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The Official Brown Envelope
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TITLE (EDIT)
The Official Brown Envelope
DESCRIPTION
A short story based on the challenges faced in war, by the men at war, and their women at home.
[829 words]
TITLE KEYWORD
Suspense
AUTHOR
Anna J McGuire
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
-
[March 2002]
The Official Brown Envelope
Anna J McGuire

Tommy Sanders awoke to the sound of distant gunfire. He could hear the shrill
demented songs of far away shells. For a split second his mind refused to register the
reality of his surroundings. Accepting defeat, he rose to his feet. He could hardly feel
his toes through the sodden thick army socks, trapped for weeks in the regulation
army boots that had already seen too much marching.
He raised his head above the parapet, and surveyed the grim picture of
no-man’s land before him. It was early but no man slept. A little light came over the
raised ground. Strands of mist lingered by the river. His breath froze on the grey,
wintry November air. God he could do with a cigarette. Tommy scrambled down into
the trench trying to maintain the little body warmth that he had acquired through the
night. His whole uniform was as wet as his boots and socks. Some of the more
optimistic soldiers had made a futile attempt to string up a line to dry off items of
clothing. But nothing would dry out here. Nothing lived in this sea of brown, sludge
and mud. God had forsaken them here in this corner of France and they were trying so
hard to pretend that he hadn’t. Abruptly, a glimpse of sunlight pierced the grey
clouds. He thought of his young wife and new-born son back home, where he should
be, and his life here seemed more wasted than ever. He looked up at the sky and
prayed the same sun was shining down on them. Reaching into his icy pocket, he
removed the photograph that had miraculously reached him days earlier. Lily’s smile,
Lily’s clear eyes gazed at him as though she was reaching into his soul.

“One day, my love,” he whispered to himself.
“Crikey, the Germans are up early this morning!” came a shout from the
dugout below.
Looking up, Tommy saw the face of his best friend Charles grinning up at him.



Lily Sanders hurriedly grabbed a free moment to finish pegging out the washing to
catch the best of the sunshine before she went off to the factory. Not that there was
much to wash these days with Tommy being so far away in France. Wait until he saw
his new son, his first born, he would be so proud. On her way through the kitchen,
Lily tried not to glance at the mantlepiece where proudly stood the picture of Tommy
in his army uniform. She tried not to look at it too often, it didn’t seem to be the
Tommy she knew, that she had known most of her life. A soldier, off to war. As she
entered the small enclosed yard she heard the clatter of her younger sister Mary in the
passage.
“Yoo hoo!” she called. “This won’t get the baby a new bonnet! Get a move on
Lil or we’ll miss the bus and Mum’s waiting at the stop to take Jimmy for you.”
“Won’t be a tick,” replied Lily frantically emptying the washing basket.
“There. Done.”
Turning to face her sister, she saw a pretty young girl, excited at the prospect of her
shift at the factory. Lord knows everyone had to do their bit for the war effort. Both
sisters agreed that they liked this independence, had become more confident with the
unexpected responsibility and would find it all hard to give up when the men
returned. Work was hard and strenuous but it somehow brought the women closer to
their men.

“Any news?” asked Mary
“No. Have you heard from Frank?”
“Not this week. Has Albert been with the post today?”
“Not yet,” came Lily’s reply, “If we hang on a second he should be here.”


Tommy lay in the icy, saturated mud. The air overhead was packed solid with noise.
He could feel a sharp pain tug at him every time he moved. Reaching down to steady
himself, his fingers encountered a sharp spike. Barbed wire. Straight through his
chest. He felt a sticky, warm liquid seeping through his encrusted jacket. He mustn’t
close his eyes. He could taste the blood, beginning to ooze out of his mouth. He must
hang on. The stetcher bearers would be here soon. If he could just hang on. The pain
intensified. His eyelids drooped. He could hang on no longer. Deaf to the chaos that
surrounded him, he offered a last desperate prayer. He surrendered to the unconscious
warmth that welcomed him. He took his last breath.


As the sisters chatted about the work to come, they were conscious of waiting for the
creak of the old wooden gate. There it was. Albert, the village postman, slowly made
his way down the path. Instead of the usual bunch of battered white envelopes, and
the grin on his face, Albert bore one solitary letter, and a deep frown. The sisters
looked at each other and silently prayed “Please let it not be me,” then shamefully
turned away from the other’s gaze. There was a pause. Both sisters felt numb. They
heard Albert clear his throat. The loud knock sounded. Both sisters stepped forward
uneasily and the door was pushed open.
“I’m so sorry Lily, love.”
His trembling hands held out the official brown envelope.


 

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"An excellent story for a first time writer. Well Done." -- james garner, London, England.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE
© 2002 Anna J McGuire
STORYMANIA PUBLICATION DATE
March 2002
NUMBER OF TIMES TITLE VIEWED
1761
 

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