Fireshadow

Fireshadow by Anthony Eaton Read Free Book Online

Book: Fireshadow by Anthony Eaton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anthony Eaton
afternoon.’
    â€˜How?’
    â€˜Start by putting it in the fire for half an hour, in the coals, then into boiling water. No point in starting a new bout of infection when we try to cut out the old one.’
    â€˜Does he know?’
    Doctor Alexander shook his head.
    â€˜I haven’t let him regain consciousness enough to tell him.’
    â€˜What about Stutt?’
    â€˜He knows.’ The old man’s voice was flat.
    Erich crossed to where Günter lay, sunk in morphine. His leg beneath the sheet was flattened, misshapen. What must he be dreaming? Erich wondered. Günter had spoken several times about a young wife back home and a farm owned by his parents. What dreams had died with that falling tree?
    â€˜There is no other choice, Erich.’ The doctor observed the young man closely. ‘If we want to save his life, the leg needs to go.’
    â€˜Of course, Doctor.’
    â€˜I’m going to find that saw. Keep an eye on Günter.’
    Erich nodded, and the doctor eased himself up.
    â€˜If there are any problems, shout from the door – don’t leave the patient. I’ll be sure to stay within earshot.’
    He crossed to the bed, rested his hand on the soldier’s forehead, his voice a whisper, ‘Hold on there, Günter, hold on.’
    Erich wondered if the soldier could even hear the words, let alone comprehend them.
    The door closed, and without the doctor’s presence the hut seemed strange, different. This was, Erich realised, the first time that he’d been left alone there.
    â€˜Have you been in Australia long?’
    The girl. He’d forgotten her. Through his conversation with the doctor, she’d stood silent, watching. He shrugged.
    â€˜Nine or ten weeks, I think.’
    â€˜Where were you before?’
    â€˜Africa.’
    â€˜Were you in Egypt?’
    â€˜No.’
    â€˜My uncle went to Egypt during the Great War. He did his training there.’
    â€˜I have never been there. I was in Libya.’
    â€˜What was it like?’
    â€˜Please, I would rather not discuss it.’
    â€˜Oh. I’m sorry.’
    A heavy silence followed. Günter murmured, and Erich moved silently to the bedside.
    â€˜What happened to him?’
    â€˜A tree fell on his leg.’
    Why would she not stop these questions?
    â€˜It must be hard for you.’
    She also moved to the bed, standing opposite, the fevered figure of Günter between them.
    â€˜I beg your pardon?’
    â€˜Living here, I mean. So far from home.’
    Erich remained silent.
    â€˜Paul, that was my uncle, used to say that the worst thing about the war was the distance. He wrote that it was like being on the moon or a star, being so far from familiar places. Do you find that?’
    A shrug. ‘I do not let myself think of such things.’
    â€˜What things?’
    â€˜Home. Family things. There is a war and I am a fighting man, that is all there is.’
    â€˜You must think of your family. Paul used to carry a photograph of my grandparents. They sent it home after . . .’ She turned towards the spluttering stove.
    â€˜Yes?’
    â€˜After he was killed.’
    â€˜I’m sorry.’
    â€˜It’s not your fault.’
    â€˜Where did he die?’
    â€˜France. A place called Flanders.’
    â€˜And he was your uncle?’
    â€˜I never met him. It was before I was born. Mother told me about him. Paul was her older brother, her only brother. Grandfather Johnathon’s eldest son.’
    â€˜Grandfather Johnathon?’
    She looked at Erich as though something was wrong with him.
    â€˜The doctor, silly.’
    â€˜Oh.’
    The incongruity stunned him. The doctor’s son, killed fighting for his country, against Erich and Günter’s, over twenty years ago, before he or this girl even existed. And now, here was this old man, in the middle of the bush, himself fighting to save the lives of those

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