Ready to fight or type for Britain

Ready to fight or type for Britain

Justin Teerlinck

just now

Letter from Lieutenant Horace S. Browntrout to Captain Branwell Browntrout

Dear Son,

I do not know when or where this letter will find you. I pray it finds you alive and well. The war here proceeds with grim determination. I will spare you the details of horrors which by now you are already familiar. Lawrence is a bit inscrutable and mercurial at times. He sleeps standing up and drinks water strained through a pair of worn knickers — even when fresh sources are available. It’s difficult having an ascetic revolutionary for a commanding officer, especially when small luxuries are what make life endurable at times like these.

You said in your last letter that you were training the Saysquacks as a fighting force. Do I misapprehend? I was not tasked with the raising of a fighting force, but a force of clerical aids and laborers. Due to their strength and endurance, High Command thought the Saysquacks would be fit for service of this type. They gave me their word that no Saysquack other than Stanley would see combat. The deal we made was that in exchange for their rearguard service, the British government will support a new country (or a new self-governing colony) for the Saysquacks, New Quackland. It is to be somewhere near Wooly Acres, in point of fact.

I must believe that compulsory combat training is merely a security measure in case the rearguard was attacked. That way, every soldier has the basic skills to defend their country. This generalist training is the standard procedure in armies the world over. I wouldn’t worry about our friends being sent up the line. You see for yourself that they are not combat ready and never could be. Be sure to note it in your final report.

Do please ease up a little on them. I understand the desire for rigor and preparedness, but they are Saysquacks. They cannot fight. Their childlike temperament negates any possibility of their becoming a viable fighting force. They are fit for higher, nobler purposes. Brutalizing them will only serve to alienate them from the one other human being in the world who understands them. Be kind and terminate this enterprise as expeditiously as you can. There would be no shame in that.

I hope you will consider what I say. Please tell your Mother how much I miss her when you see her. Congratulations on your promotion, by the way.

Your Father,

Lieutenant Browntrout

March 1st, 1917

Letter from Captain Branwell Browntrout to Captain Horace S. Browntrout

Dear Father,

I do not know what you meant by your last letter. Was it a joke? Of course the Saysquack are being trained to fight. We are at war, or hadn’t you noticed? The Saysquack are physically stronger, faster and superior to human beings in every possible way. You have seen this for yourself. They may have a difficult go adapting to their training regimen but mark me, I am going to make first class soldiers out of them. They will not simply survive their trials, they will excel in them and bring honor to us all.

As usual, you have evaded my question so I will ask a second time: why did you have me pulled off the line? Though I do my best and I daresay I do a competent job of it, there were others with more experience in basic training than I who could are better equipped to aid the Saysquack with the education they require. I suspect as usual, you wanted to hold me back to humiliate me, i.e. “teach me a lesson” or give me my comeuppance somehow.

Know that your plan has spectacularly backfired, in that I did not fail in my duty here, but exceeded expectations for what all thought could possibly be done with the Saysquacks. You would have them perform only menial tasks, carting boxes to and fro like draught horses, but thanks to me they will have opportunities for advancement, opportunities to earn accolades and respect — qualities to which you have been utterly immune and indifferent to your entire life.

You have lived trapped inside a fairytale. Even suffering grievous injuries in combat could not shake the pixie dust from your eyes. I cannot imagine I will ever have more to say to you for my own sake, though to keep up appearances for mother’s I suppose we must endure this pitiful charade of father and son until one of us dies. God protect you from your foolish delusions wherever you are.

— Branwell

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