Buried Rage

Submitted into Contest #139 in response to: Start your story with the words: “Grow up.”... view prompt


Historical Fiction Fantasy Drama

This story contains sensitive content

(CW: References to alcohol abuse and related traumatic events)

“Grow up.” Captain Westheimer glared at Private Jahn as the younger man was giggling every time some unsuspecting soul sat on the whoopie cushion he had placed on the bench outside one of the prisoner barracks—that whoopie cushion happened to be invisible, and Jahn had been holding the spell for quite some time, enjoying people’s reactions whenever they sat down and immediately when searching for the cushion.

“Come on, Captain, it’s hilarious. They can’t figure out where the sound is coming from,” Jahn replied, wiping tears from his eyes.

Sighing heavily, Westheimer plucked the wand from Jahn’s grip, immediately revealing the bright-pink cushion on the bench. “If you are bored, you can go water the plants in the greenhouse.”

“Liebermann’s doing that, sir.”

“Then find something productive to do, or I will make you clean bedpans in the hospital.”

On one hand, Jahn couldn’t fault the commandant for being irritable. Their resistance group was being flooded with rumors that the Allies were going to be staging an invasion of Nazi-occupied France at some point that year, and it was up to them, along with groups in France, to prevent any detail of the plans from falling in the hands of the Germans.

Things had certainly become a lot more stressful over the last month or so, and Jahn was trying to keep everyone’s spirits up with pranks, trying to make people laugh. So far, he hadn’t achieved any laughter, but a lot of scolding from Westheimer and cursing from both prisoner and guard alike.

As he walked over to collect the whoopie cushion, Jahn’s ears pricked when he heard the sound of a car approaching the gates of the Stalag. A guard walked up to the driver’s side, and after a brief conversation, the car was let inside. Jahn’s stomach knotted tightly when the occupant in the back got out. A tall and lean officer, with blond hair beginning to thin at his temples. His facial features were somewhat angular. Everything about him was familiar, aside from his uniform; his shoulder insignias were different.

Jahn had quickly tucked his wand back up in his sleeve, and hid the whoopie cushion behind his back as his former commanding officer strolled up to him. “Major Krause,” Jahn mumbled.

“Private,” the officer said. “It’s been a few years, hasn’t it? And, it’s ‘colonel,’ now.”

Jahn nodded. A feeling—one of disappointment and anger—had started boiling in his stomach. “Why are you here?”

“I’d like to speak to you and your commandant. Captain Westheimer, correct?”

Another nod.

“Could you fetch him, please?”

“Sure. Is that him over there?” Jahn pointed toward the garden in front of Westheimer’s quarters. As soon as Krause turned his head, Jahn swiftly placed the whoopie cushion on the bench. Drawing his wand, he gave it a quick flick, and the cushion turned invisible.

“I don’t see him.” Krause looked back at Jahn, confused.

“I could’ve sworn I saw him. He’s probably elsewhere.” Jahn gestured to the bench. “You can have a seat while you wait.”

Krause shrugged before sitting on the bench. Jahn had already turned to go into Westheimer’s quarters when he heard the unmistakable vulgar sound of the cushion being sat on behind him, followed by Krause swearing out loud. Jahn didn’t dare look over his shoulder, as he was trying to hide a mischievous smile. He jogged up the steps, peeking in through a window to see Westheimer reading some paperwork in his office. After knocking, Jahn forced himself to put on a straight face, then looked over at Krause, who had already found the whoopie cushion. The invisibility spell had worn off, and he was holding up the pink menace, giving Jahn the same look Westheimer had given him not even ten minutes ago.

It didn’t come as a surprise that the commandant wasn’t at all pleased with Jahn’s behavior when he opened the door and saw Krause with the cushion. “What did I tell you, son?”

“You told me to grow up, sir,” Jahn replied.

“Exactly.” Westheimer took the cushion when Krause walked up to the building.

“Captain,” Krause said. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person.”

“Colonel.” Westheimer shook Krause’s hand, and led him inside to his office. “What brings you to Stalag Five C?”

“Well, I don’t know how much information you receive here in a prisoner-of-war camp, but I’m sure you know that we’ve been reinforcing defenses along the Atlantic Wall over the last several months.”

“I am aware of that.”

