Suddenly there was a nip and bite of pain at his hand.
He grit his teeth as the blood pounded in his ears and he dropped his blue eyes to his glove. Cut clean through, the worn thin fabric caught on the chicken wire of the trench wall. Dürr had tried to move down the line, as though relocating himself might make the biting cold of the early morning go away. The only good thing about the cold was that the mud did not run like sopping water and had begun to freeze allowing for some solid ground to stand on. Weeks of rain that made the trenches flood and living unbearable, now, thank the Lord, the water was slowly draining away.
Dürr sniffed against the winter and carefully used his other hand to peel back the ragged edge of the glove which was starting to turn red. The open wound cut clean across the palm of his hand. Would this become infected? Had he just condemned himself because he had not looked where he had put his hand?
The snow at the Somme was anointed with droplets of his own blood. He gritted his teeth together once more as he tried to flex his hand and was only met with more throbbing in his ears. The pain still bit like the fading rumble of lost nights and the Entente bombardment on their position. The Vater pulled the glove off and let it drop to his feet before he went searching in his pockets to try to find if he had any supplies left in his aid-kit. First he tried the pockets of his overcoat, the great creature that he wore around his wide-shouldered but thinning body. Nothing turned up but wool lint and his lighter. The man grumbled; he then went for his gray tunic pockets and once more was met with nothing save for his identification and spare cigarettes.
"Wonderful..." he said as he reached his hand into the pocket on the inside of his tunic only to find that it had a hole torn through at the bottom.
He kept his hand away from him now so as not to get his already battle-worn uniform any more revolting. The dried and hardened mud was caked on it almost up to his knees, and the once black boots on his feet had since discolored to an earthen, sickening gray. His hat, the Schirmmütze fell into his eyes as he looked down. With an elbow, he agitatedly pushed it back into place on his head. Dürr pressed his hands together, almost as if in prayer, to apply pressure to the cut at his hand.
"Vater?" Leutnant Ranke turned from his seat to look to the slightly hunched Dürr. "Is something wrong?"
"My hand," Dürr said, unfurling it toward the other like the crimson backing of their regimental flag, the lines of red slithered out from between his fingers.
The fear of infection was still ever present in his mind. The flash of the saw sampling his body as it gnawed off the grotesque remains of a gangrenous limb. Perhaps if he was terribly unlucky the rot would have spread to other parts of him: just more places that the hungry saw would find appetizing. The taste of dead must be a delicacy to some.
He swallowed hard, trying to remain stoic. The Vater could think of a few whom he shared this trench with that would like to see him make any indication of pain. Those few would have the grounds then to question his masculinity once again, as though being unable to carry a gun was not demeaning enough. Despite him being out here just like the other men of his unit, despite suffering and starving along with them, there were still the few that held fast to the thought that, because Dürr had chosen the life of the church, he was far too different from them. That somehow wearing a cross at his neck made him less human.
The Leutnant came over to him and took a hold of his hand, quickly pushing a swatch of gauze against it.
"It's not too bad." Ranke smirked. "Shall I kiss it and make it go away?" He snorted, despite the look of distaste on Dürr's countenance. "Just have the medic redress it when you get the chance." The Leutnant dropped the Vater's hand and continued down the line, walking absurdly slow as his feet fell into soft spots of mud and were quickly sucked into the vat-like hole.
There was suddenly a mocking whistle in the opposite direction. Dürr turned to try to see who had made the noise. All he saw were scattered groups of other soldiers, huddling together to keep warm. Some were sick and coughing and others were slowly turning pale with pestilence. It made the Vater's heart ache that he could find no way in heaven to get every one of these men home.
A rustle of movement drew his eye as the white face of Private Wolfe stood out to him, "Holding hands with the Leutnant, sir?" he chortled, thinking it some joke.
Dürr was not one for foolishness. He exhaled slowly and shook his head as though he were responding to the boy's inquiry. Before he could stop himself, his bandaged hand came into the air, a finger came to his temple as he glowered in a rather obscene gesture. He then turned on his heel to try to find the medic, a chorus of laughter trailing out behind him because of his chosen response.
And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar.