He was a kind of skinny, shy kid from a village near Blackpool. His family was good and no surprises there with a mother and father who loved him more than the sun who shined upon him. She was a sweet woman, and he was a dear father, who worked the farm with all their strength providing for each child. In those days, there wasn’t extraneous bullshit. He put his heart to the wheel that tilled the land, and she put her heart into the hearth that fed the family.
The recruiters came to this farming village that was barely worth a name and asked for young men who were worthy to fight for the God & King & Country, and of course Peter wouldn’t be left behind. It wasn’t that farming life in the village was wrong but it was boring for a young man who’d memorized each task, knew how to milk a cow and till land so wheat or barley could grow. He needed more and he needed something else.
When the recruiter came to Lythamwick near Blackpool, a village long forgotten, he found a few recruits ready for the journey to England’s expanses — to England’s lands abroad.
Peter did the drills under the sweaty, fat Master Sergeant who had scars beyond belief; drilling under hot suns and feeling cool breezes on his neck; thinking real Soldering would never come for weeks of hell under the Veteran’s hand. He felt the distance grow ever so great between his home and his reality.
He was grateful to get on boats and go towards America to fight against revolutionaries… On ships, he drank the grog they called drink and ate the mess they called food, his skinny arms raising toasts when appropriate and drinking alcohol on good days and water on bad…
Smiling and laughing at a thousand stories, his serious and stern face on for the hundred sad stories and his other face laughing and bright from all the thousand jokes from the Jewel in the Sea. Storied deaths, glorious in war. Comical romance, funny in every detail. Old veterans with rotted teeth and sailors with even more rotten teeth belching out laughs and hurrahs. A long, beautiful passage across the Atlantic to America.
To Breed’s hill. Or was it Bunker Hill? And the American boys are all slunken, smart with guns a-ready to greet the Englishmen as they come up. Peter’s only battle and his last started with the drums of the army commanding a march and assault of the hill.
He was no coward and he was proud of where he came from because his dad always was a good man that laughed with great heart and his mother was a good woman who, under her gentle care, raised the sons & daughters who would build Great Britain. Fearless in his satisfaction provided by the good people of his life, fearless because he had known good people, far & wide.
Peter Boy who made a few friends was amongst the Ranks of Red standing tall on those American shores where drums beat fiercely interrupted by canon’s roar. It was a song that no one had to sing because all of the deathly instruments were playing so loud you couldn’t otherwise hear.
The Red Coats assembled at the beach front and looked up at the daunting task of a fortified hill– it was enough time for Peter to think in sweet words about a village a whole ocean way. Pete grabbed his musket with white knuckles, heart pounding for God, King & Country and feeling his dreams flood his belly, sending butterflies racing up his spine.
And charged up the hill, at bugle’s blow, yelling as loud as he could to drown out the sound of battle, horror and war, thinking that this was his duty and more than that this was a place he felt his soul dance with the drums and boom with the canons roar. This ugly place of war was where he felt the terror of glory, the unmasked beauty of life & death he had never felt before.
He knew his young life would end here and he had no regrets because he was a soldier to His Imperial Majesty, borne of duty. And this is the fate for loyal Englishmen who’d know more than farms. Sucking in each breath of air as the fruit & flowers of the fields, as the fruit of their farming villages now forgotten in auld lore.
His musket in his hands he felt the unforgiving sting of lead streak through his body. He cried out, aghast, a scream of pain reverberating through the whole of his body. And then he moved on. Going forward against all common sense, going forward from instinct. He was a Soldier, and he would go forward until he didn’t go anymore.
Another bullet struck him — dull and burning, breaking parts of him that he knew would soon end in despair. And the third bullet struck like a blow he never felt before — strangely painless in its drunken wooziness. Like a drug, numbing to the tongue; like alcohol from the gourd.
Before he died he felt a man press his back hard as if to staunch a wound. He heard drums beating and men going forward. He felt the thunder of the Earth rolling under a human tide. The warm, rich and loving hand upon his back sent a shiver down his spine and he heard the old Sergeant’s voice yell into his ear,
“Now we GO!, COME ON! COME ON!” For a short moment his body jerked as if to get up but his life was a red pool beneath him. The sergeant’s hand relaxed and lost its urgency, as if all was foiled.
He died with his face to the ground and a little village near Blackpool heard of him no more.