General Nathan P. Flynn gazed over the northern front. The men were hunkered down, still safe there. Over the slopes the ruckus of battle rung out loudly. The wrinkled hand went instinctively to his kneecap, then up to his gray-peppered beard.
His eyes darted to the soldier standing beside him by the name of Henry. His hair was ragged, and his young face was caked with sweat and mud. The General waited for him to speak. Cannons shook the sky in the distance.
“…Perhaps we should blow the horn.”
General turned with disgust to the trumpet poised in Henry’s hands. His thoughts returned to his left kneecap.
“Time remains Henry, the battle is young, and the enemy’s lines are not yet rigid.”
“That is because they are encroaching towards us sir.”
The general glared. Henry fell silent. The enemy drove forward. Smoke drifted closer. General Flynn’s salted hair bristled in the wind. He shifted to look back towards the north. Minutes passed.
“General, time is growing thin for us.”
“When time grows thin your courage must get thick.”
Henry stood up straighter, “We must blow the horn sir. We are severely outnumbered. The northern hills are not yet lost. If we retreat now there remains a better chance of holding them off into tomorrow.”
“Why hold off for tomorrow what we can win today?”
“Men are dying, I implore you!”
They both gazed at the trumpet holding their fates in its brass rim, fates stuffed inside with the still unvoiced roar waiting to be set free by the lungs of a worthy soldier.
The general spoke in his commanding bellow, “Did I ever tell you about my lost leg?”
“Two years ago a cannon blasted beside me. Blew up my left leg from kneecap down. I lay injured, but I still reloaded my weapon while bleeding in that dirt. And I fought. We won that battle. I could have blown that trumpet instead, I had the authority.”
Still no response. Only the rattle of the sky above.
“I’ve never surrendered, or retreated. I am the only general who can still boast of this, now I say there is still time.”
Gunpowder was smelling up the air. General Flynn looked upon his men like chess pieces as the game was waged in the fields below, pawns striking pawns. Henry stood beside him gripping the horn tightly. His thoughts sailed back into the bays of Connecticut, far from the front.
He could take it no longer, “Men are being slaughtered to keep your boasting alive, we must blow the horn!”
He didn't move a thing, except for his eyes which went up for a moment to the heavens trembling with the volleys of warfare. “Vigilance my boy.”
Disobeyed, the horn blew.
In quick succession, all his forsaken victories flashed before him.
There was a break in the lines. A man dropped dead beside him, the roar of the horn still on his lips. Cannon fire shifted into the north. For a moment General Flynn thought he heard the horn whistling as it lay in dead hands. Then came the revelation of cannon blasts. Pain flew into him. It shot through his legs and surged up past his left kneecap. He fell down, defeated.