Category Archives: Fiction

Excerpt from “Bid Time Return” by Richard Matheson ~~Meeting~~ Also known as “Somewhere in Time”

Suddenly, I had the chilling premonition that I’d walked too far; that my grasp on 1896 was confined to the hotel itself and that, now, I would begin to lose hold and be drawn inexorably back to 1971. I closed my eyes, fighting the threat of transposition. Only after many moments did I have the courage to open my eyes and look at the hotel again. It was still there, unchanged.
When I looked at the narrow beach again, I saw her. How did I know it was her? She was little more than a tiny outline moving almost imperceptibly against the dark blue background of the water. Under any other circumstances, I could not possibly have identified her from so little evidence. As it was, I knew it had to be Elise.
The initial sight of her had caused a chill to flood my body, made my heartbeat leap. Now, the only sensation I felt was one of numbing fear that the moment wouldn’t last, that, having reached her, I’d be taken back to where I’d come from. Fear that, even if I managed to accost her, her reaction would be one of distaste at my presumption. I had, against all logic, hoped that the sight of her at long last would instil confidence in me. The exact opposite was true. My confidence was at its nadir as I stood there wondering what I could possibly say to convince her it was not some madman who confronted her.
My head seemed to be pulsing slowly, my entire body cold, as I watched her walking near the surf line, holding her long skirt above the sand. Her approach seemed dreamlike in its slowness; as though, in the instant I’d caught sight of her, time had altered itself again, seconds extended to minutes, minutes stretched to hours, Time 1 no longer in effect. Once more, I was outside the realm of clocks and calendars, condemned to watch her moving toward me through eternity, never reaching me.
In a way, it was a relief since I had no notion of what to say to her. In a larger way, however, it was torture to believe that we would never truly come together. Once again, I felt as though I were a ghost. I actually visualized her walking up to me, then by me, eyes not even moving toward me since, to her, I wouldn’t be there.
Exactly when I started toward her at an intercepting angle, I cannot recall. I first grew conscious of movement when my boots began to skid down the eroded, four-foot-high slope to the beach, then crunch across the damp sand toward the water. Adding to the dreamlike vagueness of the moment was the now nebulous sunset along the cloudy horizon and the summit of Point Loma. My eyes kept going out of focus, sometimes losing sight of her as we walked toward each other like figures on a phantom landscape. I remembered the soldier on Owl Creek Bridge moving toward his beloved yet never reaching her, because his movements were the last, fierce moments of a dying delusion. In such a manner, endlessly, Elise McKenna and I approached each other while the low waves rolled in, one by one, the noise they made as they struck the shore so unremitting that it sounded like a roar of distant wind.
When she first became aware of me, I cannot say. I only knew, for certain, that she’d seen me when she stopped and stood immobile by the water, a silhouette against the last, dim lambency of the sunset. Her eyes were on me, I could tell, though I couldn’t see her eyes or face or dream with what emotion she regarded my approach. Was it fear she felt? I had not anticipated that she might behold my coming with alarm. Our meeting had seemed so inevitable that I’d never considered such a possibility. I considered it now. If she were to bolt or scream for help, what would I do? What could I do?
At long last, I stopped in front of her and, in silence, we gazed at each other. She was shorter than I’d expected. She almost had to tilt her head back to look at my face. I couldn’t see hers at all because her back was to the sunset. Why was she so still, so motionless? I felt some relief that she was not calling out for help or turning away to run from me. Still, why no reaction at all? Was it possible she was disabled by fear? The thought unnerved me.
What I had felt while approaching her had been nothing in comparison to what I felt now. My body and mind seemed paralyzed. I could not have moved or spoken if my life had depended on it. Only one thought penetrated. Why was she, too, standing mutely, staring at me? Somehow, I sensed that it was not because of disabling fear but, beyond that, I could neither fathom her behavior nor react to it.
Then, abruptly, unexpectedly, she spoke, the sound of her voice making me start. “Is it you?” she asked.
If I had compiled a list of all the opening remarks she might have made to me, that one would have had to be on the bottom if it were there at all. I stared at her incredulously. Had some enchantment totally beyond my visions taken place so that she knew about me? I could not believe it. Yet I did sense, -within a moment after she had spoken, that I had the miraculous opportunity to bypass what might be hours of persuading her to accept me. “Yes, Elise,” I heard myself answer.

