PUSHED TO THE LIMIT

 

Based on the ABC Television Series:  Combat!

Story Copyright 2005 by Terry Pierce

 

 

 

 

 

Another few minutes and he’d kill the bastard.

 

Caje peered at the sky smothered in clouds pregnant with rain.  Five downpours in as many days.  And the icy water welling up through the sodden leaves and filthy shelter half he'd hurriedly spread beneath himself had begun soaking his boots. With his legs sore, his back aching, the vice of a cold still clamped around his chest, he was tired of crouching.  But no way could he sit.  The foul-smelling bomb crater, uncomfortable now, would be unbearable if he got his pants wet.  Cramped and fighting off the urge to stand, Caje knew he’d have to stay put.

 

Knee to knee with the world’s most obnoxious replacement.

 

“I said to move yer damned feet, LeMay.”

 

Caje shut his eyes and took several deep breaths, resentment threatening to ignite a fuse he was battling to keep unlit.  No way could he blow up …even if Tex seemed hell bent on making a rotten situation worse.  He had to concentrate and block the guy out, or he wouldn't be able to deal with this mess.

 

Whatsa matter?  Y’all deaf?”

 

Caje grimaced and tried to move in his feet.  His rain slicker already tight around himself, his Garand upright between his knees, he pressed himself into the muddy wall at his back, barely able to gain an inch.  Not that it would’ve done any good if he’d gained a hundred feet.  Tex would never shut up, no matter how much room he got.

 

“Yeah, y’all must be deaf since y’all won’t gimme me any room.”

 

Caje shifted his eyes away from his antagonist.  Starting trouble was obviously Tex’s favorite sport.   How the guys in his old unit stood the hick, Caje couldn’t begin to guess.

 

Day after day, it was always the same.  One long litany of complaints.  Why’d they always wait around so much?  Why’d the army’s food taste like crap?  Why, today, couldn’t he work with someone else?

 

Tex had made it clear he’d wanted to be paired up with a soldier an “expert marksman” from Waco could respect.   A guy like Kirby who’d grown up on tough city streets.  Or Littlejohn, a good-sized Joe who could probably take down a hundred Krauts.  Hell, he’d even choose the sergeant – too small and kind of quiet - but who looked like he could handle himself.

 

But Caje?  One of those pansy French?

 

Fer a runty guy, y’all sure take up a passel o' space.”

 

Another bullet slammed into the lip of the crater and Caje, his head pounding, his throat raw, ducked and winced.  Right now!  He had to pay attention and focus.  If he didn’t, the sniper would keep targeting the shell hole’s rim, and then he and Tex would be forced to displace.  But getting prematurely out into the open…

 

The meat wagon would have two more dead men to fetch.

 

Caje frowned, his anger growing.  Tex had sure made a mess of things when he’d let the Kraut know where they were by panicking and taking that wild shot.  Now, being trapped with the big mouth, it was nearly impossible to…

 

“Did y’all hear me?  I said y’all are takin’ up too much space!”

 

Tex shifted his six foot four, two hundred seventeen pound frame, becoming an ever-expanding colossus.  Stretching out his legs, he wiggled back and forth and managed to kick Caje in the shins.  Caje, his face reddening, his eyes narrowing to slits, sucked in air through clenched teeth.

 

“Hey, it ain’t my fault y’all are hoggin’ the place.”

 

Tex continued to squirm, his helmet turtling back and forth along the shell hole’s rim.  An irresistible target, it drew the German’s attention and the sniper fired another round.  As the bullet smacked into the mud, the crater’s edge began collapsing.

 

Tex lurched sideways, kicking Caje a second time.  “I knew I shouldn’t’ve followed y’all here!  Now the Kraut’s gonna see us, fer sure!”

 

Squashed against the crater wall, Caje slid his fingers down the M1’s stock.  Reaching the cool metal of the trigger, he struggled to control his growing rage.

 

“I told the sergeant y’all weren’t the one I wanted to be stuck with.  I told him!  First he picks y’all to check out the crossroads and then we end up runnin’ right into an ambush!”

 

More shots struck the puddles around the crater and Caje, shutting his eyes against the chilly water splattering over him, knew he’d heard enough.

 

“Y’all shoulda known that house had a Kraut in it!  Y’all are supposed to know what ya’ll are doin’.  And now here I am, gonna be killed ‘cause of a stupid Cajun!”

 

The son of a bitch was a dead man.

 

Caje shoved Tex backward, swung up the Garand, and pulled the trigger.

 

The M1 roared as Tex screamed.

 

In the silence that followed, the body dropped.  Caje, reloading the rifle, grumbled, “Bastard,” and vaulted from the hole without a look back.

 

The medic watching everything from a safer distance leaped out of cover and quickly approached.

 

“You okay, Tex?”

 

Tex, his eyes wide, his knees knocking together, looked up into Doc’s face.  “Y’all saw him?” he sputtered.  “Y’all saw what that guy just did?”

 

Ya mean Caje runnin’ for this hole an’ then poppin’ up to take out that Kraut?”  Doc turned to look at the isolated gasthaus standing at the crossroads and nodded thoughtfully.  “Yeah, I saw it.  Caje is a guy who sometimes takes crazy risks.  I remember a time when he even advanced up a hill by himself to try to blow up a pillbox.

 

“But I thought…” Tex stammered, “…I thought he was goin’ to…”

 

“Get shot?”  Doc turned back to Tex as more of the squad rushed past.  “No, soldier, don’t worry about that.  The whole time we were pinned down back there he was probably listenin’ to which window that Kraut’s shots were comin’ from.  Give Caje a little time ‘n’ space, an’ he’s got a good way of zeroin’ in.”

 

“But he…he…I mean…his face, Doc!”

 

“Yeah, I know what ya mean.  It’s a good thing he’s on your side, huh?”

 

With a smile, Doc squatted, put out a hand to help Tex up, and winked.

 

 

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