Chapters 27-28 Summary

Members of the Third Squad find themselves on one of the newer, faster trains bound for Afghanistan. They are the only passengers in the car. The lieutenant awakens, looks out to see mountains capped with snow, and proclaims that he has been kidnapped.

Paul Berlin observes the landscape and thinks it is like the “World’s Greatest Lake Country,” where they went on their first mission. After they climbed up into the mountains, Paul sat in a little depression, hiding during the one big battle of the war so far. All he could do was lie there, twitching and holding his breath. Then Lieutenant Sidney Martin stood up and yelled for them to advance. Ready Mix (no one ever knew his real name) was shot, but they kept advancing. The mountain was taken and they found the dead littered about, especially in bomb craters. They began to count the dead, but often all they could count was the heads. Paul cannot stop twitching. It begins to rain, and it rains for days. The craters fill with water, and it is then that Doc Peret names the area the “World’s Greatest Lake Country.” They find more tunnels, and Sidney Martin insists all the tunnels be searched for the dead.

On the train, the men play cards, sleep, and watch the countryside fly by. The train is stopped for the tracks to be mended. The lieutenant learns they are in Ovissil. They stay in the mayor’s stone house overnight. Outside, the snow begins to pile up. The mayor says he is a fortune teller. Paul asks to have his fortune told, but the mayor says he is too young; he must live a while longer to have a history worth telling. In the morning, the mayor sends them on their way with some food. Paul resentfully thinks that he does indeed have a history. His father built houses, and his mother buried alcohol in the garden. He had a childhood full of activity: Indian Guides, Sunday School, and Day Camp. He got good grades in school, though his teachers often wrote on his grade card that he was a daydreamer. He had a girlfriend in high school named Louise Wiertsma. He graduated from high school and went to junior college for a while. He spent his summers building houses with his father. At the age of twenty, Paul Berlin became a soldier. This was his history.