Authors: Brothers No More
Tags: #Fiction, #General
BOOKS BY WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.
God and Man at Yale
McCarthy and His Enemies (with L. Brent Bozell)
Up from Liberalism
Rumbles Left and Right
The Unmaking of a Mayor
The Jeweler’s Eye
The Governor Listeth
Inveighing We Will Go
United Nations Journal: A Delegate’s Odyssey
Saving the Queen
A Hymnal: The Controversial Arts
Who’s On First
Marco Polo, If You Can
Atlantic High: A Celebration
Overdrive: A Personal Documentary
The Story of Henry Tod
See You Later Alligator
The Temptation of Wilfred Malachey
Mongoose, R. I. P.
Racing Through Paradise
On the Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures
Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country
Tucker’s Last Stand
In Search of Anti-Semitism
Happy Days Were Here Again
A Very Private Plot
The Committee and Its Critics
Odyssey of a Friend: Whittaker Chambers’ Letters to William F. Buckley, Jr.
W. F. B.: An Appreciation
Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?
American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century
PUBLISHED BY DOUBLEDAY
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a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
This is the eleventh novel in which I refer to historical figures, dead and alive. In this novel there are characters who are related to historical figures. Needless to say, in this novel as in its predecessors, the whole is a work of fiction.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Buckley, William F. (William Frank), 1925–
Brothers no more / William F. Buckley, Jr.—1st ed.
1. World War, 1939–1945—Veterans—United States—Fiction. 2. Friendship—
United States—Fiction. 3. Men—United States—Fiction. I. Title.
Copyright © 1995 by William F. Buckley, Jr.
All Rights Reserved
For (the Reverend) Michael Bozell
el primer sobrino
FC. DANNY O’HARA had the walkie-talkie in his hand. It was countdown time.
“Thirty minutes,” he said in a low voice to Private Henry Chafee, who opened the breech of his rifle for the tenth time. Yes, he nodded to himself, he had confirmed that the cartridge was secure in the chamber. Both men were in sweaty blackface. The sergeant had told them to apply the sooty grease also to their hands and faces—“They’ll stand out like flashlights if you don’t.” Danny looked over at Henry and yes, for a long moment after every explosion, his face was visible even through all the muddy camouflage. If they hadn’t blackened their faces they’d have vividly reflected the light of the exploding shells.
These were exploding more rapidly with every passing quarter
hour, beginning two hours ago when they occupied their foxhole, cakey-dry, hot, small, smelly, here at the eastern end of the regimental front. The mandate was straightforward: Their regiment was responsible for overrunning the impacted German unit standing in the way of Allied progress. They could not know its size—a company, perhaps; perhaps a battalion—whatever it was that Field Marshal Kesselring had left behind as he retreated from the Arno line north of Rome.
Whatever the unit was, its defensive firepower was seemingly inexhaustible, and Colonel Johnson had postponed zero hour from daytime to dark, resigning himself to the futility of his own offensive, up against the stubborn German unit standing in the way. Nothing had worked against it. The drenching artillery, the close air support, the bombs—they hadn’t succeeded in silencing the enemy machine guns and rifles. There wasn’t any doubt about it, the American infantry offensive would need the cover of darkness. But it meant also this, that the charge would need to take place before 2200, which was when the moon would begin to shine on the scrubby, bloody hill. “A funny thing,” Danny said, “the moon somehow illuminates more vividly than the sun. Did you know that, Henry? A matter of contrast, I suppose.”
“I guess so.” Henry was fanning himself with the aluminum top ripped off the cartridge case. “God it’s hot.”
“Yeah, well, we’re going to be a lot hotter after we’ve run the distance.” Danny could not be sure exactly how far it was to the firing point he and Henry had been assigned to destroy. He did have the compass bearing on their objective and they agreed that the stars would prove useful in maintaining their course to it. Danny now rechecked the compass and looked up at the stars. “There! That’s just a little left of the course we’ll be running, see it?” He lifted his hand, fingers extended, moving it up and down, pointing to the star. Henry moved his head behind Danny’s to identify the star that would guide them.
