It's Friday so it must be time for another letter home from Cletus. This week he talks about meeting his first Russians.
Hope y'all are doing fine. Thanks for sending me my lucky coonskin cap. I wore it when we went on parade on account of it still being real cold here in England in the morning. The Sarge wern't too happy though. He come over to me looking fit to bust. Turns out I can't wear cos it's agin regulations or sumthing. The rest of the guys keep yankin ma chain 'bout it though. They's taken to callin' me Davy Crocket.
Seeing as how we done lost a bunch of guys in our last fight with them Nazi fellers we've been moved back to wait for replacements. We'd only been there a few days when the Lieutenant come up to me and told me I'd been detached to go babysit some English feller. I asked him how come I'd got to go and he said it was cos I was the best shot in the unit and this feller was real important.
Turns out this feller is some kind of expert on Russkies and he's been sent to a Russkie tank unit as their liaison and I get to go along to take care of him. I was real surprised when I met him on account of him being older than Grandpa. I could see why he'd need someone to look after him.
Things didn't start out too well between us though. We was riding to the Russkie unit in this truck and I tried being polite and introduced myself and said 'Howdy, Mr Don'. He looks at me real funny and says why are you calling me Mr. Don? I dun told him that I'd been told he was Oxford Don and I was brought up to respect my elders and not call him by his first name. He just looked at me for about a minute then burst out laughing. I was worried he was going to give hisself one of them heart attacks. But he didn't, then he 'splained to me that he was an Oxford Don which is kinda like a college professor and that his name was Professor Jolyon Peregrine Montmorency Mountjoy. Boy I sure felt dumb. But he didn't seem to mind and I think he took a liking to me cos he said I could just call him Prof.
Seems that the Prof was there to translate for the Russkies on account of them not speaking English much. I was to take care of him when we's away from the camp cos we'd be going into action with the Russkies. I asked the Prof what we was goin to be doing and he said he'd be handling the Russkies calls for air support and translating any radio traffic once the Russkies got into action.
The prof spent most of his time talkin bout stuff with the Russkie officers. He said it was all 'need to know stuff' and I didn't need to know. So I spent most of my time catching up on my sleep and wandering round the camp looking at the tanks. The Russkie tankers were friendly enough 'til they saw I had me some Lucky Strike cigarettes. Then they treated me like I was some long lost cousin. Seems Russkie cigarettes are terrible and they can't get Lucky Strikes. So I shared what I had with them and they shared this liquor they had called wodka. Can you believe it they made it themselves from potato peelings! It wasn't smooth like Pappy's 'shine, in fact it was like a porcupine being shoved down your throat.
We got to talkin best we could seeing as how I don't speak Russkie. I was trying to tell em how we make our moonshine but I couldn't make em understand. Then this feller called Vassili come over and he spoke some English. Seems he used to be a school teacher back in Russia. Anyways once he explained that I knew about stills they took me off into the woods next to the camp where they'd got their still. Boy! I could see right off that they was amateurs. They had the coil all wrong and a bunch of other stuff. So I told em I could fix up their still real good iff'n they could get me some stuff.
Well they took off like their tails was on fire and soon came back with the fixin's and we was a tinkering with their still and soon it was running slicker than spit on a doorknob. When they tried the first batch they couldn't believe how smooth it was. Everyone was slapping me on the back and toasting me and calling me tovarich, which the prof told me means friend. Boy those Russkies love to drink and we'd soon finished off the first batch.
We didn't get to drink the second batch though. I told the russkies they had to watch the still real careful like and they fixed it so that one of them was always there. Anyway that night I was sleeping in my tent when there's this big explosion. Well all hell breaks loose. The guards are shooting at something and there was tracers lighting up the sky like the 4th of July and the tanks were starting up their engines. I ran to make sure the Prof was alright and he was. Things calmed down soon after once the officers took control. A while later the officers come back to their tents looking real tee'd off. The Prof spoke to them and told me they'd found an illicit still in the woods and that it'd blown up and caused the whole shooting match.
Well the officers got all the men on parade and it seemed like they was tearing them a new one. But no one owned up about the still. I talked to Vassili later seems the feller s'posed to be watching the still had been pulled in for guard duty so no one was watching the pressure in the still. So, of course, she blew.
It was a real shame too because a few days later we could really have used us some shine. I was talking to Vassili when everyone got real excited because someone had just shouted that they was getting mail from back in Russia. Seems they ain't had no letters for months so everyone rushed down to mail call. Vassili was real pleased when his name wuz called, he's got hisself a wife and a little girl back home and he ain't heard from them in a coon's age. Everyone was settling down to read their letters when I noticed Vassili had gone real pale like. Then he starts crying and shouting and swearing and everyone's trying to calm him down and see what's wrong but he just stormed off. I asked Viktor, one of his friends, what was wrong. Seems Vassili's village was overrun by the nazi's and his family killed. The letter was from a friend of Vassili's who'd been out in the woods when the nazi's arrived. He'd said it looked like they'd lined up everyone in the village, including women and children, and then just machine gunned them and set fire to the village. I wanted to say something to comfort Vassili cuz he's my friend, but I couldn't think what to say. So I just said a prayer for them.
I saw him the next day and I've seen me some angry fellers in my time but the look on his face almost made me pity the first nazi he meets. Almost.
I have to go now cuz it looks like were fixin to head out somewhere. I'll write you agin next Friday.
Your lovin' Son,
I'm not sure about the ending of this letter. I've always tried to include a dose of realism in each of them, but I'm worried I've gone too far this time. I'd be interested in your opinions of whether this is too dark for what is essentially a fun campaign or if I should continue in this vein. It's just that I think we shouldn't forget the effect the war had on the people involved, both military and civilian.