Eagle in the red | Verso.ink

Eagle in the red

August, 1915

By Zenta Brice

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Time to walk home,’ Ilse brushed down her apron. ‘My water jug is empty, child, and bread all handed out. We can do no more here today.’

Millie nodded and sighed. Offering water and food to the passing refugees was exciting enough, and an honourable war effort, but now her best white school blouse was all covered in road dust and she regretted wearing it today.

The afternoon was sultry. Tired men, women, and children in dusty clothes walked past with a blind look in their eyes, as though they did not notice anymore the noise and movement of the road. Millie watched them pass, one after another. The heat was suffocating.

Millie had been handing out water to Latvians and Lithuanians, Poles and Russians all afternoon. ‘So many people, homeless and hungry.’ She tossed back her plait and picked up the empty basket. ‘What will they all do in Riga?’

‘The government will take them further into safety,’ her mother replied. ‘I suppose. Nobody expected such a retreat. Poor souls, all driven out of their homes by the Germans.’

Millie yawned. The sun, the heat and all the traffic had made her weary. She followed her mother, carefully watching for the passing carts piled with hay, mattresses, chairs and chickens, with an occasional cow tied at the back. Only when they reached the safety of their driveway, she stopped and for a moment kept her eyes on the endless procession of people on the road.

Just a few steps ahead of them a cart wheel collapsed with a snap and the contents of the cart spilled on the road. A man in his fifties put down the reins and bent to check the broken wheel while his wife collected two biggest bundles from the road. Millie noticed that the woman was limping.

Millie ran to help pick up bundles. ‘Are you hurt?’ She asked, picking another bundle from the road and putting it into woman’s arms.

‘My feet are blistered from the walking,’ the woman replied. ‘That’s all.’ She sat on the edge of the road, clutching the bundles and watching intently as her husband checked the broken wheel. ‘How bad is it?’

‘We are done,’ the man slumped beside her. ‘The shaft snapped as well.’

Millie noticed that the flow of refugees slowly making their way towards Riga had not halted, but, turning out for the broken-down cart, continued uninterruptedly down the road. She looked at her mother. It felt

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About Zenta Brice

Zenta, a Soviet born journalist and author, usually is plotting her next book in the vegetable patch in the South of France. When not fighting with weeds and words, she can be found watching the news in awe as the world goes to ratshit.