The Wars Within - Short Story

Short Story Apr 22, 2021

I made the mistake of turning on the radio half-way to my house, and our buffoon of a president's voice came through my car stereo. He called himself a wartime president. I snorted and turned it up, reminding myself that, if nothing else, his rambling was a source of entertainment in an otherwise bleak world. I listened to him stumble around his words, three or four adjectives to every noun, his words empty and cyclical, and meaningless as ever. Hauling a bag from the backseat, I considered the (audacity? no, stupidity) of what I had heard. I set the bag down in the kitchen and thought of our dear leader and his intellect (or lack thereof), his tact (or lack thereof), his relatability (or lack thereof). He lacked, well, everything one could hope for in a wartime leader.

Greens in the fridge, salties in the pantry, meat in the freezer. I considered how we used to sing to the unsung heroes in a time like this: the medical professionals [and novices, even] summoned to the front lines… the mail carriers, the delivery drivers, those manning grocery stores and fuel stations across the nation, and wondered if the women facing war have ever been properly sung to. I reflect on a message I learned some time ago, how it spoke of Afghanistan and Iraq and every deployment since the World Wars, about how the women were really the ones who held things together throughout war.

The unsung heroes, the mothers, the daughters, the wives, the women — the ones who bear all or none of the titles, all or none of the glory, all or none of the respect. They are not the warriors we think of when we think of war. They are not toting guns, screaming and shouting at the enemy in an expression of insecurity and ferocity and desperation. They are the schoolteachers giving lectures on their country's history while its future hangs on little more than the words of madmen. They are the ones who pause their lessons until the sounds of guns stop, until the helicopters pass, holding their breaths as bombs go off closer and closer each time, the ones writing lessons in the spaces of a chalkboard not overtaken by bullet holes.

They are the mothers who still make their child's or family's favorite dish even if all the ingredients are not available, and who sacrifice themselves to the pangs of hunger so that their children can be fed. They are the ones working in a sparse kitchen, who cannot look out a window and smile while their children play, instead casting out nervous glances every ten seconds, shivering and shaking in fear while they set a table. They are the ones who are in a constant war with themselves, living with the internal, unforgiving debate of letting them enjoy what may be their last days, out in the sunshine, or demanding their children stay inside where they are safe. They are the mothers who accept gravely that nowhere is safe because she doesn't have another option she can accept, so she comes to terms with the fact that outside they can stay.

They are the wives who remember the holidays when everyone is too preoccupied with the current state of the nation, make new traditions if the old ones are unavailable. They are the ones who remember that on Sundays, the family eats together, and the ones who maintain that there is still sanctity in the beginning of a new week, no matter what platter that week serves to others. They are the wives who bandage the hands of their war-broken husbands and children when they come home, spoon-feeding soup despite days of not eating themselves.

They are the ones bookmarking the sense of normalcy that is easy to turn to when you do not understand the chapters that come after. They are the ones who ensure routine is in place, from the big things like prayer to the little things like brushing teeth. The one that tucks her children into bed and turns down the lights so that they cannot see the tears in her eyes as she tells them a bedtime story they can believe, longing for days when somebody is willing to lie to protect her in turn.

She is the one who, when the bombs go off, illuminates the dark streaks of smoke and soot, and when the sound vibrates through their bodies, speaks of thunder. When her children ask where it comes from, she says the gods are battling over who can create the biggest storm, because she knows, somehow, that this is less terrifying than man fighting man.

And when they ask her what the gods' names are she wants to tell them she doesn't know anymore, but instead kisses their heads and tells them they will find out for themselves one day, silently praying that it won't be tomorrow, silently praying for a future where they never have to know. She is the one who gets up and gives one last tuck of torn blankets over tiny feet. The one holding in place all the little things: the fringe and the fabric of all that remains.

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Pranav Sharma

I’m a year 12 student at St Marks Catholic College. I specialise in science and mathematics, as well as full-stack software/hardware development. I am currently employed as a Network Administrator.

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