Jez sat in the back of an old Studebaker truck, bouncing in unison with other recruits as they drove through the Moscow military district. The fact that he was the only one whose greatcoat was too big for him cast his thoughts back to when he was younger.
Early 1941, and not quite 8 years old, Jez was sitting at the table in their hillside cabin. Sabbath supper had finished and he hung around wondering what to do next.
“Can I go out and play please, Poppa?” he asked.
Outside, the sun had become a memory and a sudden certainty told him he and his wooden rifle might be needed round the back.
Poppa combed his fingers through his great beard. “Yes, Jezer, for a little while anyway, but come straight in when Miriam tells you, okay?”
Who knows, there could be a threat from night prowlers. He eased from the chair as his younger brother Nat squeezed by, and horror filled Jez on noting it. Nat was just as tall as he was. Not that Nat’s height was important, but he was only six. Jez wasn’t growing fast enough.
Dreams of life as a soldier shattered before his eyes. Too small, the army wouldn’t want a little man. He looked down at his arms and things got worse: he was too skinny. He had to get out of the cabin, now. Picking up his wooden gun, he rushed through the door. If it hadn’t been for the tough character required of an infantryman, he might well have been close to tears. All the same, he had to find his big sister Miriam, and fast.
She was round the back gathering up Rachael and Lydia so she could get them ready for bed. She spun at the sound of his approach and, with a swiftness surprising even his military prowess, grabbed him tightly.
“My beautiful little soldier,” she said, and swung him round until they fell on the grassy bank that ran down to the cabin. “I don’t know how you would manage without that rifle by your side.”
They laughed, but then the mirth faded and his bottom lip pushed out.
“Whatever’s wrong with my little man?” she asked, and her smile paled as she dabbed a finger at the offending article.
His big sister was the only one he could talk to about his passion. “I don’t think the army will want me, Miriam,” he replied, and pouted some more.
“Whatever makes you think that?”
“Already Nat is taller than me, and I’m even skinnier than the girls. Why would the mighty Red Army want a skinny little man?”
Miriam pondered without expression and then said, “Silly, there’s still plenty of time for you to grow and become as big as you hope to be; but even if you don’t, they would want you for your strength and swiftness. And you’re clever. Don’t worry, Jez, things will work out – you’ll see.”
Of course, that was the answer. He would study hard. He would be faster and stronger than anyone could be. Already he was more powerful than his older brother, and much more so than Nat. He could do it. Heart swelling back to full size, he hugged Miriam and she laughed out, as the wooden gun poked between them.
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Genre - Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Rating – R
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