by JL Bogenschneider
I was born the day hostilities began. My parents insist there was no connection but some things are just too much of a coincidence. Jennifer Murray was born a month before me and thus has washed her hands of the conflict. I suspect this is why she gets the red beaker: a reward for keeping the peace. I do not like Jennifer Murray for these reasons. Also, she is taller than me.
I cried a lot that first day. This is natural, or so I’m told, but I find myself crying spontaneously even now. I am a child of war and for me there will always be cause for tears. Others seem to be less subject to its influence and pay it no mind or claim ignorance. When I asked Daniel Mayhew if he’d seen the evening news and its accompanying images, he looked at me in disgust, saliva drying at the edges of his lips — he is the type — and said he only watched Adventure Hour at that time, before wandering off to where the others were throwing and catching a ball: a child’s game with unexploded ordnance.
The teachers too, of whom I expect more, seem to avoid the matter. Once, when we were discussing what our next project should be, I — rarely the first to raise my hand — suggested we try to imagine what life was like before. But Miss Burrell sided instead with Jennifer Murray — of course! — who said we should learn about the fashions of the Romans and dress up as them; this, a people who practically invented the tank! I asked Jennifer Murray if she knew anything about irony, but she did what a lot of people do when they don’t wish to hear a thing: drank her milk and pretended not to hear.
Even my parents act as if nothing untoward occurs. This is disappointing, although I say nothing: they have the means to punish me and I am no hero. My father has banned me from reading the newspapers and my mother has rigged the radio so that it only broadcasts music from a period called the Good Old Days. I envy this audience. For me, nostalgia is something I can only hope for in the future.
Worst of all are the nightmares. Frequently, I wake my parents with my screams and it takes some time for me to be put at peace. Also, I have begun to wet the bed. Apart from the embarrassment this causes, it has hampered my social engagements as I cannot attend a sleepover without fear of waking on someone’s floor soaked in urine and terror, subject to derision from my peers. The doctor says I will grow out of it, but the doctor is a fool, for how does a person grow out of what has always been there and may never leave? The war is constant. It makes me sick, it makes me tired and I very much wish it to be gone.
JL Bogenschneider is a writer of short fiction, with work published in a number of print and online journals, including Strix, Isthmus, Bridge Eight, Ellipsis Zine, 404 Ink, PANK and Ambit.