Ok, so looks like I failed again on the whole Short Story Saturday thing... BUT, this book that I read was very very short, and I did in fact read it yesterday [saturday], while sick, so it kind of counts... right?
The Long March, this short novella by William Styron is about two aging marine reserves, Culver and Mannix. These two guys were 100% positive that they would not be called back to war again after WWII, but due to the Korean War, they were. The novella begins with the death of six young marines killed by a sequence of misfired mortar shells during a training exercise. This leads to the commanding officer’s order of a thirty-six mile march (more like run) through the grueling summer heat.
Hence, the long march.
It’s interesting to me that such a short novella could be packed with such big philosophical ideas. Mannix is all sorts of mad at the Colonel for making them run this enforced march, and becomes so emotionally wrecked that he can not control himself. He refuses to stop marching, trying to “win” something by making it through the entire march, even when he gets a nail in his boot - which causes serious injury to his foot. Culver is just sort of a go-along guy. All he really wants is just to be home with his wife, daughter, beagle and hated cat. He holds no real resentment towards the Colonel for holding the march. He tries to be the voice of reason for Mannix a couple of times throughout the novella, but in the end, there is nothing that can stop Mannix from saying what he thinks needs to be said.
It had some rather beautifully tragic imagery:
“One boy’s eyes lay gently closed, and his long dark lashes were washed in tears, as though he had cried himself to sleep. As they bent over him they saw that he was very young, and a breeze came up from the edges of the swamp, bearing with it a scorched odor of smoke and powder, and touched the edges of his hair… below, beneath the slumbering eyes, his face had been blasted out of sight.”
All in all, it was well worth the fifty cents that I paid for it. I think down the road, perhaps in another book buying binge, I will look for some of Styron’s other works.
On to reading!