No one spoke. Mist hung above them in the leafless branches. Tank treads in back, truck wheels in front, and a rattling gun turret atop, the A-track advanced along the narrow path, pulling itself through the mud. The squad of eleven followed.
The mist accumulated and rolled down their steel helmets. Moisture seeped through their fatigues, soaking their skin. Eleven faces smoothed with razors. An endless scattering of black tree trunks stood before them. Mud stuck wet and thick to their boots, and they took on more with each step.
Sergeant Kelley lit another cigarette. Those without smokes still exhaled vapor, their breath vanishing up into the white.
Boots sank deep into the path, the ground sucking at the soles. The A-track treaded and hummed and pumped out black exhaust. If the Germans were there—behind melting snowbanks, around bends in the path, in tunnels under their feet—they could hear the A-track’s treads. They could hear Sergeant Kelley. The squad. Their boots. Slowly. Coming. Through the mud.
Dedicated to Arthur M. Kelley, and based on the stories he told me before his death. This is the first of a series.