Over the Moon

Posted by M ws On Monday, August 8, 2011 0 comments
Recently, a very old friend who I have not seen for more than ten years called me up. She wanted me to help her 17 year old son during his summer vacation. Her husband was my singing partner in the 1970's-1980's and for old time's sake, I acquiesced even though I am most wary about taking on a new project. I am truly glad I agreed for in a matter of two weeks, he has improved tremendously. It is really rare to find such talent in a young man who is not only articulate but also refined in manner and gait. It is my pleasure to share with you the following story which he wrote for me last night. We reworked it a bit today and this is the final product. Happy reading! Next socio-political post will be up by 9pm or so.

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Task: Write a short story in which the thoughts of a famous figure from the past are revealed at a crucial point in her or his life.

Sitting on a horse atop a cliff on that misty morning, the Emperor just kept silent. Occasionally, he turned around giving monosyllabic responses to the mounted officers behind him, then turned back again. He would glance through his telescope, noted some solutions and pondered of the outcome of the battle. Finally, he had his depressing answer.



As he lifted his head, his senses were assaulted by the sharp smell of gunpowder everywhere, as was the constant blaring of trumpets and cannon fire. When the winds swept in his direction, there came crushing cries of pain and anguish of both sides. The man could almost forget the war here, if it were not for the howling wind.

Fondly, the army nicknamed him le corporal petit. The little corporal had more than repaid their affection with victories across Europe. A military genius, he had always started the fight on the backhand, but won outrightly in the end through brilliant strategy and sheer determination. However, faced with those same uneven odds, the emperor, on that cliff, knew his time was up. Instead of looking towards the coming fall, he looked back on his life, to remind himself of his successes and to soften the pain of imminent defeat.

The corporal was born on the island of Corsica in 1769, off the coast of Italy. However, Italy had given France his home in exchange for peace to the 1768 Franco-Genoa war. Related to a French noble, he was educated in a Corsican military school and, at the age of 15, was sent to an artillery school in Paris. At the age of 21, he finished his education and enlisted as an artillery officer in the French Army.

With half the mind on the battle below the cliffs, he mused that if it were not for the Toulon incident, he would never be in this grand position today. In 1793, the port of Toulon had rebelled against the French government and had invited the British navy to occupy them. In response, the government sent an unknown artillery officer to take care of the problem. Upon arriving there, the officer ran the English off by heating up his cannon balls in coal. Using his new red-hot artillery, he fired at the ships until they hurriedly retreated.

Due to the Toulon incident, the officer became a Brigadier-General at the age of just 24. Around France and Europe, his name was everywhere. France’s enemies now had a new adversary to face in the form of the Brigadier General. From that point, he had never looked back. The government had given him command of the French army based in Italy, and he had led them without exception.

The Brigadier won huge victories over the Austrians by being flexible with his battle plans, ranging from guerilla tactics to an all-out assault. Exhausted by his range of tactics, the Austrians pulled out of Italy by 1797. Subsequent successes in the Egyptian campaign meant to curtail British naval power boosted the General’s fame to new heights. In Egypt, the men started calling him le petit corporal.

Turning right, he saw his remnant forces at the foot of the hill trying to stop the combined English and Prussian army from getting to him. The inevitable was at hand. In reminiscence, he comforted himself with his earlier success.

The General had returned from the Egyptian campaign in 1799. A few French politicians plotted with him the overthrow of the incumbent government. Thus, the General, at the head of the Paris garrison had called the government defunct and sought to remove it. The coup of Brumaire was successful and the General became the First Consul of France. A year after the coup, the French people voted him to be First Consul for life, and thus the First Consul gave himself the title of Emperor of France in 1800.

The Emperor had wasted no time asserting his power. In 12 years, he had led the French army to a string of victories and conquests around Europe. He installed his brother as King of Spain and made their neighboring countries bend knee to the new continental power in Europe. Only Britain, the Channel acting as their buffer, was safe from the Emperors rampage. However, in an instant, his fortunes changed.

He winced as he recalled the anguish of that journey. It was to be his biggest mistake. Assembling his largest army ever, the Emperor marched into Russia. His wife had followed him on all his conquests, and this was no different. With her watching over him, the Emperor bulldozed through Russia, cities conquered and people enslaved. It was a triumphant start. Already envisioning victory, he had not drawn more supplies. This cost him mightily. Once he had reached Moscow, it was razed to the ground, nothing the Emperor could do about it. The harsh winter was upon them and with no supplies, he conceded defeat and retreated.

The journey was hell. Supplies were low and empty carriages were burnt as firewood. Even the Emperor’s carriage was finally sacrificed. Animals that couldn’t keep up were shot and eaten. Some soldiers tried to eat their fallen comrades. Hypothermia and the cold claimed many. Finally, the Emperors wife fell terribly ill.

They were still a week off the border of France at that point. The Emperor could do nothing. He carried his wife personally on his back, covered with so much fur that she looked like a grizzly bear. His tears were frozen on his face, and his fears warmed his body as the Emperor strove to save her life. It was to be in vain.

A day off the border, death’s hands finally claimed their protracted prize. As he laid her lifeless body in the grave he dug, his own battle-hardened men couldn’t stop their own tears. The Emperor didn’t know what to do without his Empress. One thing he did know was that his time was up. The Emperor returned to France with a fraction of the large army that followed him. Due to loss of confidence in him, the people cried out for the Emperor to resign. And he did, a week after his wife’s death. He exiled himself on St Hilda Island off the coast of Southern France and lived in peace.

That was not to be. A year on, the Empire needed help to fend off the dual armies of England and Prussia. Heeding to their desperate call, the Exile returned to Paris, amidst cheers of ‘Viva France!’ and ‘Viva Le Corporal Petit!’. They thought of his past victories and were confident the Exile could repeat them again. If only they knew what was coming for them.

With the last man of the wall fallen, the English and Prussian troops eyed the Emperor like Jack eyed the goose that laid golden eggs in the giants tower. There was a pause, as the Emperor eyed the hundreds before him. Calmly, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte the First of France drew his sword and charged.

-written by Ian Khor-

*Posted with his permission.

Ian, I am so proud of you. Keep up the good work, young man!

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