|Prompt for The Writer's Cramp: Write a story or poem including the following items, in any order, exactly as presented below.
an American warship
dark purple grapes
Yesterday…I buried my grandfather. I didn’t actually bury him, but that’s what we say here in the Midwest. After leaving the cemetery we say, we buried Grandpa today or we laid our Aunt Doris to rest; we even say, rest in peace Mother. For a while this makes us feel good about things, then later when we try to remember the sound of their voice or the color of their eyes; even the wrinkles across their brow we forget, but we never forget the stories they told.
Grandpa was a record setting 110 years old. He was a veteran of World War I, a farmer and a great story teller.
One such story goes like this:
“A pigeon saved my life, Bobby,” Grandpa said.
Of course, I scoffed at that. “How does a pigeon save a man’s life, Grandpa?”
Grandpa settled back in his rocker, gave me that look that only old men can give and said, “Well…it was 1918 in France. Along with 200 other men, I was penned down in the trenches without food or water, our ammo was gone, too. The Germans had us surrounded, Bobby.”
“France, Grandpa? That’s a long ways away ain’t it?” I asked.
“It is, Bobby…got there on a big American warship, don’t recall the name, but I do remember celebrating my 17th birthday and being seasick on that boat. Now, you wanna hear the pigeon story or don’t you?”
“Yes, Grandpa,” I said.
Grandpa lit his pipe and went on. “There we were, trapped and losing all hope. Why, we were even being shelled by our own artillery…seems they didn’t know where we were.”
Then Grandpa wiped a tear from his cheek and lit his pipe again, his voice changed when he said, “Cher Ami saved us that day, Bobby.”
“Who’s Cherami, Grandpa,” I asked.
“Cher Ami, Bobby. Cher Ami was a pigeon. I’ll never forget him as no one should, but I suppose he’s been forgotten as most heroes are. He was a black-checked cock, came from Britain I was told. His feathered breast reminded me of dark purple grapes, kind of like the berries that hung in the vineyards over there.”
By now, Grandpa had all my attention, as much as any 10 year old can give anyway. “What did Cher Ami do, Grandpa?”
“Well, it’s like I said, Bobby…we were trapped and had to let somebody know where we were. We didn’t have any working radios. The only thing we had was Cher Ami. We wrote a note on paper, folded it and placed it in a canister, then tied it to Cher Ami’s left leg. We released him and he flew off.”
“What did the note say, Grandpa?” I interrupted.
“The note said, ‘We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven's sake, stop it’,” Grandpa answered.
“Did the artillery stop, Grandpa?”
“Yes it did, Bobby, but only because Cher Ami was able to rise above the trenches and dodge most of the German’s zipping bullets. Their gunfire knocked him down once, but he took flight again and flew 25 miles away to his loft at division headquarters.”
“The Germans hurt, Cher Ami, Grandpa?” I asked.
“Yes, they hurt him, Bobby. He was shot in his purple chest, blinded in one eye and lost one leg, but he still managed to save 194 men,” Grandpa answered, before more tears ran down his cheeks.
Now my Grandpa is buried along with his stories, but I will go on telling them to anyone that will listen. I will tell them the story about Cher Ami.