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It's snowing on Christmas Eve, and half the men I've ever known in my life are dead. But that was in the war, supposedly a long way away from Oxfordshire, where I am standing outside my brother-in-law's beautiful brownstone house watching the snow quietly cover the hillside beyond. The daylight is dying and it casts the once-white ground in pink, and the pine trees are black against the hillsides, and the truth of it is that the war is not far away because it has followed me here. I am smoking a cigarette, watching the hill, and my mind is slowly counting down the list of men that I once knew, now buried under hills and snow, all of the way from Lorraine to the Rhine. Some of them were my men.

Being an officer is like being a parent; when I left my boys in Paris, despite the Armistice, and despite how many times I reminded myself that they are not my children but in fact, grown men, I felt guilty, and frightened. Land mines don't know that the war has ended, and neither does hunger.
 
But my wife has a family and I can't live in a dugout forever. Either choice, leaving the boys behind, or leaving Becca to go home alone to her family, would have made me guilty. I tried to choose the more reasonable option. We all have to move on, so I'm told.

So it's snowing on Christmas Eve, war's over. Well, Hallelujah. Everyone's inside playing with trains and decking some halls and I can't take it. So I'm smoking and watching the hillside.

Back in New York, whenever the snow came in heavy enough it stopped the sounds of the traffic and the horses and it was as if the whole world had gone to sleep. It helped me think, or, in some cases, not to think and just be until I felt like thinking again. I came outside in hopes that open air would cure a little claustrophobia, and the quiet would do me some good.

But now I find silence unnerving. I can feel it deep down in me, wound up tighter than a spring, that something is going to happen. There's nothing moving out there. It's just snow and hill. A lifetime ago the quiet probably would have done me good, but silence has become my enemy; because in a trench silence means gas or a raid or any number of frightening, deadly things. Nothing good ever comes out of a silence. Even though I know rationally there are no Germans or wire or anything of the sort beyond the hill, I still can't shake the feeling in my bones that something horrible is coming. Standing in the garden by the little frozen fountain, I fear for my life.

In the house Becca's playing with the kids; If I stand too near the window I can hear them shrieking and giggling and I can barely stand it, so I have moved away across the garden to stand with the fountain and the pink and black hill and the silence. The kids have a Christmas pageant tonight. My little nephews are a wiseman and a shepherd respectively, and tiny Gwennie, my niece, is an angel. She's singing tonight. I don't want to go, in the core of me I don't want to go to that fucking farce, but it would crush the kids if I didn't. I am really not much one for Jesus these days but I figure if I drink enough I can muddle through it quietly.

I dig out a pack of cigarettes and some matches, and light up.

The first thing I think is 'thank God the matches are dry,' and the second thing I think is – ' Is that's the person I ought to be thanking?', and the third is 'really, Neil, that's your Christmas miracle? Your matches are blessedly dry?'

But then no one in that house really understands. They don't know what it feels like to be crouched in a hole, up to your calves in dirty water and piss, and to be thinking 'thank fuck' because those bombs have finally stopped. But the roaring is still in your ears, and you're shaking and your guts are wrenching, your hands are trembling so bad you can't even open the flap on your jacket; you go to light up a penny just to put something in your hands, and you find out your matches are soaked. That's the part that breaks a man. Not the fact that his friends are probably dead, not the fact that he's sitting half underwater in a fucking hole and he can't get out, not the rockets, or the darkness. It's the fucking matches that do it. So I suppose I do have something to be thankful for, there.

The snow is falling fairly steadily now and I wonder if it's this thick down in France as well. I hope the boys on leave have some place to go. The boys in the trenches still at least have each other and a dugout to hole up in. I'm not sure which is more preferable; living in an underground warren or being alone between tall Paris buildings. Either way, not much I can do for them from here. That is why the army gives us lieutenants.

"Hey," says someone behind me, and I nearly jump out of my skin.

Oliver, my brother-in-law, is offering me a sad kind of smile, staying his distance, as if he guesses what's going on. "Sorry if the girls sprang the pageant on you, mate." A pause. "You don't have to go if you're not feeling up to it."

"I'll go," I answer tightly. "It'd break Gwennie's heart if I didn't."

"You've only been back a few days…"

"Can't live in France forever."

"Alright," he says slowly, and he's testing his ground. He's one foot on the thin ice, and he's gauging me. "I just want you to know it's alright if you aren't up for church tonight. It's a hard time to be talking about Christmas miracles. We'd understand."

