A middle-school girl walked into the building, but she was late by two weeks. It was the end of the day, and her last class would start in ten minutes. Creative writing was her favorite course. She quietly went into the room past the teacher, Ms. Marvel, who waited a moment to speak while maneuvering around the desk at the front of the room.
Shuffling through a clipboard of papers, she asked, “Mia? Aw, you’re not on my list.” Calling across the hall, she said, “Ms. Kraus, do you have Mia in your class?”
“Oh, yes,” Ms. Kraus replied.
Mia cringed, of the two teachers, Ms. Marvel was her favorite. Gossip about Ms. Kraus wasn’t kind.
“Go to Ms. Kraus. I’m sure you can write volumes after your summer travels.”
Off Mia went across the hall to sit in the only remaining seat in the front of the room. Her classmates snickered.
“Alright class,” Ms. Kraus growled, “in the last class we started a composition on the outdoors, I want you to continue writing.”
Directing her eyes straight at Mia, she said, “Mia, there are no other guidelines for this assignment, use your imagination, write what you want. Ask questions if you need to, but we won’t be reading excerpts until the next class. The writing has to be at least two hand-written pages. You may speak to your classmates sitting to your right and left if you like, but only about your topics for encouragement.” She opened a book and began to read to herself.
“Yes, Ms. Kraus.” It didn’t take long for Mia to decide how to deal with the ‘outdoor’ assignment. She began frantically writing a rough-draft and decided to worry over the details later. Here is what she wrote…
The four boys were dressed in disguise. They walked along the road with there green jackets and rucksacks. The travel was rough as it had rained the day before. The path was muddy, with deep divots from erosion. They were hungry. Tall wheat grass with tall heads surrounded them. They broke off some of the tops and chewed the tough, sweat pieces. Soon they heard marching behind them. Hiding in the grasses, they waited.
“Hey, you there, come out. What are you doing here?”
The boys emerged from the berm with their heads held down. “Nothing sirs, we are just playing.” They thought they would be shot on the spot, but the soldiers just told them to stay away from the road.
“Go home. These times are not for play.”
They scurried away, grabbing their rucksacks from behind a tree. Thankfully, the soldiers did not see through their disguise; children they were not. Their ancestors had not given them bears to show their actual age. When the road was clear, they continued to walk but were more careful. They were lucky they were not captured on their way to the church on the hill. Very few people knew of this particular church. Their captain had told them to protect its inhabitants, and that was what they intended to do.
Further down the road, they came to the edge of the woods, up ahead was a clearing. The taller and more nibble of the three climbed up a tree to get a view of the meadow. On the other side, he saw an arched stone bridge with an active stream below that lead to another woods. If they could get there quickly, they could fill their canteens.
He came down the tree and reported to the others. “If we slow the pace down through the meadow grasses, they should only move a little. We should able to pass over with the breeze undetected.”
The others nodded before they moved forward. The breeze cooperated with their mission, but the ground was softer than the path they had left behind. After about an hour, they got to the bridge and ducked underneath just before an enemy brigade thundered overhead. This time they remained unnoticed. As soon as the way was clear, they took a moment to pull out their map to check their compass bearings. They had a few miles to go, but they would have to stay hidden. Before they moved on, they filled their canines with the crystal-clear water. They dropped iodine tables in to make sure they killed any invisible bacteria. Each one then choked through an MRE without adding any water to the freeze-dried food. They didn’t have an hour to wait for the iodine to do its job.
They were soon on their way, and within two hours, they reached the church. Several nuns greeted them at the stone entrance arches, followed by—much to their surprise—a dozen children to protect. Their orders did not include children, but the Mother Superior explained that the church was the only safe place for them during the war. The men presented their written orders to the nun.
During the next two days, the young men had plenty of time to rest and get to know their surroundings as well as gain their host’s trust while they took turns sleeping and guarding the grounds. This truth soon became false when a group of seedy looking scraggly troops appeared over the horizon. The young soldiers hid the children in the church’s barn loft, covered them with straw, told them to be completely still and quiet.
The bell rang. Mia extracted herself from the words on the page. She closed her notebook before standing and leaving the room. Another day she might finish her story.