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Excerpt from “Ninety-Three” by Victor Hugo ~~Children~~

He attempted to climb the bridge, but in vain; he dug his nails in between the stones and clung there for a few seconds, but the layers were as smoothly joined as if the wall had been new — Radoub fell back. The conflagration swept on, each instant growing more terrible. They could see the heads of the three children framed in the red light of the window. In his frenzy Radoub shook his clenched hand at the sky, and shouted, “Is there no mercy yonder!”
The mother, on her knees, clung to one of the piers, crying, “Mercy, mercy!”
The hollow sound of cracking timbers rose above the roar of the flames. The panes of glass in the book-cases of the library cracked and fell with a crash. It was evident that the timber-work had given way. Human strength could do nothing. Another moment and the whole would fall. The soldiers only waited for the final catastrophe. They could hear the little voices repeat “Mamma! mamma!”
The whole crowd was paralyzed with horror. Suddenly, at the casement near that where the children stood, a tall form appeared against the crimson background of the flames.
Every head was raised — every eye fixed. A man was above there — a man in the library — in the furnace. The face showed black against the flames, but they could see the white hair: they recognized the Marquis de Lantenac. He disappeared, then appeared again.
The indomitable old man stood in the window shoving out an enormous ladder. It was the escape-ladder deposited in the library; he had seen it lying upon the floor and dragged it to the window. He held it by one end; with the marvellous agility of an athlete he slipped it out of the casement, and slid it along the wall down into the ravine.
Radoub folded his arms about the ladder as it descended within his reach, crying, “Long live the Republic!”
The marquis shouted, “Long live the King!”
Radoub muttered, “You may cry what you like, and talk nonsense if you please, but you are an angel of mercy all the same.”
The ladder was safely grounded, and communication established between the burning floor and the ground. Twenty men rushed up, Radoub at their head, and in the twinkling of an eye they were hanging to the rungs from the top to the bottom, making a human ladder. Radoub, on the topmost rung, touched the window. He had his face turned toward the conflagration. The little army scattered among the heath and along the sides of the ravine pressed forward, overcome by contending emotions, upon the plateau, into the ravine, out on the platform of the tower.
The marquis disappeared again, then re-appeared bearing a child in his arms. There was a tremendous clapping of hands.
The marquis had seized the first little one that he found within reach. It was Gros-Alain.
Gros-Alain cried, “I am afraid.”
The marquis gave the boy to Radoub; Radoub passed him on to the soldier behind, who passed him to another, and just as Gros-Alain, greatly frightened and sobbing loudly, was given from hand to hand to the bottom of the ladder, the marquis, who had been absent for a moment returned to the window with René-Jean, who struggled and wept and beat Radoub with his little fists as the marquis passed him on to the sergeant.
The marquis went back into the chamber that was now filled with flames. Georgette was there alone. He went up to her. She smiled. This man of granite felt his eyelids grow moist. He asked, “What is your name?”
“Orgette,” said she.
He took her in his arms – she was still smiling, and, at the instant he handed her to Radoub, that conscience so lofty, and yet so darkened, was dazzled by the beauty of innocence: the old man kissed the child.
“It is the little girl!” said the soldiers; and Georgette in her turn descended from arm to arm till she reached the ground, amid cries of exultation. They clapped their hands; they leaped; the old grenadiers sobbed, and she smiled at them.
The mother stood at the foot of the ladder breathless, mad, intoxicated by this change — flung, without a pause, from hell into paradise. Excess of joy lacerates the heart in its own way. She extended her arms; she received first Gros-Alain, then René-Jean, then Georgette. She covered them with frantic kisses, then burst into a wild laugh, and fainted.
A great cry rose: “They are all saved!”
All were indeed saved, except the old man.
But no one thought of him — not even he himself, perhaps. He remained for a few instants leaning against the window-ledge lost in a reverie, as if he wished to leave the gulf of flames time to make a decision. Then, without the least haste, slowly indeed and proudly, he stepped over the window-sill, and erect, upright, his shoulders against the rungs, having the conflagration at his back, the depth before him, he began to descend the ladder in silence with the majesty of a phantom. The men who were on the ladder sprang off; every witness shuddered; about this man thus descending from that height there was a sacred horror as about a vision. But he plunged calmly into the darkness before him; they recoiled, he drew nearer them; the marble pallor of his face showed no emotion; his haughty eyes were calm and cold; at each step he made toward those men whose wondering eyes gazed upon him out of the darkness, he seemed to tower higher, the ladder shook and echoed under his firm tread — one might have thought him the statue of the commandatore descending anew into his sepulchre.
As the marquis reached the bottom, and his foot left the last rung and planted itself on the ground, a hand seized his shoulder. He turned about.
“I arrest you,” said Cimourdain.
“I approve of what you do,” said Lantenac.