I shake my head, and I think, no, you wouldn't. Ostensibly they would be fine without me at the pageant, but they would not in any way understand. "Doesn't really make a difference to me where I am tonight. I doubt church will bother me any more or less than being alone here."  

Oliver just puts his hand on my shoulder and watches me as I watch the snow.

My cigarette is dwindling and so is the daylight. The sunlight makes sparkling rosés with its last rays along the hillside.

I feel guilty, and I wonder how uncomfortable and helpless Oliver actually feels about this, and I wish I wasn't putting him in this position. "I'm sorry," I say, but I'm grasping at words. "It's Christmas, I know."

Oliver frowns. "Don't be sorry," he says. "It's understandable, truly." A pause. "Listen, Neil. Tell me if there's anything I can do. Even if it's to just shut the hell up, please do."

I sigh and I shake my head. "It's not you. It's Christmas. Just no room in me for peace on earth good will to men. I don't have a whole lot of faith in people."

He nods. "Well, I hope people earn that back in time."

"Hell," I say, "So do I. A body should have faith in something."

"Well, you have faith in Becca."

"I do."

"And yourself?"

I say nothing. I suppose my expression says it all. There was a time when I would have drawn definite lines and said I would not have been capable of certain things. I think of sitting in a wet, dark hole, and how a rifle feels in my hands. I think about the click and the roar and the feel of the kickback hitting my shoulder when it fires. But I don't feel guilty about it. I just know myself now, and that's nothing you can say to your brother-in-law while it's snowing on Christmas Eve.

Oliver frowns. He says nothing. Nobody says anything, because there is nothing to say.
"… You have any more scotch?" I ask, finally.

He gives me a small, smile that is not really a smile, and squeezes my shoulder, "Cupboards full."  I am very glad that his profession kept him here and not Over There. "Neil," he says then, and he's suddenly very earnest. "Are you sure you're steady?"

"I'm fine," I lie. "I'm just tired."

"Alright. Come on, let's get you a drink." We start inside, Oliver stepping quickly to get in, and my heavy foot falls leaving deep prints in the snow behind him.

When we get to the door we stop, Oliver waits with his hand on the knob. "I'm glad you came up," he tells me, and he puts his hand on my shoulder. I lean on him, just a little. 'I'm so tired,' I want to tell him. That part wasn't a lie.

"Thank you," I say.

He nods. "Anytime."


I ride in the back of the car, holding Becca's hand, but I'm far away out there, in the snow, and the dark, dark night. I am sorry because I would rather be with her, but it is not so easy to come back. We get to the church without any fuss, except for Gwennie who is bouncing up and down so much that her little painted cardboard angel wings are about to shake right off her. Fortunately her mother gets her to the stage before any real damage is done.

We take our seats and I hate my uniform. I feel watched, and I feel pitied, and I feel wondered about. Still, I would rather have it on than regular clothes. My wife takes my hand and I feel it faintly, as though she is very far away.

The play begins and I am barely watching. The scotch has calmed me down from all that coiled up fear I had in the garden. But the sheep and the shepherds and the star in the east don't have my attention; I'm staring at the stained-glass depiction of Christ with his hands spread out and a smile on his face, but I'm not really seeing it.

I'm back in Paris, where I left a few good men in some bad ways. A few drinking, a few in despair. It's Christmas Eve and I hope they at least managed to crawl to a bar or a whorehouse at worst. Some place with lights. It's not a good night to be alone. We don't need a holy night and especially not a silent night. All we need is a night under a roof and out of the dark.

I hope they're weathering through.

And I'm angry again, because here I am in a church watching a pageant with people I don't know and don't care to know, with my wife who I can't even bring myself to talk to, and for the love of God I couldn't even get my foot in the front door here without a healthy dose of Glennfiddich first. I am angry because my family is a unit of men miles away from here, or lives away, men now in pieces, men swallowed by the earth, men who are gone and who left holes in all our lives. And what I have is a few warm shots of scotch, kids playing wisemen and a glass picture of a smiling Christ, well who gives a damn?

I want to cry. I wish I were crying. But I don't, or I can't, and the pageant has reached its glorious finale: Angels we have heard on high, nothing brings back the dead and in excelsius deo.

I close my eyes, and Rebecca is there; she squeezes my hand and I squeeze back.

The glorias cease and the audience claps. I clap along with them, methodically. I'm sure the kids were great.

