Private Rivers stood nervously in the door frame of Sergeant Redfield’s office. He instantly reflected on that morning when he lost the bet at breakfast with his troop. He would be the one to tell the sergeant.
“Don’t just stand there like a lazy ape, Private. Spit it out,” the sergeant barked, shaking the newspaper in front of his face to release it of wrinkles. He thumbed past the classified ads to the obituaries, and lingered.
“Sir, yes, sir. Myself, Private Dart, Private Masters, and Private Blaise have unfortunate news.”
He lowered the newspaper. His basilisk glare weakened Private Rivers behind the knees. “What?”
“We forgot to get your mail this week… And, well, the holiday mail is in, sir.”
Sergeant Redfield rose with a start, planting both of his hands on the desk. “Are you meaning to tell me that my box of holiday sausages is buried in the mail room because you buffoons can’t even be asked to cross the base and get a package?!” His stance screamed anger but his voice harped discordance. The mismatch made Rivers queasy.
The private whimpered in defeat, “Yes, sir.” The worst was over, or so he thought.
“Well then, it seems like you four idiots have discovered what you’re doing this weekend.”
“Forget your break, you are all going to organize and deliver the holiday mail.”
Sergeant Redfield had already lifted the black telephone receiver from its cradle and started rolling numbers into the rotary device. “This is Sergeant Redfield. I have four volunteers for holiday mail duty. They will be there in twenty minutes.” He hung up the phone, probably without even getting a response. He hissed in annoyance and his nose wrinkled into a cloyed expression. “Get your stupid cohorts and go to the mail room. Immediately!”
* * * * *
“This is all your fault, Dart. If you wouldn’t of kept raising the bet, we could’ve finished in time to get the package before the mail came,” Private Blaise opined while shifting waist-deep through the boxes. The sound of glass and paper sounded in intervals as he waded into the dark room.
“Oh can it, Blaise! You’re just upset you lost your grandfather’s watch,” he retorted, lifting a box in an effort to show off the brass timepiece clinging to his muscled wrist.
Master pushed a large box aside, clearing a path into the center of the room. “Would both of you shut up about that damn bet and help me look.” The three men lined up by a massive stack of twine-wrapped linens. “Is that… is that a tire?” he remarked. “Who in God’s name got a tire for Christmas?” He rolled it aside, resting it on a tube-like package. “Poor fella must not be missed.”
“Hey, at least he got mail,” Private Rivers replied despondently.
“Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself, momma’s boy. I’m sure yours in here somewhere.”
Each of the stalwart men lifted a box and moved it to the entryway. “We’ll clear out Barrack 23-C’s mail first,” Blaise ordered, always the natural leader of the group. Snow began to fall as each man brought holiday cheer to the base, but it wasn’t until thirteen hours later that they finally found Sergeant Redfield’s lost box of holiday sausages.
This post is part of our series of works inspired by the Smithsonian Institution’s photo archive, made publicly available on Flickr. If you would like to, choose an image from their collection and create something – be it prose, poetry, audio, or visual art – inspired by it, and send it to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.
* * * * *
Andrew Zigler is a fierce academic who loves reading in low-light conditions. He studies Latin and Ancient Greek rigorously as part of his Classics degree plan at the University of Texas at Austin, and is always looking over his shoulder for the day they come back to life as undead languages. Unfortunately, his blog can be found at zigtalk.wordpress.com and he sometimes tweets at https://twitter.com/zigtalk. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be seen here.