“Yes, I see it,” he said. “It won’t move very much in, what, twenty-five minutes?”
Danny looked at his watch. “I can’t make out the time. We’ll have to get it from the radio. God, what I would give for a smoke.
don’t need to check your rifle breech again.
… Sorry, getting edgy. Won’t be long now. We’ve got a full battalion—four companies, sixteen platoons, sixty-four squads. And exactly two soldiers, you and me, Henry, are the little point on the left end of the arc. In a way, that means the whole operation swings on us.” He laughed.
Henry didn’t laugh.
“If we’re lucky, when we charge up on the target we’ll discover that our Kraut gunner has already been zapped—” Danny slammed down the palm of his right hand on the surface of his left hand. Another mosquito. His flow of talk was not interrupted. “—hit by one of our artillery shells, maybe. Hell, these guys can’t be immortal! What the fuck, Henry, we’ve been dumping on them since—” He stopped. He would not even try to raise his voice to compete with the two major detonations “—since maybe two o’clock? Oh.” Danny stopped talking. He had spotted the spitting light from the gunner ahead and heard the thup-thup-thup of the bullets. They tore into the earth not many yards from the foxhole in which he and Henry were crouched.
“I guess there’ll be somebody out there to welcome us after all.
it’s hot. Henry?”
“This isn’t much fun, is it. And first battle action for us, too. I forget, Henry. How’d we get into this fucking war? You’re so smart, tell me. Come to think of it, I’m smart as hell too. Maybe General Clark will find out who was responsible and maybe—hey, what you think of this, Henry?—maybe the guy responsible will be sentenced to be shot, and maybe you and I, baby, will be the executioners!” He laughed. “That’s a good one. When they execute somebody, his hands are tied behind him, he’s standing in front of a wall blindfolded—and they use
soldiers to fire! But when it’s a machine gunner
in the dark
, two of us are supposed to be enough to take him on! Army logic. I wonder, Henry. Do they teach logic at West Point? At the army war colleges?—Give me some of that water, Henry. We may as well use it up. We’re not going to be carrying extra provisions on
of the light brigade.” He returned the canteen and put his ear down to the little radio speaker.
“Why do they have to say it a hundred times?—Five minutes-five minutes-five minutes. So?—five minutes! In five minutes we go, Henry.”
Danny looked up again at his guiding star, then raised his head just high enough to make it possible to point the compass arrow at his objective. It lay on an azimuth of 290 degrees. Without looking down at the compass Danny said, “Our star’s pretty much with us still.” He paused. “Great idea, a star lighting your way to the enemy. Well, I guess the Big Star was a light for Herod, right, Henry? Sure. Oh Jesus!” Danny’s voice was hoarse now, struggling to make itself heard over the crashing sound of the great detonations.
He brought the radio to his ear, first poking his index finger in the ear to trap a mosquito. “Okay, Henry,
They’re counting down now in seconds. Fifty … forty …
… thirty … Henry!
Henry spoke. “I’m not going, Danny.”
Danny looked down at him in disbelief. The explosions had stopped. It was totally dark, silent. He had to guess exactly where Henry’s head was.
” With his hand, he felt for Henry’s head. He felt his hair: Henry had removed his helmet.
The fighter plane pilots, moving away from the fire zone, made out below their wingtips what seemed a sparkling tiara: the 3rd Regiment, on the move. And, on the ground, there was thunderous sound and the staccato light bursts of .30-caliber cartridges fired at waist level as the mile-long arc of men roared toward their targets. Danny spat down on Henry—his disbelief was very nearly hysterical—and then launched himself forward toward his star, squeezing the trigger of his rifle every second. He could make out the three GIs on his right, moving parallel. In less than a half minute the floodlight from the bazooka lit up the whole area and Danny spotted the target gun embrasure, ran headlong
toward it and lobbed a hand grenade through the narrow opening.