“I’m sure you also recall you were sent Private Jahn due to his . . . disciplinary record. I would like to ask if Jahn would like to return to my division. Manpower has been severely depleted by the Eastern Front, and if an Allied invasion is coming, we need all the able-bodied soldiers we can get.”

The knot in Jahn’s stomach returned. He swallowed as he resisted the urge to say something.

“You want Jahn specifically?” Westheimer raised an eyebrow.

“Partly because I know he wasn’t sent to the POW camp system due to injury or illness, and also partly for personal reasons. I tutored him for some time when he was right out of training, and then it all fell apart just because I had too much to drink one night.” Krause looked over his shoulder at Jahn.

“You knew damn well that my father was a drunk,” Jahn snarled. “I hadn’t had one reliable adult figure in my life until meeting you, and then you fucked it up!

“Jahn!” Westheimer barked. “Watch your language.”

Anger and memories buried for four years resurfaced with such force and ferocity that a dull ache suddenly encompassed Jahn’s head. Every fiber of muscle tightened as he resisted the urge to lash out and punch Krause. Jahn took a deep breath, eyes stinging with tears. “I trusted you, Krause. You treated me like your own son and then you threw it away when you drank too much and got into a fight with Corporal Staudinger. All I saw in you was my blood father, not the man who took me under his wing when I was assigned to you.”

“I want to put the past behind us,” Krause replied. “I haven’t forgotten what happened.”

“So did you figure out it was me who knocked you out with the butt of my rifle?”

“Eventually. Staudinger told me not too long after you were sent here. Please, Jahn, I want to apologize for what happened.”

“No. And I’m not going with you.” Jahn stormed from the building, ignoring Westheimer shouting at him to get back in the room. Once he was down the steps of the building, Jahn broke into a jog, trying to find somewhere in camp to be alone.

The only place he could really be alone for awhile was the solitary confinement building. He glanced around, making sure no one was watching him as he went inside. He closed the door behind him, and was suddenly enveloped in silence. There was no one in solitary at the moment. He went into one of the cells and sat on a cot, legs suddenly feeling weak. Tears streamed down his face, and he drew up his knees, resting his head on them.

The memories of that night in France came back, raw as ever. It wasn’t too long after the occupation began. Jahn typically didn’t go out, but he didn’t want to be alone in the abandoned hotel that his division was using as a temporary barracks. He joined the rest of his squadron at a tavern, and the fresh smell of beer made his stomach turn. After growing up where that smell meant he probably wasn’t wanted in the house, the act of drinking alcohol developed a different meaning for him. Instead of having a good time with friends, it conjured images of stumbling anger, bruises, bloody clothing, and long nights out in the streets. Jahn used that smell to determine whether or not he could even go further inside his house after school. If it was strong, he turned around and went into the woods outside town to practice magic from the books his mother left behind.

In that moment, he wanted to return to the hotel, get one of the books tucked in his belongings, and keep practicing his magic. Somehow, he resisted it, hoping and praying this would be different. For the first hour or so, it was different. Most of the soldiers didn’t drink too much. Some would get a tad tipsy and be escorted out. If that would be the case, Jahn figured he would be fine.

Major Krause overestimated his own tolerance. He had been talking quietly with a group of soldiers. About what, Jahn couldn’t remember. All he remembered was the discussion getting heated and Krause throwing punches at Staudinger, who was equally drunk. The man he had begun calling a father-figure was no longer the thoughtful soul who had taken pity on Jahn when he was fresh out of training. Krause was something else entirely. So much so in Jahn’s eyes that it made it easy to pick up his rifle and knock Krause unconscious with a severe rage that had been present ever since Jahn became aware of the fact that his own father didn’t want him after his mother’s passing.

Jahn swore he buried all those memories when he came to Stalag V C and found himself surrounded with much better people, even though he was still vehemently opposed to drinking and got into fights with guards who came back from leave intoxicated. Now Krause was attempting to make amends, and Jahn didn’t know if he should accept it.

He looked up from his knees when he heard someone open the building door, and heard Westheimer say, “I will talk to him alone.” The door closed, and Westheimer approached the cell Jahn was hiding in. He opened the cell door and looked Jahn in the eye. “Have you calmed down?”

