Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
Benjamin’s bones ached and his skin stung from the harsh winter winds. The past five hours had been nothing but non-stop trudging through the freshly driven New England snow and he felt no closer to home than he had when he fled Concord. Benjamin took note of the many red blotches in the white landscape from the recent battle. Blood, no doubt belonging to young men fighting against their will to free the rich and powerful from the tyrant king’s taxation. It was this reason Benjamin fled in the first place. Although a close second was the yearning for his warm bed back home.
Cambridge was home and Benjamin was determined to waste no time getting there but without horse nor carriage, it was bound to be a tiresome journey. The hardest part would be passing through Lexington where there was bound to be some red coats. Benjamin glanced down at the coat of red he currently wore, taken from a dead Brit during his escape. He hoped that with a faux accent, he may be able to pass through Lexington on a mission of “Royal decree.” All he wanted was his goose feather mattress and a chance to hold his wife and child. For that, he’d happily trudge through hell.
The lights of Lexington appeared in the distance and a lump developed in Benjamin’s throat. Suddenly he felt his plan was incredibly stupid and ill prepared but as long as home lay on the other side, he needed to go through with it. As he neared the town, he could make out little red figures. In fact, Lexington was absolutely crawling with red coats. Benjamin shook the nervous tremble he was experiencing and continued on. He was met at the town’s edge by a British officer on horseback.
“Halt! State your name, soldier!” He called to Benjamin over the winter winds.
“Benjamin....uh....Caldwell, Sir.” Benjamin replied with his best fake accent.
The officer pondered a moment before pulling smugly at his lapel.
“Caldwell, you say?...Never heard of the name.” He sniffed. “From where do you hail?”
Benjamin felt his nerves build up with anxiety. He shivered as he spoke. “Blackpool, Sir. We’re just a small family of herders.” With every lie, Benjamin felt the officer was beginning to see through the guise.
“What business do you have in Lexington?” The officer asked.
“Passing through on way to Boston. I’m on a mission of royal decree from his majesty, King George.” The thought of home kept him going. He took note of the officer’s eyebrow raise.
“Show me your orders.” The officer’s horse balked as he spoke but he pulled the reins to adjust. “You should have an order with the royal seal.”
Benjamin hesitated. He needed an excuse and quick. The officer was getting as restless as his mount. “Sir, they were lost in battle with the Patriots in Concord.”
The officer tilted his head. “Patriots?”
Benjamin quietly cursed himself. He knew better. They weren’t patriots to the Brits. “I meant the traitors to the crown. My apologies, Sir. I’ve spent too much time listening to their traitorous banter on the frontlines. They called themselves Patriots?” Benjamin spit on the ground. “Well I spit on their treason!” He felt guilty but he needed this to be convincing.
The officer looked impressed with Benjamin’s apparent disgust with his comrades in blue. “And of the traitors in Concord?” He asked.
“Slaughtered like the dogs they were.” This part was true save for one. Benjamin was forced to hold back a tear for his brothers. After a long moment the officer smiled and moved his horse aside to allow Benjamin passage through Lexington.
“I can assign a scout to accompany you to Boston.” The officer offered but Benjamin waved it off.
“I can cover more ground alone but a horse would be sufficient.” Benjamin was relieved to see the officer order a scout to pass his mount off to him. “Thank you, Sir. Long live King George” With a salute, Benjamin headed through Lexington and on his way to Cambridge.
Once outside the city limits, Benjamin released a loud sigh of relief. Not only had he passed off as a soldier of the tyrant but he acquired a horse as well. He would be in Cambridge in no time to finally lay in his warm bed. The days of bedding in the snow and blistering cold would finally come to an end.
After hours of riding, he neared the lights of Cambridge. The buildings came more and more into view and he could spot some blue jackets. He felt a sigh of relief and then pain in his chest followed by a loud pop. Benjamin hadn’t thought of the reaction he’d get from riding into Cambridge with a red coat. A mistake that punished him with a musket ball. He slumped forward as the world around him went hazy. The horse continued into town and he was promptly pulled from the saddle by his brothers in arms. The shock on their faces revealed what they now knew.
“Benjamin! Speak to me!” The voice was his childhood friend, Lewis. The shooter. Tears on his face showed his regret at firing without warning. Benjamin’s only request was to be taken to his bed where he could die in comfort on his goose feather mattress. With his sorrowful wife and child at his side, Benjamin drew his final breath and faded away.