“Valcartier Army Camp. New wood, probably mine, new buildings and same idiots running it,” said Brian softly to one of the men standing around the fire.
“You here in the Great War?” asked a young soldier.
“Aye. I’m only forty-four, but too damn old to be Corporal Davy,” said Brian. They’d given him the same rank he had when he demobbed all those years ago. Now three weeks into basic training, he was damned tired of it. Especially of the young British officer that thought he knew everything.
The men nodded. Several of the older men were Great War veterans and it was as if the Army didn’t know what to do with them. They trained along with all the fresh faced young men that would die long before the tough older bastards would. Experience counted in war.
“Hey Davy, the Captain is hollering for you,” said another private.
Brian looked around. The Captain was hollering. However, he couldn’t tell who was wanted, so they all moved up in the end. The Captain had a piece of paper in his hand and waited until most of the regiment had gathered around him.
“Men! I need the following men to step forward,” he said. “Afferton, Abbots, Baily, Benoit, Beleau, Carlson, Carter, Davy, Ditterson, Jameson, Kendal, Morris, Oates, Perrie, and Tomas.”
The men looked at each other and realized that he’d called almost every Great War vet’s name. The men stepped up as the rest fell back.
“Hey, Papa, they gonna kick you out for being too old?” asked Henri.
“Non! Someone need wipe your ass!” Brian hissed at his son-in-law.
Henri smiled. He’d been worried about Brian, and in a way, he hoped that they were sending the older men home.
“As of today, all men of the rank of Corporal are now Sergeant. Sergeant’s are now Staff Sergeant’s, and Staff Sergeant’s are Sergeant Majors, or Warrant Officers. Step forward and receive your rank,” hollered the Captain.
Brian blinked. Then he stepped up, still thinking this was some kind of horrid dream. He still was in shock when he looked down and saw Sergeant stripes in his hand. “Captain! Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes! We need you older men to help with the younger ones. Plus, you speak French. According to some of you, I barely speak English, so we need you. The Army is making French Units and for some of them, we will need all the skills we can find. Therefore, your age, your language skills and your military skills are needed. Specifically now!” the Captain shouted.
“Aye Captain,” Brian said as he walked away from the assembly. “Damn! Damn! Damn!” he thought. Part of the way that most of the shifters coped was by being low profile. Now he would have those damn stripes on his sleeves.
The 1st Canadian Infantry Division set sale for England in December of 1939. 58,000 men had enlisted. Brian swore that all 58,000 were on this boat and vomiting. Him included. The Aquitania was no smoother than the ship he took in the Great War. His stomach was no better either. At least the men around him didn’t howl too much.
When the ships docked in Clyde, Brian kissed the ground. He hated ships. From there they marched inland and were transported to Aldershot. The majority of the men were given two days to clean up and get their land legs. The barracks were made of wood, with small stoves. The days were cold and the nights colder. No one was use to the damp English weather and bit by bit, men came down sick. Worse yet, this was one of the coldest winters on record for England.
Brian had his hands full as did all the men who’d been moved up in the ranks. His only luck was that his ‘aptitude’ with dogs was noted and he was put in charge of the animals. It made it easier to deal with those men who were already having problems. One good side to this situation was that the rabbit population was having a mysterious decline in the area around Aldershot.
His son-in-law Henri was not under his direct command, but his son Henry, Jacque and some of the other men from the village were. He made sure that those that shifted worked in pairs when it came to guard duty. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. This time, shifting in battle was going to be a bad thing. Too many people, too much mechanized equipment. Too many chances to be seen.
Some of the men didn’t stay at Aldershot long. Hitler had made allies with Japan so some men started the long journey east. As much of it was by boat, Brian was relieved he was not selected. A small contingent of French Canadians went to France early in 1940. They got as far as Laval and then turned back. Many of them returned in the mess that was Dunkirk. The rest of the Canadian regiments trained, trained other soldiers and acted as support for English troops that moved onto the European front. The one thing that they didn’t do is go to the Front. It drove the men crazy to just sit and wait.
Moral among the Canadian army began to drop. There was nothing to do and the men were ready to fight. They listened avidly to the radio when Pearl Harbor was hit and followed the very short exploits of the Canadian divisions in Hong Kong and their defeat even though they were outnumbered 5 to 1. They read the papers and listened to the radio and waited to be called.
Staff Sergeant Brian Davy spent all day in civilian court. Three of his men were up on charges. Fighting, destruction of private property and three charges of harassing neighborhood flocks. Luckily the three missing sheep had been found. Otherwise the charge would have been theft. He no sooner got back than the Major pulled him in to complain about the men writing letters home telling people not to enlist. He told the Major that he’d do what he could. The bigger issue was that there weren’t enough officers for all the headstrong men that had enlisted. These were men use to being alone in the wilderness and isolated in small towns for months on end and none of them took well to taking orders from people who never saw a days work in their lives. This situation led to issues with training as well. None of these soldiers had any actual battle experience. They had months and months of training, and that was it.
