George VanArsdale
15th New York Cavalry
Late September, 1863
Fort Tompkins
Staten Island, New York

Since taking up Army life, George looked forward to lights out. Because then he could retreat inside his own mind, where Lottie - Charlotte Howe from Caton - and yes, sometimes Clarissa Fallon, yet resided, and because he often had enjoyable dreams. Often, but not always.

. . . George was late for school. This was an unfamiliar part of Ithaca - he wasn't even sure where the school was. Finally, he found it. It was near the Syracuse train station. He went in and the teacher glared at him. The teacher was not Mary Howe, it was some man... it was Jacob VanArsdale, no, now it was Sergeant Lane, but beneath his forage cap with crossed sabers, he was wearing a civilian suit and wire-rimmed glasses. He was holding a ruler, smacking it impatiently against the palm of his other hand. Teacher Sergeant Lane pointed the ruler at George, hand held in quarte, or was it in tierce? With the tip of the ruler, Teacher Sergeant Lane pointed George to an empty seat, then swung the ruler in a smart left moulinet, or was it a right? So hard to remember.

All the other students were hard at work writing some lesson on their slates. George took his seat, but had no idea what lesson he was supposed to be working on. He didn't even have a slate, or chalk. He felt so humiliated, above his head, unprepared. He was going to fail, everybody would know that he was a fake... that he was underage... that he had inherited insanity from his real mother... But then Lottie sat down beside him, and smiled. She handed George her slate and chalk. Then she kissed him and put her arms around him. He knew everything was going to be all right. But when the kiss was done and she pulled back, George saw that she was Clarissa. A conspiratorial smile came across her pretty face. "Look, George, I'm not wearing any drawers!" She started to raise her skirt . . .

A bugle sounded reveille, and George opened his eyes with a start. Hez said, "Hell damn shit piss! Lovely reveille. Another damn day in the lovely Army." George sat up, put his elbows on his knees and folded his hands, then bowed his head in silent prayer. He prayed that morning for over two minutes.

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© 2019 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.