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Excerpt from “Get Smart!” by William Johnston ~~Shoe~~

At the first phone booth he came to, Max stepped inside and pulled the door closed. He bent down, and with considerable difficulty, since the built had not been built for the purpose of removing a shoe, he unlaced his right oxford, slipped it from his foot, then straightened and spoke into the sole, while listening at the heel.
Max: 86 here – that you, Chief?
Chief: What took you so long? I’ve been ringing you for a good ten minutes!
Max: Sorry, Chief. I was indisposed.
Chief: Oh . . . in the shower?
Max: No, taking a stroll . . . enjoying the carbon monoxide on Madison Avenue. It’s lovely at this time of year.
Chief: Max, I need you right away. There’s another crisis. How soon can you –
Max (interrupting): Excuse me, Chief. Hang on a second.

Max turned toward the door of the booth, where, outside, a matronly middle-aged woman was rapping on the glass. He opened the door a crack and spoke to her.
“Sorry, Madam,” he said, “this booth is in use.”
“I have to make a call,” the woman said irritably.
“This isn’t a dressing room, it’s a telephone booth. If you want to change your shoes, find a shoe store.”
“Madam, I happen to be on the phone,” Max said.
“You are not. The phone is on the hook.”
Max glanced back over his shoulder. “Oh . . . that phone.” Then, facing the woman again, he said, “It so happens, Madam, that I’m talking through my shoe. Now . . . if you’ll excuse me . . .”
He pulled the door closed, and resumed his conversation with the Chief.

Max: Sorry, Chief. A little misunderstanding with a civilian. Now . . . what were you saying?
Chief: I said there’s a crisis afoot. And, following our procedure of assigning cases by rotation, your number came up. I need you here at Control right away. How soon can you –
Max (interrupting again): Chief . . . can you hold on? That civilian is back. I’ll just be a second.

The middle-aged matron had returned, accompanied by a uniformed policeman. The policeman had rapped on the glass with his night stick. Once more, Max opened the door a crack.
“Yes, officer, what can I do for you?” Max said.
“That’s a telephone booth, buddy,” the policeman said. “And this lady wants to make a call.”
“Officer, as I told the lady, the booth is in use,” Max said. “I’m making a call myself. A very important call. If it’s anything like most of my calls, the fate of the whole civilized world may hang in the balance.”
“Now I believe him!” the woman snorted. “He told me he was talking through his hat!”
“My shoe, Madam!” Max said. “I said my shoe – I’m talking through my shoe.” He opened the door the rest of the way and handed his oxford to the policeman. “Here, officer, try it yourself. The Chief is on the line. He’ll explain it to you.”
Suspiciously, the policeman accepted the phone.
“No, no, you speak into the sole,” Max said. “The heel is for listening.”
The policeman turned the shoe around.
“Go ahead,” Max said. “Say, ‘Hello, Chief’ or something like that. Just don’t ask him about his rheumatism – it’s a very sore point.
The policeman spoke. “Chief . . .?”
As a reply came back, his mouth dropped open. Then, after a second, he said, “Sure, Chief, I understand. I thought he was a nut. Naturally, when he –” He listened again. Then, nodding, said, “Right, you can count on me. The fate of the whole civilized world is very important to me, too.”
The policeman handed the shoe back to Max, then turned to the matron. “Sorry, lady,” he said, “this booth is in use.”

