Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Saving Private Tim

Wed 20 Dec 2000, Omaha Beach-head, Naas. It was a prize worth fighting for, to ride with Mayor Mike at the head of the St Patrick's Day Parade. To carry the flag proudly and plant it in the very heart of City Hall. To take another trophy home from another conquered territory.

Like every good soldier, Private Tim had assessed the intelligence, reconnoitred the territory, tested the surf rolling onto the beach. He had set the pre-attack propaganda rolling.

Still, as the time drew closer, the familiar nerve ends tingling began. Had he checked everything? Were the numbers right? Had he enough backup? Had he underestimated the enemy?

But his normal cocksure self soon pushed itself to the fore. He'd captured tougher beaches than Omaha in his career. His long experience alone would see him through this local combat.

He was, after all, Private Tim, First Class. He'd written the books. There wasn't anything they could throw at him that he hadn't already thrown himself, in spades. When it came to getting down in the dirt, he was unbeatable.

There was a shudder. The time for introspection was over. They were in the shoals, heading for the beach.

It seemed remarkably undefended. The Ancient Order of Hibernians tumbled onto the sand beside him, the Sister Cities Association coming up just to the rear. His old comrade-in-arms, Sergeant Pat, cocked his trusty NTA carbine and grinned under his battered FG helmet. “I’m with you, buddy. This is another great honour.”

Private Charlie threw himself on the rough sand beside the pair. He wasn't grinning, wasn't totally convinced. He nodded towards Sergeant Pat. "Listen, can we trust him not to run out of ammo? He did before."

“It's nothin' to do with me," the sergeant growled. "I'm only an observer at the moment. The platoon is handling the first firefight."

Captain Willie, further up on the sand, confirmed. "That's right, Private Tim. This is our show. The sergeant don't have to shoot nuthin' here tonight."

Just then the enemy launched their first salvo. Private Tim recognised the deep whoosh of the bazooka favoured by an old opponent, Patmac.

"What about the other four you inveigled into joining you," Patmac called out from behind his defences. "They're lying dead on their beaches because nobody gave them backup. You're just good for the beachhead grandstand, no more, no follow through."

Private Tim gritted his teeth. He hadn't expected such a dirty shot. He lifted his head to return fire, but was promptly pushed down by Captain Willie. "Keep quiet. Let him talk ... we'll pinpoint him."

A chatter of BAR fire opened up from Patmac's left. Private Tim pushed his face harder into the dirt as the bullets streaked over his head. "I got no support from your lot when I brought over a Kentucky platoon to Naas," yelled another enemy voice he knew, Marygee's.

“Begrudgers!” Private Tim was losing his cool. He couldn't help himself. He stood up recklessly and loosed off a burst. "You're all against me, always against me!'

Again Captain Willie pulled down his subordinate, now in a red haze of rage. Private Tim could see he was losing ground, and he didn't want to be the one to tell Mayor Mike they couldn't get the Naas reinforcements in.

“Begrudgers," he muttered again. He'd been hit, but it was only a flesh wound. Another of many red badges of honour he had earned.

Then, from way left, a grenade looped over. Anthonyeg, another of the defenders, had decided to give away his position. "We're not leaving here until you pick up the others you left on their beaches," the long fellow called out. "We don't just abandon people we ask to join us."

His ears ringing, Private Tim finally snapped altogether. "Enough of the lectures!” he roared. He ran up along the sand, spraying bullets all around him. He was going to take this beach, on his own if he had to.

And then he was face to face with the three, who had never conformed to the Naas discipline. "Begrudgers," he sneered again, waving his gun muzzle between them. Just one squirt, and he could mow them all down. "That's all ye are. Begrudgers in favour of nothin'. But I'll beat ye anyway."

“Easy, Private Tim." Captain Willie was behind him, a hand on his shaking soldier's shoulder. "Easy. I talked with Mayor Mike myself. He just wants us. They don't have the numbers." He looked in turn at Patmac, Marygee and Anthonyeg. "And they know it, too."

Private Tim smiled coldly. "OK. Let's do it."

Patmac, Marygee and Anthonyeg, outgunned four to three, fell in a withering hail of fire.

It had been a bloody battle, one of the hardest Private Tim could remember. But he could laugh now through the gunsmoke and grime. He reached into his backpack and pulled out the blue-and-white flag he carried in every campaign. He raised it high and led his comrades triumphantly up the beach.

“We're coming, Mayor Mike," he called out. "We're coming ..."

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