It was 1940, 2nd of May in France and the temperature outside was mild. The atmosphere inside the small wooden army cabin that was stationed at the border was the same .Lieutenant Colonel Rafe licked his lips. He bent upon a brown tattered map of France that contained the intricate routes. Smoke from cigar disturbed his view; the smoker was Colonel Pervez. Man of large frame in his late forties with well trimmed moustache, just smiled. “Nothing tastes like these cigars, not even woman’s lipstick”, he claimed. On the contrary, Rafe was thin and pale with stern quick eyes that seemed to follow every detail. Officers feared Pervez’s brawn while they were admired Rafe’s intellect.
“I fear the number of our men we have sent to confront in this sector”, Rafe pointed out to his senior. Pervez gave a sad look as if departing from his cigar meant his death. “You worry too much, dear Lieutenant. Forty is not a small number for the place. Germans would never take that route as the terrain is not very convenient”.
Rafe was not convinced because Pervez was prone to make mistakes and ‘convenience’ was never in an army dictionary. He studied the map carefully and looked for signs of danger. Had he not been busy with other sectors, he would have checked the troop that was sent.
“If German’s enter through the mainline, we can attack them from all the three ends but if they take this route, we would lose all forty men”, Rafe claimed, more to himself. “Losing forty men is not a big deal, Rafe, especially in an enemy confront. It is natural.”, Pervez said his usual lethargic tone. Being a man of practicality, Rafe knew it was true but that was not what they were assigned to do-lose men foolishly. Planning was never easy; it was semi barbaric and sentimental at the same time. Most of the men who came into army had families.
“Did you take a look at the troop at least?”, Rafe questioned Pervez. “Yes yes. Inspected last night .All good and patriotic”, claimed Pervez. Rafe knew it was not true. The bottles of alcohol stacked in the corner spoke of a different story. “Why do you worry about them so much?”, asked Pervez. Rafe was provoked but he maintained his calm. “Men come to serve our country and they have families! Don’t you realize that? They shouldn’t lose their lives just because their seniors committed a grave mistake of not looking over things. Their life is our responsibilty”. Pervez rolled his eyes and seemed not bothered. The concept of family never appealed him. He was quite content with all the women he went out with frequently but never fell in love with any of them. According to him, men in armies did not need families, just as Rafe and he had chosen not to marry. Rafe, because he respected them and had decided to marry the one he loved. To fall in love was not possible for a man in his position.
A muffled sound came over the receiver that was placed in the far end of the cabin. Rafe moved towards it to adjust so that it can capture the signal. The cabin creaked as Rafe made movements. “Colonel Colonel! Do you read me?” The voice broke over the receiver.
“This is Lieutenant here. What is it, officer?”, Rafe replied recognizing the voice of the officer.
The signal was strong and so the voice was very clear.
“The planning was wrong, Sir.German’s took the Route A.”, explained the officer, sounding quite alarmed and nervous.
Rafe froze in his place. It was anticipated but it seemed to answer his worst fears. “Officer, can we have the other two troops back to the area?”, asked Rafe as he had planned out.
“Yes Sir, we could but we lost all forty people who were supposed to tackle there. It was a brutal fight and much more than what we expected of them. Germans attacked from three ends. The enemy almost lost out too; with only few of them left out now. We can handle them. Our troop was very skilled but unfortunate”.
Rafe choked while Pervez just stared at the receiver. Rafe was disgusted with himself. Disgusted for trusting Pervez on this.
“Sir?”, officer called out.
“Yes, I am here”, answered Rafe.
“Didn’t you find it hard to send them to fight, Sir? Should have looked into it one more time. You could have been more careful about the number sent to such a dangerous zone”
Rafe was stunned by such an accusation and looked quite helpless. “Why do you say that , officer?”
“Were you not aware that all the forty people sent to fight were women?!?!”, officer asked in a stern voice.
Rafe simply stared at the receiver. He could feel Pervez’s hand trembling over his shoulders.
Next day, the head office received a resignation letter. It was signed by Lieutenant Colonel of French Sector-A army, Rafe Van.