In a forest somewhere near the border of France.
January 23, 1942, 4:31am
George tried to pull the collar of his uniform up a little higher to shield his scruffy face from the cold. The thin material didn’t provide much warmth in the middle of winter, especially in the early dawn. He shivered, partly from cold, and partly from memories flashing through his mind. War…famine…disease…suffering.
The wind whistled through the trees and through his thick, greying hair. Guns and tanks were firing in the distance. He crunched through the leaves as loudly as he could, trying to drown out the noise. He walked, one foot after the other, like he had been doing all night long. He couldn’t stop himself. He knew that if he stopped, reality would slap him in the face, and he wouldn’t ever walk again.
George had run away from camp after the previous battle. He had seen too much. He was done. He whistled and hummed off and on as he walked, trying to distract himself from the truth. Everything hurt. His body, his mind, his soul. He was too old for war, they had told him. They must have been right. He should never had enlisted. He didn’t deserve to fight for America. He wasn’t brave enough to represent freedom.
George had only joined because his sons had urged him to. Now they were gone. Both of them. George could picture their faces in his mind. Covered in dirt and blood, their eyes had showed a pain he could never know while living. It was a pain only felt through death. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and kept walking slowly and steadily. He couldn’t bear to picture his sons for more than a second. It was too much.
George was beyond being angry. He was hopeless. He didn’t even care if Germany won the war. He didn’t care about anything. If someone had come up to him and shot him on the spot, he wouldn’t have cared. At least he would be with his sons.
He trugged through the forest, dragging his tired legs through the leaves. He wanted to stop, or rather he needed to stop. The sky seemed to be growing lighter, though it didn’t seem to have any affect on the temperature. George decided he wasn’t going to stop unless there was a reason to. He hadn’t prayed much in his life, but right then, he was begging God, “Please, God. Give me a reason. Give me something to live for.”
Instinctively, he looked over to his left, unsure why. Then he saw it.
It had taken him a moment to realize what it was, but when he did, his feet didn’t stop; instead they quickened. What was it? It was a piano.
George brushed away the brown leaves off of the keys with a dry, cracked hand. For the first time, he noticed what an usual looking piano it was. The piano itself seemed to grow into the ground. It was covered in frosted ivy. The keys, for some reason, were as white as snow.
George had always been a curious person by nature, and couldn’t help but wonder if the keys were in tune. It seemed ridiculous, yet right that they should be. He gently touched a few keys, and they played the sweet and familiar notes that he had expected.
George began to play an old hymn that he could remember teaching his sons when they were very young. Amazing Grace. As he played, the keys seemed to warm his fingertips. By the time he had finished, the warmth had spread to the rest of his body. He felt rejuvenated, despite having gotten no sleep for the past few nights.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me.” He sang aloud in his rough, deep voice. “I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.” Tears welled up in his eyes as memories of his sons flooded back into his mind. The fountain of his heart began to spill over.
He had been blind. He now saw what he needed to do. He had to go back to camp. He had to fight for his sons and for his country.
George bent over and picked up a pile of leaves from the ground and covered up the piano. It seemed like the right thing to do. That piano was meant to stay hidden, unless it was absolutely, desperately needed.
George turned around to face the sunrise. He had a reason to live. He had a reason to fight. And he had a reason to hope.