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Excerpt from “A Passage To India” by E. M. Forster ~~Friends~~

Aziz grew more excited. He rose in his stirrups and pulled at his horse’s head in the hope it would rear. Then he should feel in a battle. He cried: “Clear out, all you Turtons and Burtons. We wanted to know you ten years back—now it’s too late. If we see you and sit on your committees, it’s for political reasons, don’t you make any mistake.” His horse did rear. “Clear out, clear out, I say. Why are we put to so much suffering? We used to blame you, now we blame ourselves, we grow wiser. Until England is in difficulties we keep silent, but in the next European war—aha, aha! Then is our time.” He paused, and the scenery, though it smiled, fell like a gravestone on any human hope. They cantered past a temple to Hanuman— God so loved the world that he took monkey’s flesh upon him— and past a Saivite temple, which invited to lust, but under the semblance of eternity, its obscenities bearing no relation to those of our flesh and blood. They splashed through butterflies and frogs; great trees with leaves like plates rose among the brushwood. The divisions of daily life were returning, the shrine had almost shut.
“Who do you want instead of the English? The Japanese?” jeered Fielding, drawing rein.
“No, the Afghans. My own ancestors.”
“Oh, your Hindu friends will like that, won’t they?”
“It will be arranged— a conference of oriental statesmen.”
“It will indeed be arranged.”
“Old story of ‘We will rob every man and rape every woman from Peshawar to Calcutta,’ I suppose, which you get some nobody to repeat and then quote every week in the Pioneer in order to frighten us into retaining you! We know!” Still he couldn’t quite fit in Afghans at Mau, and, finding he was in a corner, made his horse rear again until he remembered that he had, or ought to have, a mother- land. Then he shouted: “India shall be a nation! No foreigners of any sort! Hindu and Moslem and Sikh and all shall be one! Hurrah! Hurrah for India! Hurrah! Hurrah!”
India a nation! What an apotheosis! Last corner to the drab nineteenth-century sisterhood! Waddling in at this hour of the world to take her seat! She, whose only peer was the Holy Roman Empire, she shall rank with Guatemala and Belgium perhaps! Fielding mocked again. And Aziz in an awful rage danced this way and that, not knowing what to do, and cried: “Down with the English anyhow. That’s certain. Clear out, you fellows, double quick, I say. We may hate one another, but we hate you most. If I don’t make you go, Ahmed will, Karim will, if it’s fifty or five hundred years we shall get rid of you, yes, we shall drive every blasted Englishman into the sea, and then “—he rode against him furiously— “and then,” he concluded, half kissing him, “you and I shall be friends.”
“Why can’t we be friends now?” said the other, holding him affectionately. “It’s what I want. It’s what you want.”
But the horses didn’t want it— they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices, “No, not yet,” and the sky said, “No, not there.”