"We wanted to wrap things up with a special song tonight," says the pianist. "Something maybe we all need right now. Please turn to page ninety-three in your hymnal, and sing with me if you'd like."

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


My wife is singing next to me and one by one voices come from the people in the pews. They sing softly, they sing with difficulty. There are men in uniform, khaki and not olive drab like mine, but uniforms all the same; some sing, some don't, some bow their heads. I lift mine and look at the stage. My two nephews are singing, and little Gwennie with her off kilter cardboard wings sings exuberantly.

Voices break. I can't get words out; I grip my wife's hand. She still sings quietly but turns to me and I feel her fingers on my cheek. What do they know of the thunder of cannons in the south?

And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


And in despair I bow my head; "There is no peace on earth," I say -- mostly to myself, but my wife hears me.

"Oh Neil," she says. "I'm here."

I lay my head on hers and shut my eyes and try to forget how cold my boys are, where they might be, curled up under the covers in some brothel bed, or in a dugout far to the east alone, afraid. I try to forget the snow and the silence, to forget the pageant and the damned Glennfiddich and try to just smell the violet perfume of my wife's hair.

"I love you," she says.

"I love you," I whisper.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;


I don't know what I believe, about this smiling stained glass Christ, these tales of shepherds and saviors born; I believe in guns and the monsters inside men, and the brotherhood too, when I think about it. I believe in Rebecca, and I hold her hand fiercely. Quietly, roughly, I add my voice to the choir. Not for any credence lent to the lyrics; I just want don't want to be alone.

So we all sing. Peace on earth, good will to men. And for once, I pray. Not to God, He's not intervening. But to myself, and the men sitting around me. Make it so, Neil. We'll start with you. For the wrong shall fail –

--the right prevail,

With peace on earth. God Almighty, we can only pray.


After the service, Gwennie comes up to me, cardboard wings flapping behind her and hugs my legs. "Did you hear me sing?" she cries.

Becca is on my arm and she lets me go so I can stiffly crouch down to return the hug. Gwennie's arms are around my neck immediately. I just know I'll end up spoiling her when we visit.

And that hits me; a future. Spoiling my niece. Bells keep pealing, nieces need spoiling, the world keeps turning, even if I'm angry about it.

"I did hear you sing."

She draws back. "I only really sang the glorias."

"They were wonderful."

"Happy Christmas, Uncle Neil."

It's not a very happy Christmas. But she doesn't need to know it. "Merry Christmas, darling."

Becca's on my arm again, steady and ever present and lovely as she always is. She keeps me behind as Oliver herds the kids toward the car.

"Darling, are you alright?"

"No." I'm honest this time.

She nods, and embraces me gently, minding my old side wound and I wrap my arms around her.

"You will be," she says. "We all will be."

"I hope so, love."

Up above us the clock strikes midnight and the bells start chiming. In an hour they'll be chiming in Paris, in Coblenz, Berlin. I hear the bells on Christmas day, and though I still do not feel that right will prevail and wrong shall fail, I have a place out of the cold and my wife in my arms.

"Are you ready to go home and have Christmas?"

"I don't know," I say. "But it's coming whether we like it or not now isn't it?"

It's still snowing on Christmas Day as we head to the car.

"We'll have a nice, deep snow tomorrow," Becca says.

"Yes," I say. And I think about tomorrow, and a silent snowy morning, something like home, which is years away from me now. But I can't think in years, none of us can right now. Tomorrow is all I can handle. So for now I'll have to take it as it comes, one day, one Christmas at a time.
I don't have much to say about this except well, that's the war. And to think now-major Andrews is having one of the better holidays of the guys in that unit.

And to thank ~oboe-wan for loaning me Oliver, Becca, and Gwennie. Hope i did them justice, and here have an early Christmas present. (let's hope I start giving you less depressing christmas presents - am I right?)

Critique is always welcome. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2012-12-24

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

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:iconclassically-depunk:
Classically-DePunk Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This piece here hits straight to the gut.

Jen, one of the aspects of your writing that astounds me, (and it's rare to find) is how you can grasp right at the crux of things.
Neil's voice is alive- almost deadened (or simply exhausted to the point everything is numbed) but acutely aware of how life resumes despite war- whether war is ongoing or ended.

Celebrating a holiday after war- it's almost outrageous. To Neil, it's alien, it's grating to try to spend a Christmas amongst what others consider the warmth and cheer of family and friends. But for Neil, he left behind a family- half of this family (his men) are dead. Celebrating a holiday centered on birth is a kick in the teeth.

