A War Story – Chris Espenshade

I had heard through the grapevine that my old friend Will E had been making some money working as a duck-hunting guide for foreign dandies. This was done in partnership with Rollo, another old coot who lived even further off the beaten path than Will E. I thought that communication must be an issue as Rollo is very much off the grid (and probably off the charts as well).

Will E explained their system. “Now, Rollo doesn’t have a phone or a computer. So, I set these Day Glo milk cans out on that hump of dirt next to the hog pen to let him know we have a hunt booked for the weekend, and where to meet me and the clients. He can see down here from the clearing on the ridge road that leads to his place.”

“But how do the cans tell him where to meet?” I asked.

“Well, if I just put out a single can, it means we meet down at the boat ramp near the real estate office. You know, Hickerson and Associates. They have that billboard We Buy Land.

I just nodded.

“If I put out two cans, it means we will be leaving from the landing down there behind that cheap pizza place, near the ball fields.”

“So, one if Buy Land, two if by Cici’s?”

“That’s what I said. You having ear issues?”

“And let me guess, these clients would be British?”

“No. A lot of them used to be, but they are English now. You know, the whole BREXIT thing.”

I realized that I lacked the time and desire to straighten out Will E’s misconceptions regarding BREXIT. “So this system works?”

“Mostly. There have been a few times when Rollo doesn’t make it up the ridge to the clearing, and then he relies on his son, Paul, to deliver the message. Paul lives about five miles beyond Rollo. There was one Friday that Paul saw the one can, in the morning on his way to work. Well, there must have been a sudden spike in the demand for sofas, because his foreman made Paul stay for a double shift. By the time Paul got home and ate some dinner, he had almost forgotten about the message.”

“So Paul works down at the furniture plant?” I inquired.

“Yep, he’s guy that makes sure the wooden bits are perfectly smooth.”

“Oh, a finish sander?” I asked.

“No, he’s American. He gets rids of all the burrs and splinters. He’s quite good at it, and they all call him a sliver smith.”

I just nodded.

Will E continued, “Well, Paul had also forgotten to park on Battery Hill. “

“Battery Hill? I thought that was near Boston.”

“Not that one. You know Paul drives that old International Scout, and the alternators on those things are a known weakness. Living alone, it was a challenge for Paul to bump-start the vehicle when the battery went dead. So, he built a mound out next to the barn, and he almost always parked his Scout so that it was facing down the slope, allowing him to bump-start it on his own. His Dad named it Dead Battery Hill, and it got shortened to Battery Hill.”

I just nodded.

Will E continued: “Now, Paul had forgotten to park on Battery Hill, and, of course, the Scout chose this night to have no charge. Paul had to take a horse to cover the miles back to his Dad’s place. It was threatening rain, so he put on his favorite cap, that one he won at halftime of the basketball game for sinking that shot from outside the arc.

Away he rode. And he almost didn’t make it. Just as he was coming through that little saddle, a buck jumped out on the right, and Paul had to zig to miss it. That put him on the very edge of the opposite side of the road, and there was a timber rattler in the grass there, and Paul had to zag to miss it. It took him quite some time to settle the horse, and they slowed down after these near misses. It was almost 12 o’clock by the time the son got to his Dad’s place.”

I could no longer maintain my silence: “Okay, I have to say this all is vaguely familiar somehow. Having seen the lone signal on the sty pile, understanding one if Buy Land, after pulling on his three-pointer hat, Paul (the sliver smith) had to veer and re-veer during a midnight ride from Battery Hill in order to spread the message the British are coming, the British are coming.”

Will E thought a second: “When you say it that way, it does sound familiar. Maybe I told you this before . . . Anyhow, it all worked out, and we met up at the appointed hour, and had some good shooting that day. I believe we killed a bunch of red-heads.”

I just nodded.


An archaeologist, Chris Espenshade began creative writing in 2017. Thrice Fiction, The Paragon Journal, Agora Journal, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature accepted his work. He was a finalist in the Micro-Madness Contest for National Flash Fiction Day New Zealand, and second in a Brilliant Flash Fiction contest.

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Image: via Pixabay

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