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Excerpt from “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett ~~Take it and like it~~

Brigid O’Shaughnessy smiled at him and said: “But I haven’t got the falcon.”
Cairo’s face was darkened by a flush of annoyance. He put an ugly hand on either arm of his chair, holding his small-boned body erect and stiff between them. His dark eyes were angry.
He did not say anything.
The girl made a mock-placatory face at him. “I’ll have it in a week at the most, though,” she said.
“Where is it?” Cairo used politeness of mien to express scepticism.
“Where Floyd hid it.”
“Floyd? Thursby?”
She nodded.
“And you know where that is?” he asked. “I think I do.”
“Then why must we wait a week?”
“Perhaps not a whole week. Whom are you buying it for, Joe?”
Cairo raised his eyebrows. “I told Mr. Spade. For its owner.”
Surprise illuminated the girl’s face. “So you went back to him?”
“Naturally I did.”
She laughed softly in her throat and said: “I should have liked to have seen that.”
Cairo shrugged. “That was the logical development.” He rubbed the back of one hand with the palm of the other. His upper lids came down to shade his eyes. “Why, if I in turn may ask a question, are you willing to sell to me?”
“I’m afraid,” she said simply, “after what happened to Floyd. That’s why I haven’t it now.
I’m afraid to touch it except to turn it over to somebody else right away.”
Spade, propped on an elbow on the sofa, looked at and listened to them impartially. In the comfortable slackness of his body, in the easy stillness of his features, there was no indication of either curiosity or impatience.
“Exactly what,” Cairo asked in a low voice, “happened to Floyd?”
The tip of Brigid O’Shaughnessy’s right forefinger traced a swift G in the air.
Cairo said, “I see,” but there was something doubting in his smile. “Is he here?”
“I don’t know.” She spoke impatiently. “What difference does it make?”
The doubt in Cairo’s smile deepened. “It might make a world of difference,” he said, and rearranged his hands in his lap so that, intentionally or not, a blunt forefinger pointed at Spade.
The girl glanced at the pointing finger and made an impatient motion with her head. “Or me,” she said, “or you.”
“Exactly, and shall we add more certainly the boy outside?”
“Yes,” she agreed and laughed. “Yes, unless he’s the one you had in Constantinople.”
Sudden blood mottled Cairo’s face. In a shrill enraged voice he cried: “The one you couldn’t make?”
Brigid O’Shaughnessy jumped up from her chair. Her lower lip was between her teeth.
Her eyes were dark and wide in a tense white face. She took two quick steps towards Cairo. He started to rise. Her right hand went out and cracked sharply against his cheek, leaving the imprint of fingers there.
Cairo grunted and slapped her cheek, staggering her side-wise, bringing from her mouth a brief muffled scream.
Spade, wooden of face, was up from the sofa and close to them by then. He caught Cairo by the throat and shook him. Cairo gurgled and put a hand inside his coat. Spade grasped the Levantine’s wrist, wrenched it away from the coat, forced it straight out to the side, and twisted it until the clumsy flaccid fingers opened to let the black pistol fall down on the rug.
Brigid O’Shaughnessy quickly picked up the pistol.
Cairo, speaking with difficulty because of the fingers on his throat, said: “This is the second time you’ve put your hands on me.” His eyes, though the throttling pressure on his throat made them bulge, were cold and menacing.
“Yes,” Spade growled. “And when you’re slapped you’ll take it and like it.” He released Cairo’s wrist and with a thick open hand struck the side of his face three times, savagely. Cairo tried to spit in Spade’s face, but the dryness of the Levantine’s mouth made it only an angry gesture. Spade slapped the mouth, cutting the lower lip.
The door-bell rang.

The 1941 film featured Humphrey Bogart as “Sam Spade”, Mary Astor as “Brigid O’Shaughnessy”, and Peter Lorre as “Joel Cairo”.

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Excerpt from “On The Road” by Jack Kérouac ~~Mexico City~~

