Chamberlain limped to a hay cart and felt a sudden agonizing pain in his foot. It was not the first time that day. Must sit somewhere. But where? Sat on the end of the cart, took his boot off. Ow. He hadn't expected blood, but his boot was flooded with it. Wrapped the foot with a cloth he had in his shirt front. Must get a surgeon to look at it later, when there aren't so many boys hurt. Must think on something else. Hmm...
Yesterday had been a hell of a fight. The charge was locked in his head, playing like a repeated bugle call through his mind's eye. Ellis led the left, he led the right. What a charge. Eighty men taking down four hundred Confederates. What a sight. He had never witnessed a battle so victorious.
Tom had said something this morning. Something about the similarities between the warring sides. "All of us 've seen too much of this war. Lawrence, I can't help but think maybe the rebs are tired o' fightin'." Chamberlain's foot stopped throbbing. Damn little brothers. They can be so brutally honest, catch you off your guard, make you feel things like sympathy, which wasn't appropriate in a war. The young people in the world ought to run this country... Too many fat old men. Lincoln was the black sheep. He was thin. Just about the only difference.
Foot hurts too much to think about politics. Maybe Tom will come back soon.
Brother Tom: a young lieutenant, Chamberlain's personal aide, one of two men who really understood him in the army, just enlisted last summer when the regiment formed. Ridiculous mustache hiding his upper lip, clean appearance, twenty-two years old. Tom was the comic relief in this war. He told jokes nonstop on the march, when it was allowed. The men accepted that he was the Colonel's brother, and in that knowledge did not lay a finger against him. Sure, he was teased; they called him "Little Rogue" in the ranks. He was the life of the party at home. Being the youngest brother made him slightly cocky.
The subject of his thoughts walked over, wiping away tears from long-lashed chestnut eyes. "Lawrence." His voice caught strangely in his throat.
Chamberlain sensed his brother's sadness without even looking at him. "Where were you?" Knew the answer already.
Tom looked sick. "I just came back from the hospital. God-awful mess." Swallowed visibly. "They got men lyin' ev'rywhere. They got no room, no shade. They cuttin' off arms and legs right out in the open." Leaned over, spat out stomach acid. "It's a bloody mess up there. They oughta not do that in public, Lawrence. The men have gotta scream sometime, ya know." Took a deep breath, swayed, leaned on the cart for support.
Chamberlain felt pity for him. He'd been through too much these past few days. "Have you seen Kilrain?" Knew there'd be a bad report, waited patiently, expectantly.
Tom nodded jerkily. "You could say that."
Oh, good Lord. The jokes again. Old Tom, trying to brighten up the mood. "Well... how is he?"
The younger man removed his kepi, eyes watering. Chamberlain could see his grip tighten on the soft fabric. "Well, Lawrence... " Chamberlain reached out to touch his brother comfortingly, thought better of it. "... He died." He was leaning heavily on the cart, balancing Chamberlain's weight. "Yeah. Died this morning, before I got there. I ran, fast as I could, but I couldn't get there in time." More tears. Did not bother to wipe them away. His voice cracked. "He told Sgt Owen to tell you goodbye, and that he was sorry. Owen didn't want to upset you, and he knew it would break your heart. So he sent me, seeing as I'm your brother." He finally broke down and cried. Chamberlain felt a great love. He stood up on the good foot, limped over to his little brother, put an arm around him, held him close, brushed dirt from his uniform. Tom was clinging to him as if he was the only stable thing in the world. It was hard to watch Tom fall apart. He only cried in their tent, and only in the dark of night. Never out in the open, not like this. Must be too shaken to care.
"Gosh, Lawrence." Tom's voice, muffled, from his shoulder. He let go. "I sure was fond of that man. I'm gonna miss him." He ran a shaky hand through his hair, smoothing it down.
Chamberlain nodded, massaged Tom's shoulder. "He was a good man. I shall miss him as well."
As soon as his brother had calmed, Chamberlain heard a cannon.
One by one, the cannons fired from the Confederate lines. Funny. It sounded like a heartbeat. Thump. Thump. Kilrain's heartbeat. You old mick, you left before your time. God bless you in heaven. Chamberlain lay on the ground, head covered. He noticed his brother in the same position, wiping his eyes, sniffling. There would be no more talks after each battle, telling him what he could have done, no more jokes from the old Irishman. Too much cannon fire to think straight. Scent of death, ironically, wafting from the hospital. It made his eyes sting. He reached out, took Tom's hand, held it for the briefest second. Needed proof he was still alive. Saw his face turn paper white, then pink. He closed his lids
Goodbye, Buster. You are greatly missed.