The Girls We Left Behind

"The Girls We Left Behind"

Who: Byrd and Morgenstern
When: June, 1918
Where: Grand Place, Arras

What: During the lull, Byrd and Morgenstern have a chat outside the church. Morg talks about his son. Byrd about a pretty girl he left behind.

Grand Place
[The Grid]-----> > > > > THE LOST GENERATION < < <

What remains of this once lively marketplace is a sight to see. Most of the cobblestones from the street are torn up from artillery shells or soldiers using them as patchwork for something else. Craters are some obvious dangers as exploded shells have done their dirty work leaving yawning holes for the unwary traveller. The beautiful Flemish architecture remains intact on some buildings and mostly destroyed in others. Falling bricks and timber pose another threat to the unwary. Sandbags are piled up eight feet high (2.4 m) around the entrances of the buildings that remain mostly safe as added protection against artillery fire.

The center of the Place is a busy hub. Soldiers move about freely when there is no shelling. Trucks with construction supplies drive in and out, sometimes laden with the wounded instead. Lumber cut from the nearby forests and extra sandbags also lay about amidst the craters. One must be extremely careful when walking about during the night.

It is currently dusk.

Sub-Rooms :
1. Communication Trench
2. Redoubt


West to Rue d'Amiens <W> North to Training Ground <N>
Church + Med Station <C> East to Arras Outskirts <E>
South to Train Station <S>

Byrd arrives from L'Eglise de Saint Boniface.

With less violence in this area, and with summer keeping things relatively dry, Morgenstern's uniform is rather clean. He's leaving the church, lighting a cigarette as he makes his way down the busy street.

Byrd is idling by the steps of the church, leaning and smoking. He's still wearing a bathrobe and other wounded garb, but he looks to be more or less mended. He offers the occasional nod to passing soldiers, or long looks and grins to passing nurses, but mostly he just stands, smokes and watches the sun go down. Morgenstern, however, gets a more verbal greeting. "Evenin', Corp," he says with an easy smile.

Morgenstern stops and squints, having been a bit distracted in some thought or another and not spotted Byrd initially. "Evening, Byrdie," he grunts contently, veering off to go talk to the tank-driver. He gestures at him with the cigarette. "You never gonna get out of here, eh? Or you just want to stay so you can flirt with the nurses?"

Byrd shrugs, dabbing some ash off his own cig and onto the ground. "Ain't gotten my walking papers yet. And I wouldn't want to risk making these fine ladies cross with me by leaving without their say-so." He grins, winking at Morgenstern. But his manner turns more serious after a beat. "Besides, things're calm now. Ain't like they need a lot of blokes on the line. Don't worry, Corp. They'll turn me loose soon enough, I'll wager."

Morgenstern looks down the street, which is as busy as usual, but there's more civilians out than has been before. "It's… calm," he agrees, though he doesn't sound particularly hopeful. "Tomorrow we're having a drill," he continues, looking back at Byrd. "Don't want the men to become lazy and lose their touch."

"Yeah," Byrd mutters with an exaggerated, jolly sort of sarcasm. "Can't abide laziness, Corp. You know me." He takes another puff before adding, on a more serious note, "I'll be there. I think I'm getting released tonight. Figured I'd savor the moment and all of that." More smoking, as he casts an eye out over the Place. "Must be nice for the folks here." He gestures to a woman out with her little boy and girl, across the Place from them. "Poor people don't seem to get much calm."

Morgenstern smiles wryly. "Nothing like a good drill to keep the spirit up. Joined together in dislike of the drill instructor," he says with sarcastic humor, knowing fully well that he'll be disliked for bringing work of that kind. He watches the woman with the children and his expression softens. "We forget, don't we? What we're fighting for. Out there, we fight for our own survival and for the man next to us, but it's… about those kids. So they don't have to continue with what we're doing." Of course, in another 20 years those kids will die in another war.

Byrd nods, taking a long drag and watching the mum with her kids disappear down the street. "That's the right of it, I guess," he mutters softly, more to himself than Morgenstern. "Easy to forget, when you're out there in the trenches. Hard to think of anything except not getting your own head blown off. But it's them that's having the Jerries run rough-shod over their country. I hope we can do some right by them." He's quiet for a moment after that, gaze drifting up to watch the sun go down again. When he does speak again, it seems abrupt. "What's your boy like, Corp? Your son, I mean."

Morgenstern nods slowly in contemplation. Shadows are lengthening on the street and the civilians move homewards to spend time with loved ones. Soldiers head back to billets or wherever they're staying. "Mikael," he says, shifting his feet and taking another drag off his cigarette. "That's his name." He smiles slightly. "Never met him, don't really know. I got a few letters from mom back before the war and at the beginning of the war. She said he's a lot like me at that age. Climbing the walls, basically. Never still."

Byrd grins at Morgenstern, nodding his head. "Bet he's a right staunch little lad," he says. "Your mum sounds like the sort that'd keep him in good hands. You'll see him after all this is over, Corp. Bet she's telling him all sorts of grand stories about you." Another long drag is taken, and blown out into the evening air. "Don't got any kids of my own, back home. Never really thought much about having a family." From his tone, he's feeling a little sorry about that.

Morgenstern grunts something, staring off into space. He likes the sound of what Byrd is saying; what father doesn't want his children to look at him as a hero? "Make sure you find the right woman, Byrdie. Not some tramp. I married a tramp, now see where I am." He is joking a bit about it too.

"Yeah…" Byrd murmurs over his cigarette, nodding his head in a thoughtful sort of way. "Never did mind tramps much, back home. Mostly they was the only sort of women I went for. Always knew where you stood with them, and it was always easy enough to leave in the morning. There was this one girl, though…" A smile comes to his face. A highly wistful smile.

Morgenstern has to smile too, Byrd's personality always bringing out his smiles. "I love tramps, but I wouldn't want to marry another one. And don't want children with another one." He points the cigarette at Byrd. "Tell me about that girl."

"Her name was Maggie," Byrd says, not looking at Morgenstern as he talks. His eyes have drifted out over the town, just watching the sun go down, a faraway look to him. "Margaret, proper, but nobody calls her that. She was real smart. Went to school with my cousin, Ewart. Her dad ran a market in Christchurch. We used to sell a good load of our fish to them. Could bargain better than any man I ever met, she could. Good looking thing, too. I mean, not so many curves as a man might want, but she had a tight little form. And a pretty face. Real nice smile, when you could get a smile out of her."

Morgenstern listens with an inscrutable expression. Then he grins suddenly. "She sounds great. When you come back home, you go find her and make sure you get to know her," he says, almost making it sound like an order. He drops the cigarette and grinds it under his heel. "I'll see you tomorrow, Byrdie. I got to get back." He doesn't dawdle, turning on his heel and marching off after a wave.

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