The Beach: Part Three

by | Oct 27, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

‘Nia found what she was looking for. The plain, carved headstone was identical to the hundreds of others, except for the name.

Alessandro Marco Botti

The young woman kissed the palm of her hand and placed it on the top of the stone.

“Buongiorno Alessandro,” she whispered.

***

2nd. November, 1942. el Alamein, Egypt.

Alessandro Botti lay in the shell crater surrounded by the body parts of his former comrades.

Despite the oppressive heat, he was shaking violently, his skin felt like a cold wet blanket around his body. All of his senses had shut down he could no longer smell death he could no longer see carnage, he could no longer hear the racket of war.

Everything was calm and peaceful but his ears rang like the bells of his home city of Bologna. Alessandro closed his eyes and was transported back there. He swore he could hear the bell ringers of Il Campanil di San Petriono. He could see the bells summersaulting through three hundred and sixty degrees, the way only Bolognese bells could.

He felt his hands gripping the rope, feeling the power of the giant metal pendulum that was his bell. The power of its momentum coursed through his body. The voice of his uncle chanting the sequence of the chimes. Opening his eyes, he lifted both arms, poising to take his turn in the sequence.

What he saw was one solitary limb outstretched before him, his right. He could feel the left arm, right down to his fingers gripping the imaginary rope. However, nothing was visible. He waved his invisible arm around, feeling every sensation from his shoulder to the tips of his fingers.

Turning to his left, he examined the ragged hole in the bottle-green uniform where his arm should have been. Thick, scarlet blood was seeping through the frayed material. He groaned as reality sunk in. Alessandro hadn’t survived. It was a matter of time before he would join his compatriots in peace.

His stinging, dry eyes blinked as he scanned the crater for his own severed limb. It was then that he spotted the Botti signet ring on the pinky of the hand, several feet away. The ring his father had given him on his eighteenth birthday. From somewhere deep in his void emotions, a few salty tears coated his eyes and he blinked rapidly at their stinging presence. He felt that pain but not that of his severed limb.

“Resa! Resa!” A strange voice in an unfamiliar accent cut through his thoughts. Surrender, surrender? What did it mean? Was it his time? Could he finally embrace the serenity of death?

“Jesus, your arm,” continued the voice. It was English! Alessandro raised his head and blinked the thick oily tears away. The figure standing above him was dressed in uniform the colour of the pyramids. A large helmet, of the same yellow hue tilted on his head as the man spoke.

“Mi arrendo,” he managed to say through his parched lips. I surrender.

***

Charlie Knowles crouched behind the wrecked tank. The bullets, which had buzzed around him like a swarm of deadly wasps, had all but abated. Only the odd shell zipped over his head or bounced off the armour of the stricken vehicle with an empty clang.

If he could make it to the crater, ahead, he would have a better vantage point over the retreating Italians. Checking his watch, he noted that it had been five minutes since the last shot. An eerie calm had descended over the battlefield. Charlie left the cover of the tank and sprinted towards the crater. A solitary bullet zipped past his left cheek, leaving a numb chill on the side of his face. Looking up, the sight ahead chilled him further. A mass of dark green clad bodies were running…away from him.

Then it clicked. They’d run out of ammunition. He had to get this information back to his company. Hesitating, Charlie was torn between seeking the cover of the crater and returning to his own lines. The next and final bullet made the decision for him. It slammed into his helmet and sent him reeling backwards. With his head ringing from the impact, he rolled forward into the crater.

The young man before him was immaculately dressed in the dark green of the 25th Infantry Division, Bologna. All, except for his missing left arm. Charlie stood up, raised his rifle and shouted.

“Resa! Resa!” The man looked up lazily and Charlie swore he gave a faint smile.

1 Comment

  1. Ken Childs

    Good description of the horrors of war

    Reply

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