It’s late July of 1943, and the Allied invasion of Sicily is going badly for one platoon. They have been cut off from their supply unit for days. They have barely any food, they are low on ammo, and private Henderson has just lost his gun in a fire from a bomb that killed most of the people in the farmhouse they had been using as a field marker.

He dives into a foxhole and screams, “Sarge? SARGE! I just lost my rifle! Most of the other guys in the farmhouse are dead! What do I do?” He’s 18, wide-eyed, and scared. Just a few months ago, he was cleaning tractors with his dad stateside, and now his face was covered with mud, blood, and guts from men he was just talking to minutes earlier. They had been his friends, his comrades in the hell that was war.

“We don’t have any guns!” His sergeant calls out as bullets whiz by. “You’ll have to IMPROVISE!”

“Im-pro-vise?” Henderson was not a man of literature. The only way he passed high school was because he was on track and field.

“You know, make up stuff!” the sergeant said. His face was worn; he hadn’t slept for days. He had a high fever and couldn’t see out of one eye. “Here,” he said, and handed Henderson a broomstick. “Pretend. You know, pretend this is your rifle!”

“Sarge? SARGE! How am I supposed to do that?? This is just a busted broom stick!”

“Do I have to tell you how to do everything, Henderson?? This is war! I ain’t got time to spoon feed you!”

“What do I do with a broomstick??”

The sergeant sighed. “Here,” she demonstrated. He lined up the broomstick like a rifle and pointed it out the foxhole. “When you see one of them DAMN Nazis, you point this stick and fire it at them! Yell, BANGITTY-BANG-BANG! BANGITTY-BANG-BANG!”

Henderson was confused. “Whut?”

“And here,” the sergeant tied a strip of cloth to the end of the stick. “This is your bayonet! Someone gets too close, just stab ’em with this. Yell, STABBITY-STAB-STAB! STABBITY-STAB-STAB!”

Henderson paused. “You… you’ve gone MAD!”

But before the sergeant could respond, a grenade landed in the foxhole. “Go GO GO!” screamed the sergeant, but just as Henderson leaped out of the hole, the grenade exploded, blowing him down a hill, covered with the remains of his sergeant. At the end of his rolling fall, he found himself in a muddy ditch with the corpses of soldiers so burned, he didn’t know what side they had been on. Whizzing bullets thumped in the dirt walls around him, and tufts of dust drifted in all directions. All Henderson could do was crouch down as loose clots of dirt and pebbles rattled on his helmet. To his surprise, he found himself still holding onto the broomstick.

Finally, driven mad with fear and despair, Henderson poked the broomstick out over the ditch at enemy soldiers and screamed, “BANGITTY-BANG-BANG! BANGITTY-BANG-BANG!”

The sound of bullets sharply decreased.

Henderson poked his head out a little further and saw dead gunmen. He was astonished! In what Godless hell on Earth had just happened?

“Sieg Heil!!!” screamed some soldiers, as they ran from their hiding point to Henderson’s position.

“BANGITTY-BANG-BANG! BANGITTY-BANG-BANG!” screamed Henderson, and he saw every single one of the NAZIs spin and fall dead where they were hit.

“ACHHH!” screamed a NAZI that had snuck up from behind, and Henderson hit him with the strip of cloth.

“STABBITY-STAB-STAB! STABBITY-STAB-STAB!” he screamed, watching the dark and slimy entrails of the German foot solider slide from deep gashes in his felt uniform.

Henderson kept this up for hours. “BANGITTY-BANG-BANG! BANGITTY-BANG-BANG!” he would scream. And when one would get too close, “STABBITY-STAB-STAB! STABBITY-STAB-STAB!” Soon, he was knee deep in gore and rubble.

Day turned to dusk, and dusk turned to night. Henderson didn’t know if he was the only Allied left alive, but he would kill every damn NAZI and drag them down to hell. Night turned to dawn, and when the sun cast a hazy glow over the dusty farmland, it was silent.

Henderson was still breathing hard. Fear pushed his body to extremes that even his track and field days never saw. His bony body was soaked with sweat even in the cold morning air. But it was quiet. He hadn’t seen a NAZI for hours. Even as he poked his head over the edge of his crumbling ditch walls, he didn’t see anything but mist, smoke, and death.

“A sitting target is a dead target,” said a voice from his training. With the last ounce of strength, Henderson crawled out of the hole, gripping his broomstick, and heading west where his last known outpost would be. The entire landscape had changed. Houses were smoldering sticks of black and stone, trees were nothing more than dark veins criss-crossed with ash marks. The air smelled of burning wood and putrid flesh. Not a living thing was in sight.

Henderson didn’t know how long he ran; hours maybe. Finally, he stopped in the middle of a field of flowers. He had forgotten it was summer. As the rising sun warmed his face, he saw someone in the distance. A large NAZI, with pieces of his uniform torn off or scorched, was stomping towards him, slowly and with murderous purpose.

“BANGITTY-BANG-BANG! BANGITTY-BANG-BANG!” Henderson screamed. But the man did not fall. He just kept coming.

“BANGITTY-BANG-BANG! BANGITTY-BANG-BANG!” Henderson screamed as he ran to the large man. The man did not fall.

Henderson ran right up to him, and slashing across his face with the cloth, he yelled, “”STABBITY-STAB-STAB! STABBITY-STAB-AAAAUGHHHHH!” and was crushed to death.

The NAZI kept stomping without pausing. He only said one thing in the noon summer breeze.

“TANKITTY-TANK-TANK, TANKITTY-TANK-TANK!!”

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This short fiction is copyright 2010 Grig Larson. No reproduction is allowed without the author’s written consent.

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