picture-OnTheRoad-KerouacThe end of our journey impended. Great fields stretched on both sides of us; a noble wind blew across the occasional immense tree groves and over old missions turning salmon pink in the late sun.
The clouds were close and huge and rose. ‘Mexico City by dusk!’ We’d made it, a total of nineteen hundred miles from the afternoon yards of Denver to these vast and Biblical areas of the world, and now we were about to reach the end of the road.
‘Shall we change our insect T-shirts?’
‘Naw, let’s wear them into town, hell’s bells.’ And we drove into Mexico City.
A brief mountain pass took us suddenly to a height from which we saw all of Mexico City stretched out in its volcanic crater below and spewing city smokes and early dusklights. Down to it we zoomed, down Insurgentes Boulevard, straight toward the heart of town at Reforma. Kids played soccer in enormous sad fields and threw up dust. Taxi-drivers overtook us and wanted to know if we wanted girls. No, we didn’t want girls now. Long, ragged adobe slums stretched out on the plain; we saw lonely figures in the dimming alleys. Soon night would come. Then the city roared in and suddenly we were passing crowded cafes and theaters and many lights. Newsboys yelled at us. Mechanics slouched by, barefoot, with wrenches and rags. Mad barefoot Indian drivers cut across us and surrounded us and tooted and made frantic traffic. The noise was incredible. No mufflers are used on Mexican cars. Horns are batted with glee continual. ‘Whee!’ yelled Dean, ‘Look out!’ He staggered the car through the traffic and played with everybody. He drove like an Indian. He got on a circular glorietta drive on Reforma Boulevard and rolled around it with its eight spokes shooting cars at us from all directions, left, right, izquierda, dead ahead, and yelled and jumped with joy. ‘This is traffic I’ve always dreamed of! Everybody goes!’ An ambulance came balling through. American ambulances dart and weave through traffic with siren blowing; the great world-wide Fellahin Indian ambulances merely come through at eighty miles an hour in the city streets, and everybody just has to get out of the way and they don’t pause for anybody or any circumstances and fly straight through. We saw it reeling out of sight on skittering wheels in the breaking-up moil of dense downtown traffic. The drivers were Indians. People, even old ladies, ran for buses that never stopped. Young Mexico City businessmen made bets and ran by squads for buses and athletically jumped them. The bus-drivers were barefoot, sneering and insane, and sat low and squat in T-shirts at the low, enormous wheels. Ikons burned over them. The lights in the buses were brown and greenish, and dark faces were lined on wooden benches.
In downtown Mexico City thousands of hipsters in floppy straw hats and long-lapeled jackets over bare chests padded along the main drag, some of them selling crucifixes and weed in the alleys, some of them kneeling in beat chapels next to Mexican burlesque shows in sheds. Some alleys were rubble, with open sewers, and little doors led to closet-size bars stuck in adobe walls. You had to jump over a ditch to get your drink, and in the bottom of the ditch was the ancient lake of the Aztec. You came out of the bar with your back to the wall and edged back to the street. They served coffee mixed with rum and nutmeg. Mambo blared from everywhere. Hundreds of whores lined themselves along the dark and narrow streets and their sorrowful eyes gleamed at us in the night. We wandered in a frenzy and a dream. We ate beautiful steaks for forty-eight cents in a strange tiled Mexican cafeteria with generations of marimba musicians standing at one immense marimba – also wandering singing guitarists, and old men on comers blowing trumpets. You went by the sour stink of pulque saloons; they gave you a water glass of cactus juice in there, two cents. Nothing stopped; the streets were alive all night. Beggars slept wrapped in advertising posters torn off fences. Whole families of them sat on the sidewalk, playing little flutes and chuckling in the night. Their bare feet stuck out, their dim candles burned, all Mexico was one vast Bohemian camp. On comers old women cut up the boiled heads of cows and wrapped morsels in tortillas and served them with hot sauce on newspaper napkins. This was the great and final wild uninhibited Fellahin-childlike city that we knew we would find at the end of the road. Dean walked through with his arms hanging zombie-like at his sides, his mouth open, his eyes gleaming, and conducted a ragged and holy tour that lasted till dawn in a field with a boy in a straw hat who laughed and chatted with us and wanted to play catch, for nothing ever ended.