Going through the motions- attending the children's play, joining the choir as not to be alone- at least he can believe in himself and in Becca- it's perfunctory and it's stark how detached Neil is, but what else would he be experiencing?

But Neil tries to shove back and mask his true state of self for Rebecca's and Gwennie's sake- this part struck a chord when I read it:

And that hits me; a future. Spoiling my niece. Bells keep pealing, nieces need spoiling, the world keeps turning, even if I'm angry about it.

"I did hear you sing."

She draws back. "I only really sang the glorias."

"They were wonderful."

"Happy Christmas, Uncle Neil."

It's not a very happy Christmas. But she doesn't need to know it. "Merry Christmas, darling."


As he puts it, the world does keep turning, even if he is angry about it.

Even if all this mirth is empty to him, Neil appreciates the anchor his wife provides- it doesn't resolve anything, but it's an anchor enough to help him through this transition.

You had mentioned previously that you felt the beginning was rambly- when I read it, it didn't feel rambly. It felt natural, it felt like the real flow of a man contemplating.

The way Neil, as oboe-wan pointed out, can turn poetic (in a blunt fashion) is impressive- it renders him all the more human.

Also, as oboe-wan mentioned, the way you interwoven the children's carol's lyrics is impressive. I believe there are times where these seemingly minute actions can evoke us to think on how ironic life proves itself to be.

Being inexperienced, I cannot say I can give sound advice, but (and this might just be stylistic preference or else grammatically incorrect on my part) some of the sentences where there commas, perhaps the points could be better emphasized with hyphens and more period breaks?

 For example:
I lay my head on hers and shut my eyes and try to forget how cold my boys are, where they might be, curled up under the covers in some brothel bed, or in a dugout far to the east alone, afraid.
...I believe in guns and the monsters inside men, and the brotherhood too, when I think about it. I believe in Rebecca, and I hold her hand fiercely. Quietly, roughly, I add my voice to the choir. Not for any credence lent to the lyrics; I just want don't want to be alone.


Perhaps change to:
I lay my head on hers and shut my eyes and try to forget how cold my boys are- where they might be, curled up under the covers in some brothel bed, or in a dugout far to the east alone, afraid.
...I believe in guns and the monsters inside men. And the brotherhood too, when I think about it. I believe in Rebecca -  I hold her hand fiercely. Quietly, roughly, I add my voice to the choir. Not for any credence lent to the lyrics- I just want don't want to be alone.


However, this is all up to your judgment.

All in all, this work is hard-hitting, and reading it left an impact on me.
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013
The title, to begin with. I find it redundant and awkward and more like a place-holder than a proper title. I strongly suggest breaking it to, for example, Christmas over there or At the border of England, or something like Hear the bells on Christmas day.

Being an officer is like being a parent;
I think a colon would be more fitting than a semicolon here, since the following sentence is the exposition of what has been introduced in this one.

Land mines don't know that the war has ended, and neither does hunger.
Pro: great summarising sentence.
Con: not charmed by that comma. It breaks the flow in a short sentence that doesn’t really need the interruption; besides, it comes immediately after another “, and” which makes it feel repetitive.

because in a trench
“because” is useless, the cause-effect relationship is clear already.

you can't even open the flap
“even” just clutters the sentence.

The snow is falling fairly steadily
Double adverb is too much. You may rephrase this, or just change “fairly” with “quite”.

I'm not sure which is more preferable; living in an underground warren or being alone between tall Paris buildings.
Definitely a colon rather than a semicolon here.

Either way, not much I can do for them from here. That is why the army gives us lieutenants.
Best line is best. It felt refreshing to have some snark slipped in at this point, even though it’s fucking bleak, matter-of-factly snark in its turn.

"I'll go," I answer tightly. "It'd break Gwennie's heart if I didn't."
I think you could do away with the dialogue tag entirely. One adverb less, and it’s still evident from Neil’s very words that the answer is tight.

"Alright," he says slowly, and he's testing his ground.
Same here, the dialogue tag could be cut.

I feel watched, and I feel pitied, and I feel wondered about.
On one hand, I would call for some variation here: perhaps remove all the “and”, or go for “I feel watched, pitied, wondered, about”. On the other, this version with the “and” and “I feel” gives off more a sense of progressive actions, of feelings that don’t happen all at the same time like my suggestion would instead lead the reader to infer. Up to you which option you’d rather keep.

