The following remarkable story won Gavin Luymes, a grade eight student from Abbottsford, and honourable mention in the Lisa Rector Scholarship competition.If you'd like more information on the scholarship, please contact Lisa Rector by email at:
”I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. What do you want to hear first?” I reported.
Captain Price shook the sand from his gun barrel. “What’s the bad news?”
“They’ve got Private Macgregor.”
“And the good news?”
“They haven’t killed him yet.”
Price finished cleaning sand from his rifle and started on his pistol. The rest of the boys in the 7th Armored Division looked up eagerly. We had all seen that even when Price got after Macgregor for his crazy stunts, the crusty Captain always had a glimmer in his eye.
When Price finished with his pistol, he asked a simple question. “Where is he?”
“You know that small, walled town below us? The Germans must have him there,” I said.
We’d been here in Africa, fighting for several months now. The Germans were digging in, clinging to a ring of defense in Tunisia. “The Germans—they’re going to transfer him to a POW camp soon.”
Price swore, and turned away into the burning sun sinking below the sandy dunes. “Let’s go!” he cried. The men followed him like dusty shadows over the top of the dunes. I saw a small town curled up against the sea. The sun shone on the minarets and houses, glaring at us. On the other side of the walled town there was a small arch with a dusty road leading all the way to Tunis.
Then from the direction of the town a growling noise ripped through me. The sand leapt up around us, obscuring our vision as we rushed down the dune. The Germans were firing at us hard with a deployable MG-42 machine gun.
“Get to the wall!” Price screamed. “Get to the wall!” I threw a grenade at the machine gun nest. It went down in flames, sandbag and body fragments falling from the wall.
“Good throw, Davis!” yelled Sergeant Macmillan. “Climb the ropes and get up the wall!” Price had attached ropes to the top, and I pulled myself up. Several men were pinned down in the streets on the other side, crouching against a wall.
“Davis, there you are! Take these explosives and flank that tank!” said Price. The tank’s six-pounder gun had the men cowering down into the dust. We had no bazooka or PIAT weapons. I swallowed hard. I had to flank the tank through dusty, shattered alleys and pin the explosives on its huge bulk. Either we troop like dogs back home or save Macgregor. All or nothing.
Private Griffen went with me. We kicked down a door, cut through the empty house, and came up behind the tank. “You’re up, Sarg,” said Griffen. I crept up to the monster from behind and stuck it with the explosives. “Fifteen seconds! Hurry!” Griffen whispered. I crawled back to cover and the tank blew up behind me.
The men joined us behind the hulk of the tank. “The German HQ’s up ahead,” Price said. “Let’s go.” We moved through the town slowly, but encountered nothing. “HQ’s around this corner,” whispered Price after a while. “Watch for a sniper.” Price ripped off his red Scottish hat and stuck it around the corner. A shot cracked the air, and suddenly a smoking hole appeared in the fabric. “Left window! Fifth floor! Shoot, Ryder!”
“Yes sir!” He moved around the corner, prepared to fire with his Springfield 22. He fired twice, thrown by the recoil of the rifle. Another crack split the air, but it wasn’t from his rifle. An even hole scarred his helmet, and he fell back as his rifle clattered a meter away. Price covered his mouth, seasoned veteran though he was.
“Davis, get out there and grab that rifle,” Price ordered.
“No, sir,” I said.
“That’s an order!”
Swearing quietly, I prepared myself. I jumped into the open, grabbing the Springfield out of the dirt. Suddenly a shot echoed, blowing a fountain of sand into the air. I twisted around, glancing through the scope. I saw nothing, only a single curtain with two holes in it. Two holes. The German must have fired through the curtain! I steadied the rifle. The German had to be reloading behind the curtain. I exhaled and fired.
It was a clean shot. I saw a body fall from behind the curtain below the window sill. “Got him!” I called.
“Good,” muttered Price. “Move!” We ran up to the door. I discarded the sniper rifle for a submachine gun. Price himself smashed the door down and headed in.
We searched the house several times. Finally, Griffen got frustrated.
“Where are you, Macgregor?” he yelled. He punched a large urn with a tapestry behind it. The fabric waved back and forth to reveal a secret room. Suddenly shots echoed around the hall. We spotted a German in the doorway. He was wearing an officer’s cap and firing a Luger pistol at us, cutting us down, blowing us back. Griffen peered around the corner with a rifle and fired twice, missing. He was suddenly hurled against the wall, body twisting in a dreadful convulsion.
“Griffen!” I cried. “No!” Price stepped up and shot the German in the chest. He was dead before he hit the ground. “Leave him, Davis. There’s nothing you can do now,” Price said, his hand on my shoulder.
“Macgregor must be past here. Hurry lads, let’s go!” said Macmillan impatiently. We moved down the hall. Further down there were several cells. Price hurried up. They were empty. Price swore once. “We’re too late. Let’s go. At least we took this cruddy town…”
Gloomily, we plodded back to the platoon, a few miles away. Suddenly Price looked up. We followed his gaze. Sitting in a Willy’s Jeep was Macgregor.
“You!” cried Price. He looked livid, his open face twisted. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Macgregor said innocently, one of his cocky smiles lighting up his face. I sighed. It was going to be an interesting ride home.
Story by Gavin Luymes, copyright, 2008.
also blogging as leftwriter