.


Or maybe just something to pass the time

This Jesus got a rough shake, too.
Seems he had his share of long, miserable nights.
Makes you wonder
Would he sit in this ditch and spin the chamber?
Would he tell us to be good soldiers and
kill our neighbors?
for peace, you understand.

Whir.
Whir.

Something to think about.
Just to fill the time.



Author's Note: Russian Roulette is a potentially lethal game of chance in which participants place a single round in a revolver, spin the cylinder, place the muzzle against their head and pull the trigger. It is thought to have originated not long before WWI.


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This article has been read 532 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/04/11
You painted a powerful picture here of the desperation soldiers feel in wartime.
It took me a second read to figure the formation of the
"whir--click" for Russian roulette, but then I found it very effective.
Kimberly Russell03/05/11
I found this very intriguing and extremely creative. Quite out of the box. I think I liked it.
Helen Curtis03/05/11
I really wasn't sure I wanted to read this entry as I figured it probably wouldn't end well. You have truly captured the hopelessness and frustration that I imagine many soldiers would feel during times of war. I love the intensity and the feelings you have portayed in this (even though I don't 'like' the content as it's so confronting). A truly great piece.
Edmond Ng 03/07/11
A game of rotten chance with certainty of death ... surely it is better to risk finding something in the Bible that makes one want to keep going and make life worth living. Your message comes through clearly in a manner quite unexpected. Excellent piece.
Ruth Neilson03/09/11
As a history teacher, I love the combination of historical tidbits in the describing of the trenches of WW1 and the feelings of helplessness that you so beautifully portrayed. I also loved the different ways that you formatted the piece. I might have to dig this one out when I'm teaching on WW1 and have my students look for clues as to what time you are presenting!
Amanda Brogan03/09/11
Well, your "creative words" moniker certainly does fit you! I found the wording intriguing and the format most imaginative. The criss-cross of the story kept me jumping with the character's thoughts.

Awesome job!
Loren T. Lowery03/09/11
Your story is intense and one could feel the foreboding lurking just around the corner.
My one critique (and this is simply my druthers) is that I'd like to see it presented in a different format. I think the wording alone is taught enough to carry the story. I only say this because I found the back and forth from one indent to another distracting (However, I'd like to know how you did that : )) The visual impact demonstrates what the writer is saying, but the reader (in my opinion) is able from your well chosen words to understand the story's meaning. Well done.
Amanda Brogan03/10/11
Congratulations Rachel!
Nancy Bucca 03/10/11
This is amazingly artistic. I can't get away from that "Whir, click." Great job.