Monday, July 13, 2009

Entry #97

Judgment Day
by Peter Dudley (pjd)


The younger vines below stand like gnarly Jesuses, wired to their posts, monuments to the dozens whose blood soaked this soil under the roar of his machine gun. I puff my way up the dirt path to his plain farmhouse dug into the hillside. My leg aches as if his German bullet were still lodged in the bone, these fifty years later.

Sweating, I arrive at the faded green door surrounded by once-white trim, brittle with age. As I lean to knock, the door swings inward. My heart races. My leg throbs.

“Bonjour,” he says. His weathered face is furrowed with timeless grief. His crooked hand is worn hard and smooth. His eyes, however, have softened. No longer the cold, leaden discs of my nightmares, they are now clouded and wet. “Come in. Please.”

He ushers me in, seats me, pours. “I’ve been saving this.” The label’s thick script reads, Sang du TombĂ©, blood of the fallen. “It’s the last of my very first vintage.” His voice dies, leaving the final word lingering, and he lowers his face to his hands.

As he sobs, I exhume the small vial of arsenic from my pocket and open it. He looks up, into my eyes. I can see that if I pour it into his wine, he will drink. “I’ve been saving this,” I say, and I set the vial next to the bottle. I rise and depart, leaving him alone with his regret and his decision.

44 comments:

The Preacherman said...

A collaborator getting his come uppance at long last?

Particularly love the descriptive style of this story. I could picture everything very clearly in what passes for my mind.

Great writing.



Four Dinners

Aniket said...

And reigning champion is here... and is still going strong.

This is a very strong piece. Great description. Poignant images. And a splendid ending.

Perfect ingrediants for another winner.

Come on Pete, give other's chance. :)

Laurel said...

That was rock solid. The description is downright chewy.

And the image of the collaborator producing wine fed with the blood of the betrayed is...breathtaking.

Wow.

Tessa said...

A richly powerful, evocative story with great psychological depth. I'm awestruck.

Ello said...

Excellent. Simply excellent. But how interesting that we both provided WWII pieces but from the different theaters!

I loved your ending. It was perfect.

Adisha said...

Wonderful story . I really enjoyed reading it !!!

The man waiting for the vengence that he knew would come back to him , maybe haunting him even, was amazing !!!

wrath999 said...

Wow, brillaint!

Great opening line

alex

pjd said...

Wow, thanks everyone for the very kind words. I still think this might be trying to do too much in such a small space, but from the comments it looks like it succeeded more than I expected.

El, I haven't seen yours yet but will definitely get to it. Can't wait!

Catvibe said...

Pete I loved it. I love that he leaves the man with the decision. I love the setting, and could feel the emotion. Gnarly wines like Jesuses on crosses, awesome! Your writing is really quite amazing.

Merry Monteleone said...

Pete, this is absolutely breathtaking. Unbelievably well done... and now I'm dying to know the full backstory... though I'm building my own - which is the mark of great storytelling.

Awesome.

Bebo said...

Wow. Love that one man waited to deliver vengeance while the other waited to receive it.

Excellent storytelling!

Precie said...

So evocative! I kind of like that the backstory isn't spelled out...I think it makes the context that much more powerful.

Excellent!

laughingwolf said...

very well done, pete...

Karen said...

PJD - Excellent! You have said all that needs to be said. This is strong in all aspects.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Here's my favorite line: No longer the cold, leaden discs of my nightmares, they are now clouded and wet. (Reference to the eyes of the enemy)

Here's why I like it so much: The main character leaves the arsenic for his enemy knowing there's still a possibility of death. Is it out of pity? Or revenge? The way I see it, the main character is showing empathy regardless of the outcome. Forgiveness? Probably not. First line gives us that. Intriguing piece.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I love the poignancy of this piece, but I'm not surprised, Pete. You always paint a beautiful picture, although bitter.

I felt all the textures and layers. I like how the protag leaves the punishment up to the punished.

Hoodie said...

Great attention to detail with backstory woven throughout.

A strong piece. Very nice.

Meghan said...

I agree that this story is extremely evocative. Excellent work!

Mona said...

Wow! this is a powerful piece. So much packed in few words.

I love the irony in the name of the wine. Surely the blood of the fallen has come to score its pound of flesh. ( Karmic cycle complete)

I wonder if he will drink it. He has been allowed a choice, to live or redeem himself, or to face poetic justice.

Clearly, this is one of my favorite piece!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Rich, powerful and poignant writing - brilliant job, a truly excellent story!

Margaret said...

Excellent story with a brilliant ending!

BernardL said...

Some things have no statute of limitations.

Liz said...

I was riveted. I did a WWII research report in school and a graphics project college, but this seems so much more personal since it was set in 1st person. I interviewed a grandson on the American side online. We are so much more fortunate in this time in age, even with the recession and Iraq war going on.

pjd said...

