He had, in the end, made his choice. There were those things he loved—the gun parts, their machine oil tang, the powder going in and the acrid smoke after firing, the camaraderie of war brothers, the clacking, hungry jaws of the hounds—and there were those that were scarred into him—the wails of the stricken, the rolling rumble of enemy engines, artillery fire approaching like some terrible countdown. The contortions of the dead, the irrevocably wounded. The stink of trench disease. The putrid water, the chemical food, the rampant shits. In the end, it was these that weighed the most, and these that he had hoped somehow to set aside.
His niece had always loved the plank swing under the elm in his yard. He had pushed her on it, many a time. Her shrill giggles. He had hoped, laying down arms, deserting—he had hoped that he would at last win himself time to do more of that. To swing with her, even.
Well, now he was swinging.