“We’re bored!” said Henry. “It’s no wonder we get in trouble. Hell, how long has it been since you’ve had a letter?” he asked his father. Some of the men had now been at Aldershot for nearly four years. There was no rotation for leave as ships weren’t available. Too many had been sunk by the German Wolfpack subs. Plus, the Army was afraid that if they let the men go home, they wouldn’t return.
“I know!” yelled Brian. “We were some of the first to enlist! It has been 58 long months since I saw your maman. 58 months when my only comfort has been my hand! Unlike some of you who who’ve gotten wives and children!”
“Well, what the hell do you expect? We aren’t priests! We’re men! Yes, I have a girlfriend, but I don’t intend to marry her. I don’t have any children, but damn I need to have some comfort other than this uniform!” yelled Henry back at his father. He’d written home to Maggie and explained. She’d been okay with it, unlike some of the wives. In fact, some of the wives had already written letters telling their husbands that they’d gotten a divorce. If headquarters had it right, there were 1222 marriages in 1940 alone. Some of them had already sent these new wives and children home to Canada for safety as the bombings in and around London grew worse.
“For once, I wish that we were fighting the Germans instead of ourselves!” yelled Brian. He’d had enough. If all went well, he’d be running across the moors tonight. It had been too long for so many things.
Henry stomped out of the barracks and headed off to his girlfriend’s house in town.
Wolf ran. Pack members had found him and they hunted on the highlands around the smelly man camp. Rabbits, a goat and two sheep fed the pack. Wolf ran through a stream to clean the blood off of his fur. It was getting warm and the sticky heat made pack members go a bit crazy. Wolf stretched his legs and headed farther up the moor. The rest of the pack fell back as he ran.
“BAAAAAahhhhh!” cried the furballs as he split the herd like a bullet. His tongue hung from his mouth as he grinned. Wolf heard the bark of the shepard dogs as they began to hunt for him. He ran through the herd again and then vaulted over the wall. Catching his breath a little bit later, he looked back to see the dogs and men still trying to calm down the furballs.
Wolf loped back to the spot where the fence had a split, slipped between and made his way to the wooden houses. He curled up on the bunk that belonged to the man and went to sleep.
“Staff Sargent Davy!” cried the Major who had been a Captain just a month ago.
Brian blinked and realized that the Major was standing at the foot of his bed and that the light had barely begun to show through the windows.
“Sir?” replied Brian.
“Wake up! I need you dressed and down at the kennels right this moment!” screeched the Major.
“Yes Sir!” replied Brian. He started to get up and realized that he had mud on his feet and all over the sheets. “Damn!” he thought. “Getting careless.” He waited until the Major was completely out of the room before he got up. Luckily the mud came off easily. Brian swept the mud out of the bed, made it and got dressed. He reported to the kennels just as dawn began to break. As he approached, he saw the problem and why the Major was having hissy fits. In the kennel with the German Shepherds was Corporal Tomas. Naked.
“Let me handle this Major,” said Brian.
The Major blinked and stood off to one side. Brian didn’t open the kennel, but instead crouched down and began to speak Metis softly and quietly. In a moment, Tomas blinked, and sat up. He realized where he was and just let his head sink back down onto his knees. He was crying.
Brian made motions for the rest of the men watching to move away. He took a blanket that Henry had brought him and slowly walked into the kennel. The dogs sniffed him, and moved away. When he got to Tomas, he offered him the blanket. Tomas took it and wrapped up in it.
“Eh, Tomas. You okay?” Brian asked quietly.
“Non, I wan’ go home. Can’ take this no more. Can’ breath. I miss my mate. She cry, I cry. Is no good,” Tomas said under his breath. He was shaking, and it wasn’t from cold.
“Come. Let’s get you clean. Fed. We talk,” said Brian.
Tomas nodded and let Brian lead him from the kennel. They walked to the barracks.
An hour later, Brian stood in front of the Major’s desk. He’d tried to figure a good way to explain things and wasn’t sure if it would work.
“Major, he got drunk and next thing he know, he is waking up in the kennel. He thinks one of the English make a joke and stick him there. He is heartsick. Can’t cope no more. He wants to leave and go home,” said Brian. While partially the truth, the local Englishmen had been none too friendly to the Canadians lately.
