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A Long Sob of Sorrow (standard:drama, 2072 words)
Author: Alexandre SchulenkovAdded: Jan 14 2001Views/Reads: 2182/1065Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A tragic tale of unfulfilled love and war's harsh embrace
 



A Long Sob of Sorrow 

The station square in Tsaritsyn was a typical country village square,
with hens scratching along its sides and torpid charabancs and carts 
baking in the scorching sun of the steppe.  These common sights of a 
small town were followed by a trail of dust driving up to the long 
wooden station building. 

The platform, by contrast, its length shaded by a light awning supported
on thin gaily painted pillars, was airy and cool; hinting, as it did 
this morning, at all the charms of a pleasant mountain resort.  Wild 
vines spun around the pillars of the awning and everything had the 
familiar, cheerful air of a country dacha.  It was as if no one in this 
magical place had heard of such a thing as war.  Ladies in 
light-coloured coats and men in darker travelling suits walked behind 
their porters towards the platform for trains bound to Rostov.  Ice 
cream, sparkling mountain water, coloured balloons for children and 
newspapers were on sale.  Sasha had already bought several of these 
papers, opening some as he walked along and unfolding the rest as he 
sat on a bench on the dacha-style platform. 

While reading, Sasha, normally gentle, pensive, and kind, took an
expression of keen, tense absorption.  In contrast to his usual 
deliberate manner, he did not read each news item to the end, but 
skipped about from column to column, unfolding a second and then a 
third newspaper.  Marvellous news,  ‘Major Russian victory at Landau!  
The enemy will be forced to evacuate the whole of Prussia...things go 
well on the Austrian front opposite Brest-Litovsk...our Slavic 
brothers, the Serbs have won another victory over our common foes!’ 

Sasha sat radiant over the welcome reports from the front; they brought
him closer to admitting to himself why he had travelled so far.  As he 
sat consumed in thought, Sasha felt a gentle tap on his shoulder.  He 
knew instantly who had her hand on his shoulder without even having to 
turn around, it was his classmate Vera from St. Petersburg.  Vera was 
delighted to meet her friend in such an unexpected way; she had been 
daydreaming about him on the train to Tsaritsyn, but now he was before 
her in person.  Sasha greeted Vera heartily and offered her the cooler 
half of the bench upon which he was sitting.  Vera accepted Sasha’s 
offer as a beaming smile struck across her face.  Vera with her eyes 
inquisitively contorted asked Sasha why he was about to board a train; 
for, after all it was six weeks more till session at the university 
would begin, but deep within her heart Vera feared what all girls in 
love fear the most.  Vera knew Sasha too well and although he was by no 
means a revolutionary, and he was a pacifist by nature, she could not 
help but feel that Sasha was thinking about volunteering for the army.  
Sasha still aflame with emotion from reading the reports from the front 
gave Vera a look that sent chills down her spine; the look was of the 
kind one gets from a friend who is about to betray you but can do 
nothing to avoid it.  ‘I intend to visit my uncle in Rostov, thence 
proceed to St. Petersburg to enrol in the Imperial Infantry’, shot out 
Sasha as he intended to say all he could before Vera could interrupt.  
Shocked, Vera regained her composure and with body and limbs quaking 
she demanded to know of Sasha why he wished to throw away his life; 
especially for a Tsar who cared less for him than his titles and 
revenues.  ‘Didn’t you learn anything in school?  Why lose your life, 
you’re only one man, there are a million more like you, let them die, 
why must you fight and be killed?  War is an evil inflicted upon the 
common man for the amusement of the aristocrat and for the profit of 
the industrialist misers.’ 

The shells landed all about the position hastily dug by the small group
of survivors left after the first attempt by the Germans to break the 
Russian lines.  ‘Incoming rounds, heads down boys’, yelled a 
non-commissioned officer as he dove into the dugout.  The space within 
the dugout was a different reality, inside was life, what little of it 
remained; outside, there was only shrapnel, high explosives, machine 
gun rounds, and death.  Death lurked in open ground as snowflakes 
during a lazy winter’s afternoon; for one to try to flee would be 
suicide, to escape was like trying to run and dodge rain during a 
storm.  A hole that would prove uncomfortable for four men was occupied 
by the cringing bulks of eight.  Hardly being able to breathe, Sasha 
was being pushed up against the rear of the entrenchment and was almost 
completely smothered by his bulky sergeant.  The greying Sergeant 
breathed heavily as his wounded leg was repeatedly pushed and disturbed 


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