|The Ruinous Choice of James Attkins
Author: Ismene21 PM
A short piece about a boy who runs away from home to join the Continental Army, without considering the consequences. Oneshot.Rated: Fiction K - English - Angst - Words: 772 - Published: 11-24-12 - id: 3077191
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
James Attkins was about to die. He did not know for sure, but the odds were stacked against him. He was too young to be here, armed, hidden and waiting in the foliage to ambush the redcoats. Adrenaline coursed through him as he waited, clutching his loaded musket. But he did not feel bloodlust; he did not feel the glory that was supposed to come with battle. He felt homesick. In those few moments preceding the attack, as he crouched in anticipation, James Attkins thought of his family, and the life he had left behind.
As a boy, James watched his father's skilled hands work in the carpentry shop, forming chairs and tables, bed frames and dressers for the people of the small Pennsylvania town. When he grew, James worked beside his father. He remembered the sharp smell of wood shavings, the soft glow of sunlight as it filtered through the dust motes, the roughness of the saw beneath his hand.
In the evening, James and his father returned home to the little white house where his mother and younger sister, Rebecca, waited to start supper. James could recall the way Rebecca's freckled face lit up when she saw him coming, her bright smile welcoming him home. He recalled his mother's kind words as he walked through the threshold after a long day. The Attkins family was not wealthy, but they were well off and happy. James liked who he was and where his life was taking him. That is, until the spring of 1776.
James had not been unaware of the tensions rising between the colonies and Britain in the last few years; he had overheard his father discussing the taxes, the rebels, the meeting of delegates in Philadelphia—not far from his home. Unease hung like a pall over the town. Whispers of war were everywhere, spreading like wildfire.
"Do you think we could win a fight for independence?" James had asked his father, a little too eager.
"We must hope it does not come to that," Mr. Attkins had replied. "Our difficulties would increase tenfold if we try to break from England."
"Then you support what England is doing? Are you blind?" He retorted, infuriated. For James had formed his own opinions from the information he had gleaned. Although he did not give voice to his opinions again, James remained obstinate in his views. The seeds of change had been planted and roots began to take hold of his life, estrange him from the father he loved, twist and darken his view of the world.
Months later, in the heat of the summer, Rebecca fell ill. Nobody was surprised; she had always been frail and sickly. That did not mean the hurt was any less. Sweet, innocent Rebecca—she was dying. Nothing the physician could do, nothing he could do, would change that. It had tortured James to watch her suffer. The current politics paled in significance. Not the declaration of independence, not the beginnings of a war that could make or destroy a nation, was more important to him.
"How long?" James had overheard his mother ask Dr. Mallory.
"Six months, a year at most…" James slinked off, having no desire to hear more.
With so much of his parents' attention turned toward his sister, James was left alone to brood. The war, his father's loyalist views, his sister—all were festering sores. Was it such a surprise he decided to run away from that, and towards the simplicity fighting offered?
The militias were desperate for men. James had seen recruiters in taverns all across town. He left his home one evening in early September, thoughtlessly eager to put his half-formed plan in action, to sign his life away to a cause he never truly believed in.
"Eighteen," he lied smoothly when they asked his age. They smiled as he signed his name.
"Welcome to the Continental Army."
The audible sounds of the British troops brought James out of his reverie. The mistakes he had made stood out as clearly as slashes of paint on an otherwise blank canvas. He had forsaken his sister, betrayed his father, and broken his mother's heart in one reckless act that had destroyed him. James knew now this fighting, this "revolution, was doomed to fail. It was with a heavy heart that fifteen year old James Attkins raised his weapon, waiting for the first shots to fire though the air.
A/N This is a piece I wrote several years ago. It has that thesaurus-open-on-the-desk feel, but is also sort of nostalgic.