Wayback Wednesday Photo Writing Prompt ~ A Gift From the Trenches #WW #fridayflash

Wayback Wednesday Photo Writing Prompt

Write a story, write a drabble, write a poem, write anything. If this inspires you drop me a link to your post in the comments, or send it to me on Twitter.

I love it when I learn something from a frivolous TV show. I was watching Dirty Money and the brothers went to a Military Shop. The shop owner had tons of these metal casings with designs etched into them. During WWI soliders used the shell casings to make Trench Art. Some of the ones the shop owner had were really amazing. This story is inspired by this part of history. 

Via Flickr by Curious Expeditions

 A Gift From the Trenches

     The damp earth soaked into Peter’s wool jacket. It was morning, the smell of smoke clung to the air. He remained still, praying that when he opened his eyes he’d find himself lying in his mother’s rose garden at home. His memory could not dislodge their fragrant scent and softness. It lulled him back into the parts of his memories where Kate’s red lips, as soft and vibrant as rose petals, roused his heart. Gunfire and shouts jostled him out of his dream. A young man on a stretcher bobbed past him. Blood splattered all over his clothes; part of his leg was missing. Peter shied away from the vacant look in his eyes. In the trenches red meant death.

 A young solider next to Peter tapped his shoulder. “Take a swig Pete. It’ll set you right.”

The cold liquid felt hot as it trailed down his throat. Unused to the burn Peter coughed. “Where’d you get this?        

“Traded it.”

“With what?”

The young man looked at his wrist. His smile turned into a frown. “Doesn’t matter.”

“Thanks Tom.” Peter handed it back. He knew Tom traded his Grandfather’s watch, but kept it to himself. Tough times.

     The ting of metal on metal chimed through the smoky air. Down the trench a ways Peter noticed a hunched over solider. Every time his shoulder rose a ping sound followed.

Peter half glanced a Tom. “I’ll be back.”

     Dirty, pale faces with dull eyes nodded as Peter walked by. Peter avoided making eye contact. Half of them would be gonners soon and he’d rather not mourn them, too many of his friends had died already.

     The solider didn’t noticed Peter was standing next to him he was so focused on placing the metal punch in exactly the right spot. Peter watched him for a moment and was surprised to see he almost appeared happy.

“What ya got there mate?”

Peter’s voice caught him mid-blow. The rock and metal punch landed on his foot. “Oi.”

     The solider reached down to grab it, his hands shook so bad Peter thought he’d never be able to grasp them. Down here in the trenches plenty of blokes got the shakes. Thankfully that hadn’t happened to him yet. To Peter’s surprise the man’s thin fingers scooped them up and the shaking stopped.

The solider looked up. His eyes still had some life left in them. “It’s just something I’m working onto send off to my girl back home.” With the other hand the man held up a large shell casing. Stamped into the metal were delicate flowers and vines.

Peter touched the soldier’s back. “Tis’ a beautiful thing.”

The man’s eyes gleamed. “So is she mate.” He picked up a plain shell casing at his feet and held it out. “I’ll trade, if you got any cigarettes.”

     Peter knew he could find tons of casing out in the field, but he wasn’t about to go get one. He jammed his fingers into every pocket he could find. Empty. Empty. Lint. Empty. Cigarettes! Peter held out three mangled cigarettes. Seconds later the cool shell lay in his hand. Kate’s smiling blue eyes and red lips flashed through his mind. In this land of cold dirt where death lingered he’d make her something beautiful. A piece of art she’d always remember him by, if the blackness came to get him.


19 Comments Add yours

  1. clarbojahn says:

    How was he making something beautiful out of the shell casings? Don’t you have to have metal drills and stuff? Was he going to carry it all along with him?
    Your piece leaves too many unanswered questions but I enjoyed reading it. thanks for posting this challenge. I think I’ll pass this time.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      Sorry to leave you frustrated Clar. I’ve added more links at the bottom, plus the one on the top. From what I’ve read it appears the soliders used punches. The more elaborate the better the skill. That is why these are so amazing. They made them with what they had available in the trenches, hence the name Trench Art.

  2. Thank you so much, Lara. I am a big fan of your prompts. That such art could be a legacy of death and violence is amazing. The way you have fashioned your story equally so.

  3. Steve green says:

    In museums I have seen many marvellous examples of this kind of art, most of them done with very basic tools, mostly done as a way to pass the time between the battles, and to distract their minds from the horrors of war.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      That show was the first time I’d seen one of those. He had quite a few, they were amazing. It just goes to show that even in times of hardship, beauty and inner hope will shine through somehow.

  4. John Wiswell says:

    What I puzzled over was the font color. Is it intentional that it changes from standard to lighter grey? I think I tried too hard to project scene jumps onto it where it wasn’t.

    I didn’t mind the shell casing stuff – I just assumed there was a plausible way for them to do it. The picture at the bottom is intriguing.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      The font color is part of the theme I’ve choosen. It automatically does it when I indicate something is dialogue. Is it to distracting? The pic at the bottom just blew my mind. It looks 2-3 feet high.

    2. Lara Dunning says:

      @Icy Sedgwick @Jen Brubacher Thank you.

      @mariarich From what I’ve read they used punches. I’m sure it was whatever they could find laying around that would work. Thank you.

      @John Wiswell The font color is a WordPress thing. When I designate it as dialogue it makes it a different color. Is it too distracting?

  5. mariarich says:

    That was awesome, and sad. I never knew they did things like that! How was he etching it? Just with a knife? The story was a good one, I will have to think about your challenge though, its early in the morning and my coffee hasn’t yet sunk in. Im also several days behind!

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      @IcySedgwick Thank you. That’s how I felt.

      @JenBrubacher Thank you Jen.

      @mariarich From what I’ve read they used punches. I’m sure they fashioned tools out of whatever they could find laying around. So amazing. I’m on the hunt for one now.

  6. What a beautiful idea!

  7. Icy Sedgwick says:

    Oh this is a simply beautiful story. A rare spark of hope in such a horrific setting.

  8. Helen says:

    This was a lovely story, a touch of hope and happiness in a time that seems totally void of it. Beautifully written Lara!

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      @Aidan Fritz When I learned about these casings I was just amazed. It just goes to show that even in the harshest of times we all crave beauty and meaning.

      @Chuck Allen Thank you Chuck.

      @Helen Scribbles Yes, a touch of hope. Nicely said.

  9. Chuck Allen says:

    Wow. That was touching and educational. A beautiful story, Lara.

  10. Aidan Fritz says:

    Beautiful piece of art, both the shell casing and the story. Trench warfare triggers a primal fear in me. I think it has to do with reading All’s Quiet on the Western Front when I was young.

  11. Hi there Lara — thought you did a fantastic job on this piece.

    Love your opening colour and description. Moving from roses to battlefield was deftly done and avoided feeling trite. Fits in well with the later design on the casing.

    Your ‘red means death’ very good.

    For some reason ‘a ping sound’ seemed a little strange, though I think I initially misread it as a ricochet.

    When the guy bends down to pick up his rock and punch, you have ‘grab it’ and then ‘grasp them’. Working out if he was shaking or not was a little tricky.

    Your dialogue very nicely characterized for the period, or at least sounds entirely believable.

    Loved the fact our man wanted to trade rather than do the guy out of a smoke and the story had a lovely ending. Somehow, battlefield and yet feel good. St.

    1. Lara Dunning says:

      Great feedback Stephen. I wasn’t sure about the shaking part, but I’ve heard so much about shell shock I thought I should add it in there somewhere. It’s given me ideas for a series of pieces revolving around this shell that’s passed down from generation to generation.

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