2007 Papa Bear Awards - First Place
Best Short Story
and so, dear, I can only write what I see this bleak, cold morning through the frosted windows of our home.
Snow continues to fall and the wind delights in swirling these tiny white fragments into miniature tornadoes, collapsing them against whatever force stands in their path.
Barren as the trees may be, they stand proud with their many outstretched arms accommodating the drape of nature's pristine white blanket. I look at them and envy their acceptance of fate.
Still, forcing the melancholy from me, I pen this letter to share with you the many friends that have called in to see me this holy festive season.
Forgive me if I do not name them, but there are so many and I do not wish to leave any out. Do not fret. You know who they all are. Since your departure they have just been a little more supportive and forthcoming with everything from a friendly ear to sweet
and as I think of you, I plan our reunion. Oh, and how lovely that will be.
My, my, my. Do these eyes deceive me? Our neighbour again treads the icy path to our home. How careful she is, balancing a plate of her latest experiment which she will share with me. I know, dear, that I should feel guilt for enjoying this time; savouring all her culinary endeavors and you unable to join me, but know that I will always make room for two helpings one for you and one for me.
She's knocking ever so loudly. I must go now, my dear one. Know that I pray for the time we are together to share with you the joy of this festive season and know that while you are away, I am being cared for.
Sergeant Andrew Carter carefully re-folded the one page letter using the original creases and pressed it lightly into its smudged envelope. He had read and re-read the letter, allowing for the occasional faded or censored word. Now he scrutinised the envelope, secretly pleased that the only thing visible were signs of its long journey.
High spirits reigned that morning as Red Cross packages and mail were distributed. So when someone handed him this envelope, he didn't waste any time opening it.
And how did he know it was for him?
He knew it was from home. He knew it was from a loved one. Hell, it could be from his Mary Jane who'd be missing him this festive season. It could be from his own mother, praying for his return.
He looked around the barracks. Prisoners that received no mail milled around those that did, anxious to hear news from home.
He caught sight of Newkirk rummaging through his pockets. He smoked too much.
With an idea forming, Andrew jumped down from his bunk and carefully slid the envelope and its contents under the carelessly thrown blanket on his friend's bunk.
"Blimey! Could 'ave sworn I had one 'ere!" Andrew later overhead. He continued to watch as Newkirk pushed the blanket aside leaving the envelope exposed. "Well, what 'ave we 'ere? Any of you lot leave something over 'ere for me?" Newkirk asked, wasting no time opening the envelope and reading the contents. Mesmerised, he failed to see the lone cigarette he was searching for roll from between the creases of the blanket across the bunk. With the letter fluttering ever so lightly in the hands of the RAF English Corporal, Newkirk found himself absorbing each sentence written on this flimsy paper. Finally, he also re-folded the letter, using the same original creases and pressed it back into its envelope. Then, glancing around the barracks he spied the diminutive French Corporal near the stove and smiled. "I think this may be for you," he whispered as he handed him the envelope.
Corporal Louis LeBeau opened the letter carefully, reading it. His eyes misted. He did not have the heart to tell the Englishman that his mail would be penned in French. "I think, maybe, it is for all of us, no?"
Nodding, Newkirk joined Andrew who had suspiciously turned a bright shade of red.
"My family is so big, my mere complains that she never has any time for herself," LeBeau began, joining them; the letter left in the centre of the rudimentary table. "But we all see how happy everyone makes her."
"Each year my aunts would challenge my mother with their attempts at making the family pudding," Newkirk fondly recalled, accepting a cigarette from Martin. He lit it, took a puff and reminisced. No-one spoke. Another drawn in puff, then, his voice breaking the spell he'd just cast, he squared his shoulders and stated, "You know, some of them puddings would never 'av made it past our mess 'all!"
Martin coughed, " - never a day without someone calling -"
"- mostly when the pies cooled and were ready to be served," someone else added.
Andrew's face lit up. "Yeah, and the best pies " he added, sitting a little straighter, pushing his hat a little further up so it didn't obscure his eyes as it had begun to. "- in CrabApple Junction my ma would "
And slowly the table became crowded with prisoners sharing the remains of their Red Cross packages; their letters from home and of course their heartfelt stories.
Leaning against the door frame of his quarters, Colonel Robert Hogan continued to sip from his third cup of very strong coffee. "Well timed," he simply said to no-one in particular.
Eventually, enforced darkness descended.
Scuffling could be heard as one after another everyone retired.
Sometime into the night, a hand quietly slid across the common room table and gently retrieved the one page letter. And in the shadows, Sergeant Kinchloe safely pressed into a fabric pocket his greatest possession the final letter his grief-stricken mother penned to her departed husband.
Text and original characters copyright 2006 by Teresa Strati
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.