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Excerpt from “ANZACS” by Godfrey McLeod ~~Dick Baker~~

picture-anzacs-mcleodIt was obvious the commotion would bring more Turks – they were, after all, in their territory. Enemy soldiers were, in fact, crawling across open ground to a position on the other side of the Australians. Two dropped down behind the men and the fast-shooting Dick, whirling around, pulled his trigger faster than they could pull theirs. The other Turks slid back out of sight. The Australians realised they were surrounded.
‘We’ll have to clear ourselves a passage,’ said Dick. ‘I’ll have a squiz on the other side of the barrier – see how our bombardiers are doin’.’
‘Now take it easy, Dick!’ said Martin, trying to restrain his impetuous friend. ‘We’ll hold out better back to back!’
Dick grinned at him and clambered over the sandbags. Confronted by the cautiously advancing Turks, he ran full tilt into them, sticking his bayonet into two. Before they could react, he was back around the corner, panting, his back against the trench wall.
‘Okay?’ asked Martin over his shoulder while he watched the other side of the trench.
‘Sweet as a bun.’
From Dick’s position, the Turks around the corner could only approach in ones and twos. Men dropped each time they attempted to scramble over the barrier. Martin, meanwhile, was throwing bombs, keeping the other wave of attackers at bay. And then, above it all, they heard the cries of Australian voices – ‘Hang on Aussie; we’re nearly there!’
‘Keep it going, Marty!’ called Dick. ‘Only seconds to the final bell!’
Martin smiled, his face still turned to the other side of the trench. Then a shot rang out, loud and clear. And it echoed and bounced and ricocheted through his mind. He’d heard more than a half a million rifle shots at Gallipoli, despite his weeks away. But this single crack reverberated right through him. Before he turned, he knew what he would see. He tried to whip his head around, but it seemed to move in slow motion. His eyes rested on the Turk kneeling in the trench parapet, his rifle still trained on its target. Dick lay face down, already bleeding from the mouth. Martin was still moving in slow motion. He saw the Turk lift his rifle, point it at him – and heard the click.
Again it boomed through his brain. The sound of the rifle misfiring jerked Martin into action, now high-speed action, and he whipped his rifle up to hip level and shot, catching his mate’s killer in the head.
He didn’t hear the battle outside. He didn’t hear anything. For the first time the world was silent. He walked over to his friend, his dear mate, and slumped into a sitting position beside him. Now the blood was spreading, high up on his back.
‘Oh Dick . . . Dick’, he said, quietly. He raised his hands to his face. ‘Dick . . . Dick.’
Puttees, boots, men, Aussies, dropped into the trench. The Sergeant in charge surveyed the carnage. He saw only the dead Turks.
‘Crikey! We heard your little shindig. But it doesn’t look like you need us.’
Martin nodded toward Dick’s lifeless body. ‘It was mostly his work.’
The Sergeant was still looking around at the enemy. ‘He must’ve been a bloody goer.’
Martin tried to force out words. ‘He was protecting my back, I was supposed to protect his.’ Now the tears rolled unchecked down his face. They were going to go to Queensland.
‘A mate of yours, was he?’
No more words. Martin simply nodded. The Sergeant, a builder by trade, reached down and with as much gentleness as his roughened hands would allow, touched Martin’s cheek.
‘Come on, pal. Go back to your own mob. You’ve done your share.’
He helped Martin to his feet. The young Barrington stumbled off along the trench. ‘By the way,’ called the Sergeant, ‘the boys have taken Lone Pine.’
Martin didn’t hear him; didn’t want to hear him.

They buried Dick at night on a hill overlooking Anzac Cove. The makeshift cemetery was dotted with crude crosses and tablets in memory of the men whose bodies had been recovered. Many were still inaccessible, left where they had fallen. Some were to remain for years.
The platoon stood in silence as Armstrong pushed a rough cross, made out of a biscuit tin, into the mound of earth that covered the body of the young stockman whose first steps into the war were along the wattle-edged roads of western Victoria. The cross wobbled slightly in the warm wind that blew in from the Aegean. Its inscription said simply: ‘Pte Dick Baker. 8th Btn. A good mate. 6 Aug., 1915’.

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