Cranston's Folly Excerpt
A madmans legacy is the objective. The
looming landmark mocks and perhaps dooms
I stepped up to Hardgrave and reported in. First mistake right there. Reported my men in next, all four in my own tank
and the twenty others in my platoon. May as
well have been handing in their dog tags. Saluted
Hardgrave. Should have told him where to shove
it. Then it was down in a squat with the rest
of them, trying to do them the favor of not looking them in the eyes, trying to listen
trying real hard to catch everything. Arching
my back into the whip, as it were.
I listened well,
catching most all of the details of the advance. Not
knowing the plan would have been a step towards staying out of harms way. I nodded when told that I would be responsible for
rolling up our flank on the advance. The other
flank was safest, and I knew it; nodded all the same.
Second platoon would be that flank though; Id have third platoon going
up the center on my left and A Squadron on my right. Of
course that wasnt exactly true we knew that about half a kilometer between us
and A Squadron would be held by the Hun. This
was to be a full-blooded drive as the boys in brass like to call it, a push
that would lead with the entire 4 County of London Yeomanry, the Sharpshooters,
into and around the back of some of the meaner German units.
This meant more risks for greater gain, more risks because training didnt
apply but we didnt know anything other than training.
McKay is to
strike out to this farmhouse, here, just east of Tilly-Sur-Seulles, Hardgrave has
said. He cleaned his moustache with the flicks
of a finger as he spoke. And central,
against the crossroads of Tilly and Villers-Bocage, will go Sergeant Roundheights
He looked up at me. His fingers flexed about the field baton like he
was pinching an ear.
The rest of us, meaning me, will strike against the far left of Villers-Bocage itself. Leftenant Hardgrave stuck the baton into a sloping, uneven rise just off of the line in the dirt that indicated Highway V-13. At this place. A Manor house, name of Decolletage or some such.
I nodded. Hed got it right. Id heard Mrs. Duvine bawling at Pike not to
do any of its buildings harm if he got it in his sights, adding it to the long list of
other Norman historical sites that should be spared our errant fire. Decolletage Manor.
The Leftenant continued.
Roundheight reaches the road here and halts along it, you, Sergeant Cranston, will be
seizing the high ground at the Manor. It, and
the tower that commands its heights, is to be secured and held. With that vantage, we should be able to pivot in
either direction to support the advance of the rest of the Sharpshooters. Questions?
I actually had one,
though it did no good. It perhaps did harm,
making me reluctant to advance guns blazing at all suspicious sites. Perhaps not; thats not my usual approach to
the assault anyway. The tower, Sir. Wouldnt it like as not be manned? By snipers or artillery spotters or the sort?
brow furrowed. His teeth stuck forth under his
moustache like a portcullis, as if his face was battening down for siege. This was his look of humor. No, no, because its not really a
tower, you see. More like a pile of stones in
the shape of one.
interject that Id always been under the impression that piles of stone in the shape
of towers usually qualified as towers, and he continued, looking at McKay interrogatively. What the devil are they called, McKay? The buildings that are not what they seem. Common to Manors, you know.
Follies, sir. McKay replied.
His eyes were shiny as blisters with the wake-up pills. As mine must have been. Favorite of the Leftenants as Randy McKay is,
neither of us have slept since hitting the beach, some six days ago.
Hardgrave acknowledged. The hump of dirt that
modeled my objective was gored by his baton as he triumphed over its anonymity. Its a bloody Folly,
preggers. Roundheight noted.
ignored his beefy Sergeants reply and said, You see now,
questions? Hardgrave looked about him
like most men brandish knives. Small wonder
Roundheight, usually taciturn, spoke up again.
Sir. He asked. Will we be bothering taking them?
slowly, carefully. Yes, Sergeant
Roundheight, we will. In specific, we will
accept them and the Rifle Brigade, which will be following shortly after us, will take
them. He didnt risk asking for
more questions, and just started listing the facts at hand.
There was armor
reported in the area, but contact wasnt expected.
I took this with a grain of salt, but didnt think anything more than
caution necessary. Thered be no Monty
barrage in front of us, no four-hour sweep with guns both big and small over the enemy
positions. Success sacrificed for stealth. Our flanks would get a pasting, but it was
anticipated that wed be driving into a gap, so why reveal our intentions? That the Normans in the region or our wireless
transmissions could be just as revealing, though substantially less effective in
destroying prepared defenses, must not have occurred.
It did to me, but I
saluted all the same, rose and off I went to the tank.
Should have gone over the sand table one last time to look for that
all-important defile; should have stayed, hidden in the pharmacists.
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