A Stitch In Time

Submitted into Contest #136 in response to: Write a story where hard work doesn’t pay off.... view prompt


Contemporary Creative Nonfiction Sad


         “I’m telling you, Hugo. People are dying there. Children, old people, even our own mother country’s sons!”

         “You’re mistaken, State Television tell us it’s nothing. Just boys practicing drills. Is Dad there? Put him on.”

         “Son, it’s war! You need to come home now.”

         “There’s no need, Dad. I’m safe here. My job is too important to leave. We’re creating the next best thing for farmers like you…

         “We are so proud of you, son. You have worked very hard to get such an important position there. We tell everyone how our son - an important engineer, will change the world, but we’ve all worked too hard to have it fail because of war. You must decide now. Come home!”

“Best to wait it out, Dad. I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding. The world will still be here tomorrow and your money on my education will have been well spent, you’ll see.”

         “Your mother wants a word...

         “Hello Hugo, are you there?”

         “Yes, Mother. The line is a little crackly, but I can hear you.”

         “My son, the inventor! You always were the Oomnyashka, the clever one. Listen Darling, are you eating well?”

         “Yes, Mother.”

         “…And getting enough sleep? A healthy mind needs a good night’s sleep, you know.”

         “Yes, Mother.”

         “Your room has not been touched since you left. Today, I put clean sheets on your bed, so you’ll be able to rest nicely here.”

         “I’m not coming home right now. I’ll think about it for my holidays in three months.”

         “Three months! My goodness. There won’t be anything left of your city. The president has just announced that he’s put his nuclear forces on high alert!”

         “Don’t believe the news, Mother. He’d never do anything like that.”

         “Hugo… Hugo, what was that boom? There’s a lot of static on the line.”

         “I think there’s been a gas explosion in an apartment block up the road.”

         “Son, we’ve been trying to tell you… Your new country is being attacked by our military. There’s a sixty-kilometre line of trucks and tanks headed your way. Soldiers are already on the outskirts of your city and other towns have already been occupied.”

         “…That can’t be, Dad. It’s probably just training drills. Anyway, why would our army attack such a small country?”

         “That was the question in ’94 and 2014. Our president wants to return to the old imperial days. He wants to be remembered as the best leader we have ever had. His legacy will be the expansion of the empire.”

         “That sounds like the mind of a lunatic.”

         “Yes, a lunatic with his finger on the nuclear button!”

         “Are you sure you’ve not been watching some silly war movie on Netflix, instead of the news?

         “Turn on your TV, listen to your radio! This is real, son!... Muhmma, talk to the boy...”

         “We’re not stupid old people. Your generation forgets we were young once. We had to survive on nothing but our own fortitudes. Empty shelves in decrepit shops, crime spreading from the cities, and the fall of the dividing wall that devalued our currency. Then, everything broke apart as our Socialist Republics decided to split from the mother country and form their own independent states. Times got hard, so we had to grow our own food just to survive. That’s how we became farmers. Nowadays, it’s easy to think prosperity is a given thing and that peace is everlasting. But it isn’t. Our president does not want peace. He wants power and control, and you’re living in the middle of his first step towards that. He wants to install puppets in the government where you are. Marionettes that nod their string-tied heads to every whim of presidential fancy. He wants to control the flow of oil and gas and electricity, holding it hostage, like a spoilt child not wanting to share his football with his friends, unless they give him sweets. He knows the Western countries won’t get involved. It’s too risky. They already have their lines previously drawn in the sands of history. Where you live is just a buffer zone to them… a virtual wall. The people there may get bullets and guns from the West, but in the end, they will have to fight this fight alone, possibly down to the last bullet, or the last defender. However, our president says it won’t take long to overwhelm the defences, so we need you home before a new wall is built where the new East-West divide prevents you from coming home.”

         “I’m staying, Mother. There’s no way a war will happen. There is a saying here. It goes, ‘Love thy neighbour, but pull not down thy hedge,’ meaning good neighbourly relations is healthy for all.”

         “That hedge is being trampled by tanks right now, my darling boy. How can we convince you? Would your mother and father both lie to you?”

         “I’m not sure. You’ve always been on at me to come home. You even faked an illness one Christmas, so I’d come and see you.”

         “What did you want me to do? I wanted to see my son. I’m not proud of pretending to be sick, but we had a lovely Christmas, didn’t we?”

         “It was. I remember the delicious food, the beautiful tree all lit up with candles, and that great roaring fireplace of yours keeping us all warm.”

         “…And the vodka, son. I’d never been so drunk before.”

         “My head hurt for days afterwards, Dad.”

         “Hugo, what was that explosion, I heard?”

         “I don’t know. Perhaps it’s fireworks.”

         “Our TV news is saying, we’ve fired several missiles at your city. A school, a… hospital, and… the zoo! We’re attacking the zoo!?”

         “Please calm down, Mother! There’s nothing on the news here. If we were at war, we would be told. Even if it was true, they wouldn’t fire on innocent civilians.”

         “I hear a wailing sound. Is that an air-raid siren?”

         “It’s nothing, Mother. It’s probably the fire trucks coming to fight the apartment fire.”

         “Trust us, Hugo. Our military is full out bombing your neighbours. It is sending troops in to occupy cities, it is firing missiles, and shelling anything within range. They’ve even taken over the continent’s biggest nuclear power plant.”

         “Ridiculous, if that was the case, no-one would be safe.”

         “No-one is safe, son. Why do you not believe us?”

         “Because the government lies to you. They want you to believe there’s a war. It’s good for business.”

         “It is only good for those that want it, son. Please come home. Do it for your old dad. Do it for your lonely mother. Do it for your safety!”

         “My life is here now, Dad. I’ve worked very hard to follow my dream. I can’t leave… besides, I love it here. I’ll see you in the summer.”

         “Don’t you care how we feel?”

         “No, Mother. It’s not like tha...”

         “Hugo, what is that roaring sound? Are those jets?”

         “Give me the phone, Muhmma… Hugo… Hugo… Hugo?... The line’s gone dead, Muhmma… Hugo… Hugo… Hugo… Son?”

         “You don’t think…”

         “No Muhmma. He’s safe. Our president says our people living there will be protected. We must trust what he says. He wouldn’t lie…”

         “Hugo… are you there? What’s wrong with the boy? Doesn’t he know he’s in the middle of a war zone?... Hugo… Hugo… Answer me, Hugo…”






Author’s note:

This is one of two stories submitted this week. You can find the other one titled, “The Last Hussar,” at https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/ecltj2




March 09, 2022 07:48

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Alice Richardson
00:09 Mar 13, 2022

Very pertinent subject. Probably closer to the truth than we know.


Chris Campbell
01:41 Mar 14, 2022

Thanks for reading my story, Alice. I'm sure the current conflict will inspire more stories. I tried to look at it in a reverse way of state controlled news actually telling the truth and those in the thick of the violence not believing what they are seeing. I tried a paradoxical approach in attacking propaganda.


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