I have finally read the first 96, and I am a little overwhelmed with the average quality of the entries. Tomorrow, onward with #98 and forward.

Thank you all again for your comments.

JR, you expressed in your comment exactly what I thought of the ending, and of that line. In fact, after my (very flawed) first draft, I expressed almost those exact words to my wife (who was not shy about letting me see the flaws in the first draft). (No, my wife never saw the second draft, not yet. So I haven't had the luxury of having the flaws pointed out. Because I know all y'all here are far too nice for that!)

A sincere, heartfelt thank-you to everyone who read and commented. I wish I had the stamina to reply individually to each as many of you have done, but alas you are better people than I.

One thing I've noticed, in contrast to the last contest, is a severe lack of humorous pieces. The escalator resulted in a number of hilarious, laugh-out-loud shorts. This has a few (so far) amusing ones, but mostly it's death death death. There's probably more dead bodies here than a typical Rambo movie. Maybe if Jason had picked white wine, we'd have gotten funny stories.

J. M. Poirot said...

I loved this piece! Peter, your writing style is really incredible. You are very talented. Looking forward to reading more of your work, maybe in the form of a published book or short story one of these days?

JaneyV said...

Peter, I'm blown away. From the opening line with its imagery of sacrifice

The younger vines below stand like gnarly Jesuses, wired to their posts

which I think was the most perfect opener I've read, you grabbed your readers and held us in your grip to the very last word. Superb writing.

PS - just for you, I went down the humour route ;0)

Deb S said...

Nice writing. Loved the line-His weathered face is furrowed with timeless grief.-

Chris Eldin said...

LOL at your white wine comment!
:-)

This is truly an exceptional piece of writing. It leaves me wanting to learn the backstory of these two characters. I think the ending is perfect. I'm glad you didn't spell anything out for us. I enjoyed your story very much!!

Sonia said...

Amazing! I like the vengeance part in the story

Aerin said...

Okay, I was one of the first commenters on this before blogspot took my comment (wah) - but I said something to the effect of:

Obviously I love the "gnarly Jesuses" - it feels almost like a romantic line to me, and sets up an intimacy for the scene.

However, I really feel we should have a chat. You don't have to win every contest, you know. Youl could try to slip up, just a wee bit, to give others of us plebians a chance.

Profoundly well done.

Aerin said...

Youl = you

Terri said...

Um, Wow. So much of humanity in so few words.
Outstanding.

Stephen Parrish said...

A kindred Clarity-of-Night time traveler! (You know what I mean.)

The imagery is what I would expect from a reigning champion. If you can write passages that end with powerful expressions like "leaving him alone with his regret and his decision," you can write anything.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Awesome the second time around, Pete. *sigh* Amazing piece.

pjd said...

You all are so very nice.

I am going to print this comment thread and put it in every drawer of my house and work, just so if I ever feel inadequate in any way, I can read these comments and revive my self-worth. Talk about pumping someone up!

What is the nicest of all is that no one called me out on my use of google translator to come up with the lone French phrase here. I'm sure it's a lame transliteration rather than a true idiom, but my source didn't get back to me before the submission deadline, so I had to go with Google translator. So, to all of you who know anything about French, I say: Thank you for not calling me on it. :-)

OK, on to the remaining 27!

Dottie Camptown said...

PJD, this was one of the last entries left for me to read, and I am so glad. This is brilliant and interesting and very well-written. Great ending. So much more interesting than a less talented writer might have made it.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I thought I'd comment on your observation: "One thing I've noticed, in contrast to the last contest, is a severe lack of humorous pieces."

You're certainly on the money here, but why not laughter and the feeling of uneasiness toward that laughter?

I'm down to ten picks, and my deciding factor will probably be which story is showing the most "TRUTH IN WINE," whether directly or indirectly. It's not an easy decision to make.

Rabid Fox said...

Oooh, this was a good one. This was one of the five I fretted over in voting for "reader's choice." I went with another story, but have to say this was wholly entertaining.

JR's Thumbprints said...

You made my top five.

pjd said...

Dottie, JR, Fox.... you flatter me beyond words. Thank you!

McKoala said...

Sharp stuff pjd. A well deserved place in readers choice! Well done.

jason evans said...

Very strongly written. A brutal choice. Some say crimes are never erased. But people who were are erased in time. As we see, that man doesn't exist anymore.

Welcome to The Forties Club!

Jaye Wells said...

It's easy to see why this was a reader favorite. Strong writing, powerful themes, depth that goes beyond 250 words. Nice job!

Corra McFeydon said...

Exceptional piece here. So much description, feeling, and tension packed into so few words.

Powerfully drawn.

(Congrats on the Forties Club!)

~ Corra