Friday, May 16, 2008
A soldier named Kaj emerges from a sparse tree line to a patch of pitiful soil perched upon a large rock. Leaning his rifle against a pine, he proceeds to tend to a sorry excuse for a vegetable garden. He plucks a few weeds and trims some unhealthy looking leaves from a few of the plants, the goes to the edge of the massive rock upon which the garden sits, and throws the weeds and leaves to the rocky shore a few feet below him.
Looking across the tiny inlet he espies the machine gun nest of Seppo and Samuli. Seppo's out front, mooning Kaj with skinny ivory buttocks. Samuli can be glimpsed behind the bunker, reclined on a patch of tall brown grass, laughing. In response, Kaj makes an obscene, dismissive gesture with his hands. He then snags his rifle and heads back into the trees on a well-beaten footpath and trundles his way towards the sandbagged gunpoint he mans with Vihtori, forming the top of the cross-fire triangle (the other corner is Paavo and Roope's nest) which guards the small, rocky beach from Soviet invasion.
'Course, not one of the brave six Finns charged with defending this barren rocky shore believe that either the Soviets would ever try to occupy Someri, presumably because the Red Army's a wee bit more preoccupied with the vitun Wehrmacht, or that, should the Soviets invade, they could do little to stop it, armed as they are with WWI-vintage German surplus rifles and machine guns. The number one reason the Soviets wouldn't invade Someri, however, is that Kaj and his fellow machine gunners of the 10th Torjuntakomppania aren't even actually on Someri Island.
Rather, they're stationed on an unnamed islet perhaps 5 kilometers to the due east of Someri. Seppo calls it Pikku Someri, "Little Someri," like its some high-end resort.
"Islet" is a gross exaggeration, however.
It’s a rock. Paavo likes to joke that its what's left of the giant ur-rock from which all rocks originate.
When they were assigned to Pikku Someri in early February, the island, being all rock, would soak up all the cold. You could hold your hand a good 20 centimeters above the ground and feel the cold radiating up from the ground. The gunners burnt every piece of driftwood and deadwood they could find until spring arrived. They didn't want to cut down the healthy stand of pines which had struggled into existence – where would they otherwise hide if some PE-2 dive bomber decided to strafe them?
Now that it was July they slept without blankets, the ground warm with summer heat.
Kaj smiles as he emerges from the trees to his nest. Tellingly, Vihtori is inspecting an ammo belt for their Spandau, sewing needles held between his lips as he repairs the rotten fabric so as to prevent jams. They may doubt their ability to defend the beach, but the Fins do not doubt that the Soviets will not hesitate to kill every Finn if given the chance, and being a small island, there is no where to retreat to. Vihtori glances up from his life or death task, glances heavy to his left, and rolls his eyes. Kaj cocks an eyebrow and follows Vihtori's glance, curses when he sees Jonias.
Jonias is not one of the machine gunners.
He is not one of them because he mans the listening post located atop a rocky perch about 300 meters up and behind Kaj and Vihtori's nest.
He is not one of them because all the gunners strongly doubt he is a Finnish national.
He is not one of them because he seems to take the defense of the beach and the island very seriously.
And he is not one of them because all the gunners find him deeply unsettling to be around.
Now is one of those unsettling times. Jonias is standing on the edge of a big boulder, wearing seal skin trousers he made himself in spite of the heat, binoculars clutched in massive mitts of hands, peering out onto the Gulf. Kaj sets his rifle down next to Vihtori's and the two exchange knowing smiles. Both freeze up as Jonias lowers his 'nocs and his head snaps around to affix an unnatural stare on the two of them.
Jonias' hair is an explosion of wiry brown intermixed with a little gray and white, complemented by a symmetrical beard and moustache. His hair and his hawk-like nose all seem to frame and accentuate his fierce steely touch-of-insanity eyes, which are some strange combination of green and blue that sometimes seems almost to appear yellow. Roope, who's a hick from up in the Lapland, thinks Jonias looks like the Thor from the stories his grandmother used to tell him to scare him when he misbehaved. Kaj isn't so sure about Thor but agrees that Jonias would seem more at home at the prow of a longboat en route to slaughter some Polish villagers with some giant axe.
Kaj breaks eye contact by pouring weak coffee into a dirty tin cup from a banged-up kettle sitting by the tiny fire. He takes Vihtori's cup and tops it off, then plops down next his teammate and asks him how big an invasion fleet Jonias sees this time. Vihtori, pulling a stitch tight, begins to reply when Jonias jumps down into the next and starts stomping out the fire.
"Ready your gun and alert all posts, you fuddling, shit-eating Finns! Russians ahoy!"
Kaj and Vihtori stare at Jonias, mouths agape at this latest outbreak of madness by this Viking God Kris Kringle. Jonias pauses from stomping out coals from the fire, which skitter about the nest's floor, and notices the two Finns still sitting: Kaj a cup of coffee in hand, Vihtori paused mid-stitch.
"My luck! No time to play house, ladies!" Jonias oaths, then spins on a heel, bends over, and clamps a meaty grip on each Finn's upper arm. Kaj and Vihtori find themselves lifted up as if sacks of potatoes, carried to the front of the machine gun nest, and set down. Jonias then affixes a hand to the back of each if their heads, and swivels them so they look out to the Gulf.
"SEE? Flotilla. Hedda this way. Make 'em big trouble!" Kaj drops his coffee cup.
Almost out of sight, but just close enough to see with naked eye, can be seen a Soviet flotilla, landing craft assembled around troop carriers, ready to take on their cargoes of Red Army infantry…