Quietly, roughly, I add my voice to the choir.
Not fond of that “quietly”. It sounds contradicting, as in: how can one be quiet if he’s singing? Perhaps a rephrase to avoid the adverbs altogether would work better.

cardboard wings flapping behind her and hugs my legs.
Missing comma between “her” and “and”.

And that hits me; a future.
Colon rather than semicolon.

So for now I'll have to take it as it comes, one day, one Christmas at a time.
Beautiful, saddening/hopeful end.

That Neil voice nails it all. Tongue-tied Christmas among the adults makes a strong contrast with the blissfully ignorant, at times embarrassingly cheerful kids, and I really like that. Especially coupled with all the parental concern, if you can even call it such, that Neil feels for his men and keeps running through the whole piece, it wraps up the family theme and adds more heartbreak. Speaking of which, this: I clap along with them, methodically. I'm sure the kids were great. wins the most powerful line award. With an actually useful adverb in –ly inside, no less! Well done. :thumbsup:
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2013  Professional Writer
Indepth crit for the win!

Late reply to crit for the lose. D:

But no seriously, thank you. Much obliged and very glad you liked it. I'll get on the edits as I go through to fix some of my earlier work. This is one I really want to brush up so I can send it out.

I also have issues with the title. Unfortunately while I like your last suggestion best, it's actually the title(ish) of the Longfellow poem I jacked in order to write this. So, probably bad form to steal it. :/ I'll ponder.
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:iconanapests-and-ink:
anapests-and-ink Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You have a special talent for making us think about what happens after war. I've always hated novels, etc., that only talk about the horrors of the physical fighting and never go into the long-term effects. I think you hit on it perfectly with "We don't need a holy night and especially not a silent night." It's such a powerful line; there's all the pain and despair of being forced to 'enjoy' a holiday when you really can't. This is a wonderful DD. :heart:
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2013  Professional Writer
:heart: thank you so much for the read and the feedback. I'm so glad there was such an overwhelmingly positive response to this, despite how deeply sad it is.
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:iconanapests-and-ink:
anapests-and-ink Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Sometimes 'sad' is what makes a piece meaningful.
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:iconmere-death:
mere-death Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012
I really like this, it made me think. I really don't like Christmas, so I kinda relate to Neil. Not that I have any war wounds or experience from cannon fire, but still.

Characters are deep and realistic and the story flows nicely. I truly enjoyed reading this, thanks!
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
Thank you so much for the comment, I appreciate you reading it and I am so happy you enjoyed reading it. A little gift giving for both of us then, in the christmas spirit ;)
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:icontirasunil:
tirasunil Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2012  Student Writer
I'm so sorry people feel that way about Christmas, or any of the holidays for that matter. God is not dead, nor does he sleep. Very poignant.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
Or even just family get togethers, or homecomings :c It's very sad, but I used to see a lot of it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
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:icontirasunil:
tirasunil Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Student Writer
Mhm. :) So thankful my life isn't like that.
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:iconanesor:
anesor Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012
A gem of a story, the images and phrasing are lovely and wrenching as they must be.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
Wow. :heart: Thank you very much for taking the time to read, and for the lovely, lovely feedback.
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:iconsuper-creative-syco:
Super-creative-syco Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Beautiful
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
:heart:
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:iconkarinta:
Karinta Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Student General Artist
Wow... You are an incredible writer. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before. It's probably the best Christmas Eve piece ever.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
That is very high praise and I blushed when I read it. But thank you. I hope I did the holiday justice.
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:iconkarinta:
Karinta Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Student General Artist
Haha! You're welcome, and you absolutely did. :hug:
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:iconrebeccannoying:
Rebeccannoying Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Wow, I'm surprised this doesn't have more comments! As I am not a writer, I can't really offer any constructive criticism, but I can say this: the piece is powerful and moving, and I think it's important to see this side of war. We always think of the most devastating times of fighting are the actual battles, but this illustrates quite clearly that it doesn't end there. Thank you for this insight on something the majority of us can't comprehend.

Just out of curiosity, are you a soldier/veteran? If not, I'd love to know where this came from.

Thank you so much for sharing!
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
You are too sweet, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! I am so glad to hear you say it, as well, because that is exactly what I wanted to express and... perhaps illuminate for people.

