Duty

The whole family was sat around the fire, the mother, the daughters, the little ones, the grandpa, and the boy.

“Nice and warm,” said the grandpa, “That cold outside will kill you. Nights are getting colder, means fall is coming.”

“I wish fall would never come,” said one of the little ones, “Because after that, winter will come.”

“Aye,” said the grandpa, “Winter comes for us all.”

“I wish tomorrow to be rainy,” said the eldest daughter, “It’s so hard working in the scorching heat. Days are still so fucking hot.”

“Aye,” said the grandpa.

“I wish the war would be over,” said the middle daughter, “So father could come home.”

“War is where the man needs to be,” said the grandpa, looking at the boy. “I would be there, if it were not for my damn old bones.”

The boy looked down at his feet, determined not to say anything.

“There’s nothing wrong with you, boy,” said the grandpa, “Why are you here with the women and children? Tell us all again.”

“War is a fool’s errand.”

“The country needs you.”

“War is started by the masters, and paid for with our lives.”

“It’s that reading you get. Too much of it will rot your brain.”

“No,” said the boy quietly. “No.”

“A man needs to stand up to the oppressor. Otherwise they will come and take our women, destroy our homes, kill us all.”

“No, they won’t.”

“Huh?” said the grandpa, pulling the pipe out of his mouth, “The fuck do you know, boy?”

“No, they won’t kill us all. They need us to plow the land, you see? Would we be doing something else under the oppressor?”

There was silence for a second.

“I wish,” said the mother, “That my children and this old man would finally go to sleep. We have to work tomorrow.”

“Aye,” replied everyone.

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