After a weekend away and beginning the first of the books that I need to read for my second year of uni, I feel sufficiently refreshed and will get back to reading this next chapter with more enthusiasm, shall we say.
So the chapter starts with the main group deployed to an evacuated village, where they have to defend the supply dump, which hasn’t been emptied yet. So what’s the first thing that they do upon finding a place suitable as a dugout? Loot the place, of course. To be fair, it’s probably what I would do too, although they sound as if they’re looting much more practical things than I would pick up (you’re allowed three guesses as to what, but I sincerely doubt you’ll need three). They end up with decent bedding and food (including a couple of piglets, which were unfortunately quick to be slaughtered), so that’s good at least. What’s not good is that when they use someone’s kitchen to cook all this, the opposing side spots the smoke and starts to shell them. They carry on cooking. Wow. I’m not quite sure whether I’m impressed at their ability to keep calm under pressure or absolutely flabbergasted at their stubbornness. They all manage to get to the dugout, food in hand, so I suppose it’s okay. Not sure I wanted that detail about their repeated need to empty their bowels during the night, but I’m kind of used to it now. In any case, they live like kings (considering the circumstances) until they’re ordered to withdraw.
A few days later they’re sent to oversee the evacuation of a village. They think that they won’t be bombed at that moment, seeing as the French are unlikely to bomb a village full of their countrymen, but they’d be wrong. Our narrator and Kropp end up hurtling themselves over a hedge into a pond in order to find shelter. They eventually find a medic cart, where both of them turn out to be wounded, Kropp potentially seriously so. All in all a pretty disastrous deployment.
So it turns out that they aren’t seriously wounded, just wounded enough to be sent back home. The paragraph is mainly dedicated to the surgeon poking about in our narrator’s wound.
So they’re waiting for the train to pick them up and take them home. It’s raining and the station has no roof, so they’re pretty miserable, for good reason. By the time they actually get on the train, our narrator has an odd moment of inability to face home life again when he hesitates to get the sheets dirty on the hospital train beds. A bit of an odd moment, but it’s not too out of place.
Later on, during the night, our narrator takes a tumble when he gets out of bed to try find the toilet. Things just haven’t gone right since they left that deployment at the beginning of the chapter. Things could be a lot worse though. We’re then treated to how they deal with bladder and bowel issues without leaving their beds. Lovely. That and there’s an odd bit at the end of the paragraph where it’s mentioned that the train stops to drop off the dead. Not sure why, but it’s there nonetheless.
The next paragraph has Kropp get feverish, so our narrator fakes a fever in order to be taken off the train at the same stop with him. A rather sweet sentiment really.
They’re being treated at a Catholic infirmary, where the care is apparently very good, but none of them can get to sleep because the sisters insist on praying for their salvation very loudly with the door open specifically so that they can benefit from the prayers. I can see that getting very taxing very quickly. The soldiers agree with me and force the sisters to close the door. Hooray for sickness-based obstinacy.
The hospital inspector tries to tell them off for their chosen method of making the sisters close the door (bottle throwing in this instance), but one of the other patients takes the blame for it, seeing as he sustained a head wound meaning that they think he’s more likely to not be in his right mind. Hooray for easily flouted escape clauses too.
Considering that Catholic infirmaries are supposed to be very good conditions, a nurse letting a man haemorrhage because she couldn’t be bothered to answer their ringing after she’s had a bad night doesn’t sound all that good a condition to be in really.
There’s a little bit of info about the nurses, most of which seem to be firm and experienced, but cheerless. We also hear about the man who was haemorrhaging last paragraph. He’s been taken to the Dead Man’s Room. I’m sure that nun/nurse will be getting a stern talking to regarding that.
Another depressing paragraph where the guy with the head injury is taken to the Dead Man’s Room.
We hear about a doctor who’s experimenting on people with flat feet, to see if he can get them to be normal. Considering that he’s been trying since the start of the war, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Kropp’s had to have his leg amputated at the upper thigh. His immediate reaction is to shoot himself the first chance he gets, which is a bit alarming really. We’re introduced to a new patient, a blinded musician who tries to kill himself by stabbing himself in the chest with a fork (inventive, but not very successful). So far, so very depressing. But the guy with the head wound is back from the Dead Man’s Room, which is nice.
Our narrator is eventually given a pair of crutches to use, which he tends to use out in the corridor, for Kropp’s sake I would imagine. He ends up exploring the hospital, seeing just how many places humans can be wounded. It’s all rather grisly, so I think I’ll leave it at that.
We’re introduced to another patient, Lewandowski, whose wife comes to visit after saving and scrimping together enough money for the train journey down there. They haven’t seen each other for two years, so the other patients, our narrator and Kropp included band together and cover up what I assume is the noise of Lewandowski and his wife having sex. Not bad really.
The final paragraph basically sums up how they’ve both recovered. Our narrator finishes physiotherapy and gets some injury leave, which is apparently even worse than the normal leave he had earlier. Kropp’s stump has pretty much healed up completely, he’s being fitted for an artificial leg and he seems a bit less inclined to killing himself. But he’s still being left alone, which I don’t think is a good sign.
After last chapter, I wasn’t really expecting much. While this chapter was still a bit jumpy regarding time and plot, but it all meshed together better than it did last time. Much nicer to read.