Sleigh Bells Painting by Ally Benbrook
“Psst, Danny, did you hear that?” Bob whispered.
“What?” Danny whispered back.
“Bells. I hear bells, you know, like the ones that my Pa used to tie on to the Clydesdales in winter, those kind of bells.”
“Ah, geez Bob, there ain’t no bells ringin’ here. Probably just the ringing in your ears from that last artillery offensive. I heard Gerry ain’t gonna take off Christmas this year no how.” Danny spoke, with a kind of hesitation and an inward sigh.
The two huddled closer together for warmth as they almost simultaneously shook their feet to prevent their boots from freezing solid in the French farmland mud and muck. There was a tin of canned heat lit but no warmth was felt by either G.I. on this blisteringly cold night.
“Listen, I’m not kidding. Listen Danny, right there, can you hear’em? They sound wonderful! Maybe Gerry is gonna take the night off. Maybe we can stop the shellin’ for just one night.” Bob really more thinking out loud than whispering back to his buddy-in-arms.
“All I hear is the rumblin’ in my gut from last night’s chow. What was that anyhow? Beans and what, ‘cause if that was supposed to be meat my gut and my asshole beg to differ.” hissed Danny as he crouched even lower over that canned heat, as if to do so would actually be worth the effort.
“I heard this damn awful weather is supposed to sock in and give us snow tonight. Maybe the local farmers are saddlin’ up their horses with sleigh bells. They could be Danny, right?” Bob almost pleading for Danny to answer in the affirmative, even if it weren’t true.
“Listen and listen good. All you gotta listen for is if Gerry crosses “No Man’s Land” tonight and to get that gun outta your ass and fired on him before he fires on you. Do ya think you can manage that in between all this ramblin’ about damn bells?” Danny barked in low tones (his breath almost solid white crystallized puffs of air), to avoid waking up their Sergeant who was cat-napping on the wooden board-walk not ten feet from where the young boys lay.
As Bob pushed yet another water rat off his flack jacket, he whispered back, “Danny, them I hear is bells. I know them sleigh bells. Dad made me hitch up our Clydes with’em each winter.”
“Okay, okay, they’re goddamned bells. Now, get your ass back into the dug-out and see if it’s time for us to be tradin’ shifts with “D” Company so we can get some shut-eye, okay.” barked Danny, not in as friendly, nor as quiet a tone as he had hoped for.
“Yeah, okay Danny. Keep my spot warm for me.” Bob chuckled back. Pop! No good comes from peeking your head over the fox-hole on Christmas eve night, even if you’re sure you heard sleigh bells in the air…