We met on the Champs de Elysée and spent three perfect days together drinking coffee in street side cafés each morning, making love in the afternoon and sipping Champagne and smoking Gitanes cigarettes in the evenings. I felt like Hemingway must have felt when he was in Paris except I was a soldier and I was fighting a fucking war. Her name was Guinevere and when we kissed goodbye on a warm Parisian evening just before I boarded the troop train that would take me back to the front; she asked if she would see me again. I smiled, kissed her again and told her I sure the hell hoped so.
Funny thing about being with a bunch of guys, the SOB’s can read you like a book. The minute I got back from leave, they started giving me the needle. “Jonesey got a little, Jonesey’s in love. On and on, I just grinned and bared it. That night in my tent the ribbing continued but I fell asleep dreaming of Guinevere’s shining dark hair and dancing green eyes and hearing the way she called me Jonesey with a delicious French accent. It was music to my ears.
I was a kid from a little ranching town in Idaho. The only girls I knew showed lambs at the county fair and after meeting Guinevere, I thought they were dull and boring Guinevere was smart, worldly, and bold. She talked to me about the war, asked me what I thought about it and what my dreams were when it was over. Hell yeah, I was in love.
The next day, we were out on patrol in the southern French countryside. It was quiet and warm. I was thinking about her when I heard a low rumble in the sky. Just about the time I saw the approaching German bombers flying toward us in a tight formation, small arms fire started up from directions all around us. Most of it was coming from a forested area to the east and a couple of abandoned farm houses to the west. We advanced a half mile or so to the northwest where there was an overgrown vineyard that covered forty acres or so. It would provide some cover and more importantly, a bit time so that we could determine what the Krauts had up their sleeve.
We were a full battalion and it appeared, at least initially, that we had them outnumbered. Our advance scouts had gotten a couple of miles ahead and radioed back that there was no further sign of the enemy. The bombers must have been headed elsewhere as they passed overhead and gradually out of site. We heard that an entire English brigade was inflicting heavy losses on a German stronghold twenty miles to the south.
It was determined that half of us should circle around the abandoned houses and the other half be ready to provide cover should the German infantry emerge from the trees. I stayed in the vineyard. The shooting had stopped and I became drowsy in the heat of the afternoon. I was again thinking about Guinevere, wondering when and if I might see her again.
Right about then, a firefight broke out between our troops and the Germans in the first farmhouse. They had a machine gun in there and the gunner started mowing our boys down like spring grass. We kept advancing though and one of the guys tossed a grenade through a window that had not seen glass in a long while and that took care of that. But then a hundred or so Krauts busted out of the woods and things got crazy. They were coming right for us and I couldn’t figure out why. Then, I felt the ground rumble and I knew we were in trouble. I saw the first tanks and shortly after, the foot soldiers came into view. It seemed as if there were thousands of them. The order was given to retreat and we wasted no time getting the hell out of there. Slowly however, they began overtaking us. We were literally running for our lives. Guys were going down all around me and I’m not ashamed to say I was crying. Crying and praying and wishing I was with Guinevere, in her room on a long, brightly lit French spring afternoon, just holding her in my arms while the day slipped easily by.
Right about then, I caught one, high up in the back near my right shoulder. It felt like a fire burned right through me and white hot flame continued to burn my body. As I lay there, the German soldiers rushed by, chasing our guys that were still running. Then, I blacked out. I dreamt about her and was at peace. I guess I even wondered if I had died and thought that maybe it wasn’t so bad.
I came to in one of the old farmhouses. There was a bunch of medics there and a lot of guys were worse off than me- guys with legs or arms missing or guys that were paralyzed. The medics told me I was going to be okay and that trucks were on their way to take us to a nearby airfield to be med evacked.
A day later, I was in an Army hospital in Paris. I wondered where she was and if she had any idea I was here. They patched me up and told me I was going home. As the plane climbed above Paris, I knew I would never see her again.
I went back to Idaho and married one of those dull country girls. Our kids show lambs at the county fair and all in all it’s not a bad life. Every spring I’ll go to Boise and buy a pack of Gitanes in a fancy store downtown. In the evening, I’ll go out to the barn to smoke and I think of her and Paris and can’t help but wonder if she ever thinks about me. If nothing else, we will always have those three days and I will forever be glad that we did.