Ben rinsed his tin plate with the last sip of his coffee. The ragged tent did little to keep out the winter winds. He longed for another hot cup of brew but his ration was low and the troop’s supplies had not yet made it through the fighting. What he had left would better serve him in the morning.
His breath fogged the air in front of him as he searched his pack for his last sheet of precious paper. He carefully set out his ink and pen before lighting the nub of a candle he had left. In one hand, he held the pen, in the other his most prize possession a photograph of his wife and young son. He gazed at the images for a moment before he began to write.
He sighed softly as his thumb caressed the frame of the photo. That spot worn smooth by the times he’d sat and looked at them, and reminisced of home. It was where he longed to be, teaching his son to keep his heels down as he rode his pony. If he survived tomorrow, he will be another day closer to home.
It was going to be a long hard battle. He glanced back at the noise of his men playing poker for matchsticks. Money had become more precious that it was that night years ago. He was young, full of whiskey and spit when he almost lost all he had to a gambler. He’d been saved by pure luck that night.
Since joining the war near the middle of
61’, he’d become more adept at the game. There wasn’t much energy left the end of the day for more than a few hands of cards. It was a kind of escape for Ben, a moment of normality amongst hours of bloodshed or tedious march.
Ben had joined some of his men after supper, earlier that night. He had been quite fortunate, his stack of matches had doubled from the night before. Just as he was about to offer a friendly jib about his card sharp skills, he looked down. Lady luck had seen fit to remind him of that night long ago.
He felt his gut knot as his eyes gazed upon a king, two aces and two eights. Dead man’s hand for the second time in a decade, omens were fickle. They would appear, but then wouldn’t tell you what they meant or who for.
He sighed deeply and closed the cards to hide the dark ones behind the smiling king. “I fold, gentlemen. I owe my wife a long overdue letter.”
Ben tossed the cards into the center of the table and quickly moved into his tent. Where he now sat at the small table with the photo in hand as he wrote. His eyes fell to the still discarded omen as it lay next to his pile of matches.
He admitted those cards unnerved him. With the morning looming closer, it felt as though a bill was about to be called due. Before battle breaks in the morning, perhaps he should see the good Reverend for one of those blessings he was so fond of dispensing.
Part of the A to Z blogging Challenge for the letter E