Five classes. What had Eran been thinking?
He had been thinking he’d love to finish his coursework and study for exams without having to make up a teaching plan three times a week. He had thought he might as well make the most of Stefan’s helpfulness while it lasted. He had, god help him, thought he might enjoy learning again.
That was before he remembered what it was like to handle a thousand pages of reading a week. Thank god for Kindle editions. At least he hadn’t broken his back heading to campus for a study session with Mildred.
“Stefan approved your proposal?” Mildred said.
“Xiaoyu approved yours.”
“Yeah, but I worked at mine.”
“There was work in mine. It was just bad work.”
“Mmm.” Mildred was teaching, but was taking a break from the extracurricular work of preparing for her dissertation. She hoped to take exams in the fall, which meant a summer-long slog of studying that she would need to be rested for. She was running toward the degree with her usual dedication, unlike Eran, who could never start running because he could never stop doubting.
“I’ll make it
They came in soaked, muddied, bloodied, heads lolling on shoulders. Eyes turned up into their sockets. Some still alive, staring dead ahead. Water ran in rivulets from their hair. Wringing out their uniforms would soak the floor.
He – an officer, an aide to the general, too clean and warm to be in the ranks – backed into the corner of the hospital. Letting the medics do their work. Staying out of the way.
“Is there anything to be done?” the general murmured. The host realized the question was for him.
Eran felt the words come. “There’s nothing. They say it’s a lake. They’re as much swimming toward the other line as advancing. They may drown in it.”
It was becoming a pattern. Casualties were arrayed in rows, from today, from early failures. Sheets draped over faces were a form of punctuation. Any man settled was not moving. The nurses and medics were frantic on the floor.
“I shall have to – shall have to ask – ” The general did not seem to know what to do with his hands.
“Yes.” At times like this a good aide was an indispensable source of support.
“I shall – ” The general did not seem to know what to do with his mouth.
He felt himself swell. He was the most important person in the room. The great man was not so great; he could not live without a support. “Yes.”
better in the… Sorry. I’ll fix it. The dissertation.”
By now Mildred recognized the signs. “Who was it this time?”
“I don’t know. Someone with delusions of grandeur.”
January 21, 2016: In the Battle of Hanna, General Aylmer’s forces founder due to inadequate artillery support and a flooded n0 man’s land, thus failing to take the Hanna defile.