Gunpowder

An excerpt

letters

Characters
Charles
Elizabeth

Charles is a Canadian soldier in World War One and he’s been away from home for a year. For the first time since the war started, he’s able to write to his wife, Elizabeth, while he’s at a rest camp. With the war raging Charles’ only escape is through the ones he loves.

Setting—Rest Camp Storage Room

(Charles opens the door to a dark storage room, dumps his bag by a crate, pulls it towards him and sits down. He pulls out a sheet of paper and a pencil from inside his jacket and starts to write.)

Charles:

April 25, 1915

My darling Elizabeth, It has been far too long since the last I wrote. I’ve been stationed for a week in Ypres and it has been hell trying to hold the line.
The Germans have been attacking us relentlessly since we’ve arrived and just a day ago they sent gas at us. I can still feel the burn in my nostrils and sting in my throat, but considering the conditions I would rather have this pain than any other infection from the trench.

Setting—Kitchen

(Elizabeth opens the curtains then makes herself a cup of tea. She sits at the kitchen table, opens Charles’ letter then starts to write her own.)

Elizabeth:

May 10, 1915

Dear Charlie, I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must be at the front lines. I hear that our neighbor’s husband shot himself in the foot so he could come home.
No one in their right mind would cause themselves that pain if there wasn’t something dark eating away at their soul. I need you to promise that you won’t do something stupid out there. You never listen to me but just this once Charles you had better.

(Sips at her tea.)

Charles:

(Charles inhales deeply and smiles to himself.)

I am a long ways from home and comfort; no longer can I bask in your sweet laugh or the smell of your famous apple pie to brighten my day.
No, here every touch is a jolt of fear and a steady hand is only good for a shot. Lizzie, I wish I was able to carry your perfume because the smell in the trenches is far past putrid, they say that we will get used to the smell over time but it feels like it will never leave us.

Elizabeth:

(Elizabeth looks worried but she smiles.)

I’ve closed my eyes several times to remember how you smell and the way you feel. The way your scruff would tickle my nose when you kissed my cheek (touches her cheek) or how your unruly curls would somehow smell of sunshine.
Charlie, I still remember how you looked like a lost dog when they shaved you clean then shipped you off. I miss you so much. (Sighs.)

Charles:

(Pulls his helmet off and runs a hand through his choppy hair.)

When I have time to myself, which isn’t much, I think back to our home. How we spent many a quiet and peaceful day lying in the grass (leans against the wall), listening to the chickadees. I can’t pretend that the rotting duckboards are the same as the lush grass of our front lawn, or that the bullets flying through the air are just the same as the songbirds you love. But I find comfort where I can.

Elizabeth:

(Lets out a shaky breath.)

The house has been quiet, absent of your quick remarks and hardy laughter. I try to stay outside most days to battle the loneliness but it’s so much worse out there. The birds don’t sing like they used to and the sun doesn’t shine as brightly. It’s as if the whole town has lost the will to live and frankly I can’t blame them. I pray that things change soon. (Holds the cross around her neck.)

Charles:

(Sits upright and furrows his brow.)

Elizabeth, you are the most beautiful woman I know, inside and out, and I adore you more than anything in this world.
I need you to know that I tried so hard to be like you and leave my problems to god but, some things can’t be fixed with prayer. Which is why I have to confide my darkest secret to you. (Pauses and looks to the sky) I’ve met someone.

 . . . to be continued