No, I am not a soldier, but I've spent the fair majority of my life around them. I grew up a few years on a military installation with my father, but really a lot of this came from more personal relationship experience with a few particular men who had, at the time I knew them, just returned from the war.
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:iconrebeccannoying:
Rebeccannoying Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Of course darling, the piece is wonderful. I love coming across gems like this and read them whenever I can <3 (in fact, I should be reading more in general... :p). You also possess a very powerful talent to take the emotions of other people and translate them into something for the general public. I feel that a great deal of our conflicts stem from a lack of understanding one another, but works like this help bridge the gap. Again, thank you for your contribution and please continue the great work <3
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013  Professional Writer
Forever :blush: That's incredibly kind of you to say. I'll try to keep it up :salute:
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:icon2cycloneblaze2:
2Cycloneblaze2 Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
One of the best Daily Deviations I've seen given in a while. Great work.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
:blush: That is too kind. Thank you very much! I saw your comment on christmas day and it brightened everything up! :xmas:
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:icon2cycloneblaze2:
2Cycloneblaze2 Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:)
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:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Congrats on the well deserved DD! :heart:
Have a nice day and Happy Holidays! :santa:
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
Thank you so much, and happy holidays to you too!
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:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :santa:
:iconbradut2::iconfur12:
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:icongentlemananachronism:
GentlemanAnachronism Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Ohgods. Very very good, very very heartwrenching (in exactly the right way), and pretty damn spot-on. Well done, and congratulations on an exceptionally well-deserved DD.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
Thank you very much. "spot on" is really the best compliment I can receive. I always want, more than anything, to make sure my homefront pieces are accurate, or else I haven't really conveyed the real pain of it.

Thank you for the kind comment :heart:
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:iconsammur-amat:
Sammur-amat Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012   General Artist
Yippeeeeeeeeeee! Congratulations on yet another EPIC DD, darling Ms. Jenny! I pray you have the bestest Christmas evaahh! :heart:
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
Wheeeeee Deeeeeeee! I know! My friend was like "oh go check dA" and then there this was!!

Thank you and I hope you also had an amazing christmas!
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:iconsammur-amat:
Sammur-amat Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2012   General Artist
You so deserve it, dearest! :heart:

So far so good! :tighthug:
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012   Writer
:+fav: This is a "fave and run" because I'm freezing and incredibly sleepy, but must say: This is your time to shine! :iconcongratsddplz:
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
:hug:! :heart:! Thank you so much, it was really a surprise but... hooray!
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012   Writer
Thank YOU! :heart:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I love your perspective on this event. It's not negative, but it reminds us that there are things that just take a lot of time to deal with, and that soldiers who come back—anyone who's seen war, or anything that high stress—are doing the best they can.

I'll come back with a proper crit when I can. :B
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
YOU. Wow. Thank you so very much for the DD. I'm very happy you featured this, as I had a special and somewhat personal attachment to it, and it was something I really wanted to say, to have people think about, on Christmas. So I'm very honored and grateful to you. :heart: :heart: :heart:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I have to admit that is what made me pick it and not 'And Here is John', which is probably my personal favorite. :love:
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013  Professional Writer
Wow, I'm late on all my replies! But thank you again and -- *squeee* because that's one of my favorites too, so I'm glad someone else likes it!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:D

I have replies from October, so I don't judge.
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:iconoboe-wan:
oboe-wan Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I will always accept your presents, even if they do make me cry. Which this did, of course.

It's just that horrible irony, that Neil would be so much more comfortable with suffering at this point than be warm and well fed and have to be around happy people. I guess it's a matter of what one is accustomed to, and it's just so very sad. And especially striking because we aren't used to seeing Neil Andrews disconcerted or out of his depth ever, and yet here he is chain smoking in the sunset and fighting his panic response to the quiet countryside.

Neil's voice is always surprising to me - he has a certain almost poetic turn of phrase that makes for strong imagery and conveys a ton of characterization in the narration. I love the descriptions of the sunset. As I look back over - I was surprised to find it's in the present tense! I thought I didn't like that, but you are changing my mind, because you do it so well. It definitely makes this piece very .... in the moment? I really like the way you wove together the bits of the Christmas carol with the internal dialogue. Again, it gives a strong sense of immediacy to the writing, and makes the change in tone towards that more optimistic final note really natural. It's a really beautiful piece, painful and hopeful as I'm sure that Christmas was for many people.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Professional Writer
Thank you for the lovely comment, I'm so glad you liked it. And I know it's so bad that they actually start missing the war. I mean I suppose in concept they don't but... my, we do get accustomed to things quickly. And you know what? he surprises me, too with his almost lyrical way of speaking. And yeah it surprised me to write it in present tense as well!

The christmas carol was my favorite part to write/read
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