“Well, I’m not sure how we can send him home,” said the Major. He didn’t know all of what was going on, but there were weird things happening that made him wonder if he wasn’t crazy. He swore he’d seen a man walk into a building the other night and a wolf walk out. Worse yet, there had been all kinds of mud, fur and gorse on Staff Sargent Davy’s bed this morning. He’d swear that it had looked like Davy hadn’t shaved in years too. A full beard on his face, and yet by the time Davy reported, not a trace of that beard or signs that he’d had time to shave.
“Say he crazy. Not far off. We all goin’ crazy Major. When we ever goin’ to fight?” asked Brian.
“Well, um… I guess I can write him up. It wouldn’t hurt to do so. As for fighting, I think we will be going into action very soon,” he trailed off.
Brian stood there as he wrote the orders to send Corporal Tomas home to Canada.
Natalie stood on the steps of the cabin. She watched her grandchildren run about in the sunshine. It had been far too long since she’d held Brian in her arms. The flannel shirt he’d worn the day before he left had almost lost all scent. It was worn to threads as well. Natalie had been sleeping with it all this time.
A long lanky figure headed for the cabin. It was Quintus. At nearly sixteen, he was still the slightest of her children, but he worked just as hard as George. The two young men had kept the family supplied in deer and small game while Natalie and her daughters had canned or preserved every bit of their gardens. Kent had kept the saw mill going, but even with that, money was scarce.
“Maman!” cried Quintus as he came up to the cabin steps.
“Aye Quintus, what you need?” she asked.
“To tell you Tomas, he come home!” said Quintus as he collapsed to the porch.
“What? Why?” asked Natalie.
“His wife, she got a letter. Saying he come home soon. Said he went nuts. Got found drunk in a dog kennel,” said Quintus.
“Oh,” said Natalie. She instantly knew what had happened. Tomas had shifted and lost his sense of where he should be. A couple of men had come home in the last four years for the same reason. Now most of them ran in the woods like Bizzet. Funny part was that Bizzet didn’t want anything to do with them.
“Do they know when?” she asked Quintus as she handed him a glass of water.
“Non. Oh, and that Marie, she sent you a letter,” Quintus said handing her an envelope.
Natalie opened it. It still broke her heart that Marie had run off with a non-shifter. However, at least she wrote on occasion.
I am coming home to visit with Jack, your grandson. My husband, Richard is in the US Navy and I can’t take being alone any longer. He has been gone since Pearl Harbor. I hope to see you the first week of July,
Natalie folded the letter and stuck it in her pocket. It was already July 2nd. Maria could be here any time. She went to find Jenny and Alice. There were rooms to air and beds to make.
“Henry, I… I need to tell you something,” said Betty as the two of them lay in bed after a sweaty bit of sex.
“What?” Henry asked. He liked Betty. She wasn’t too bright, but she was very bouncy in bed. Beat the hell out of his hand.
“Ummm… I’m pregnant,” she said quickly.
Henry blinked. “What?” he said, his second wind deflating quickly.
“Well, remember when that there French Letter broke two months back? We wasn’t lucky,” she said.
Henry looked at her and carefully sniffed the air. It was faint, almost hidden by the lilac water she wore, but it was there. “Damn!” he said.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” she cried. “I kept hopin’ it wouldn’t be, but I …” she broke down crying.
Henry felt upset and an ass all at the same time. The deal between them had been sex, and a place for Henry to get away from the barracks. Henry had made it very clear that he didn’t want any babies. Now he felt an ass for being so forceful about it.
“Are you sure?” he asked even though his nose didn’t lie.
“Oh yes! My cycles stopped, I keep throwing up and now my clothes are beginning to get tight,” she cried.
Henry wrapped his arms around Betty. “Bloody fucking hell!” he thought. “I gotta have the talk with her.” He thought for a moment and then came up with an idea.
“Betty, Betty lass, stop crying for a moment,” he said softly. “I know I made some pretty solid demands, but we both should have seen this as a possibility. We need to talk.”
“Yyyes. I… I don’t know if I want to have a baby, but it don’t look like I got a choice,” she hiccuped.
“Betty, if you are preggers, would you want to keep it or send the baby to Canada to be raised by my wife?” Henry asked. Betty knew about Maggie.
Betty blinked, blew her nose and then thought for a moment. “Wwwould she even want a bastard?” Betty asked.
“Of course. We don’ care. A baby is a baby. You just love it. Bastard or not,” said Henry.
“Well, um… But what if I decide I can’t give it up?” she asked.
“Then we’ll talk,” he said. He held her close and as they snuggled, his cock rose to the occasion. “Betty, since your pregnant, want to play without the damn French letter?” he asked quietly.
Betty blinked, nodded and reached down to touch Henry. Henry fingered Betty to make sure she was wet and then slid home for the first time naked. It was heaven. Even as tired as he was, he lasted maybe three minutes. As they collapsed to the bed, Henry wondered how he was going to explain this mess. His father would kill him.