Jahn looked back at his knees. “I’m not going with him, sir.”

“You’re not going with him if you don’t want to, but just like when you mended your relationship with Griselda, you need to mend your relationship with Krause.”

“Why? Griselda never hurt me like Krause did.”

“Krause never intended to hurt you. He did not drink too much out of malice.” When Jahn didn’t respond, Westheimer entered the cell to sit next to him. “What you went through growing up was not acceptable, but you cannot let your past traumas control you.”

Jahn knew Westheimer was speaking from experience. “How?”

“That is not an easy question to answer.”

“Well, how did you accept everything you grew up with? How did you accept going through World War One and losing so many friends afterward?”

“The truth is that I really have not accepted what happened. I still fight with my memories and fears at times. My expression of my worst memories is different to yours; you lash out in anger. I retreat into myself.”

“I get angry because I never expressed that to my father,” Jahn replied. “I . . . I have moments where I want to go back and—” His throat closed, as did his fists.

Westheimer shook his head. “Getting revenge will not help. It never does.”

Jahn’s fists loosened. “What should I do, then?”

“Talk to Krause. He has made it clear that he wants to fix things with you. You won’t get past this if you keep holding onto a grudge.”

Jahn released his breath, letting the last few tears roll down his face. “What I don’t understand is, you’ve been a better father-figure to me, yet I’m still upset about what happened with Krause.”

“Krause was the first person to show you kindness, and with the hardship you have faced, you never had the opportunity to grow up emotionally. You still care about the bond you had with him.”

“I . . . guess I can try to fix it.” Anger and frustration were still smoldering in his stomach. Jahn left the building, and found Krause standing out in the space between solitary and the motor pool, where two prisoners and a guard were hanging over the inside of a truck’s engine compartment.

Jahn looked over his shoulder to see Westheimer locking up solitary behind him. Sighing, he walked over to Krause. “I was told to talk to you.”

Krause was silent for a moment, then made eye contact with Jahn. “It was stupid of me to think I could ask for forgiveness from you.”

“I’m the one holding onto a grudge, not you.”

“You have every reason to. You told me everything you went through at home, and I didn’t listen. Frankly, I didn’t think you would react so strongly.”

“I felt you betrayed my trust. I felt you didn’t take what I had said seriously.”

“I should have taken you seriously.” Krause went back to looking around camp. “We all make mistakes, though. I’m used to drinking with friends. Frankly, that wasn’t the first time I wasn’t paying attention to how much I had. No one’s perfect.”

Jahn nodded a little.

“I can understand how it would’ve been upsetting to you, especially since Staudinger was riled up when he was drunk. I typically don’t get into barfights, but the whole situation was heated and someone probably should have just dragged us apart.”

“That would’ve been the more mature thing to do on my part,” Jahn replied. “Instead of whacking you with my rifle.”

“It certainly would have, but you weren’t thinking any clearer than I was.” Krause looked back at Jahn. “I still remember how rapidly you turned on me. I could have gotten you dismissed entirely, but I knew why I was the target of your pranks. So, I decided to just send you off to do something different. I am glad you’re happy here.”

“Still seems odd you’d want just me.”

“I wanted to promote you and have you command a squadron on the wall section in Normandy. If this isn’t something you want, I won’t force you to go.”

Jahn shook his head. “I’m happy here. I wish you the best of luck finding someone else, though.”

“Regardless, it was nice to see you again, and talk to you.” Krause’s smile faded as quickly as it came. “I’m very sorry I had to put you through your childhood again.”

“You’re forgiven. In case it’s not obvious, I still have some growing up to do.”

“That you do.” Krause turned to head back to his car. “Take care of yourself, Jahn.”

“You, too, Colonel.” Jahn saluted and waved as Krause left camp, then glanced over to see Westheimer approaching. “I forgave him, sir.”

“Good. I’m proud of you.” Westheimer looked at the tracks Krause’s car left behind. “Did he tell you where on the Atlantic Wall he wanted to send you?”

“The Normandy section.”

Westheimer’s face paled, but his expression remained stoic. “In that case, I am glad you refused.”


Westheimer leaned in to whisper. “That is the location of the Allied landings.”

“The real location?”

Westheimer nodded. “Do not speak of this with anyone.”

March 26, 2022 18:27

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