A lone soldier
A lone soldier, a figure who arrives late at night in a snowy northern French city, just ahead of invading enemy troops. He has no name, and no physical description is provided. He spends one night in a barracks, or aid station, where he exchanges his wet uniform for a dry one. The number on the new uniform, now his only identifying mark, is 12,345. He also is treated for fever by an army medic. He is carrying the effects of a dead comrade and is to give them to a man about fifty years old who may or may not be the dead soldier’s father. He sees a man of approximately the right age but is fearful of speaking to him. He spends much of his time either looking for a street whose name he cannot remember or in a café. Hanging on the wall of the café is a graphic representation of a café scene. The soldier is able to pass with ease from one to the other. It is in the café that he sees two people who will be part of his story: the boy and the woman.
The woman, a figure who has dark hair and lives in an apartment building into which the soldier stumbles while looking for directions for how to find the street where he is supposed to meet his dead comrade’s father. She is also a barmaid, or waitress, in the café and the mother of the boy. She takes pity on the soldier and gives him bread and wine. In the same apartment lives a lame man. In the original French, the woman and the lame man use the...
(The entire section is 521 words.)