by Jonathan Broadus

The light of the moon was sufficient to see by, and the campfires added to the gleam. Small frogs sang here and there along the creek's bank, and the hum of voices broke the stillness in isolated spots. Some of the men and boys wrote letters home, others played cards or slept. Light splashes and hushed voices came from the creek near A company's camp. Shadows, blue and gray, moved under the cover of the trees and grasses. A quail whistled from the edge of the camp; the shadows disappeared silently. A picket walked by on his rounds. When he had disappeared, the quail whistled again. The shadows reconvened.

"I'll trade you two tins of tobacco for a tin of coffee."
"How about four, Johnny?"
"You know I won't go that high. How about three?"

The voices continued to murmur quietly. The quail whistled again. Johnny stuffed the coffee into his coat pocket. The shadows again disappeared. The picket passed again, and the quail whistled once more. This time the shadows separated, and a faint swishing followed the blues across the creek. The gray shadows headed for the tents.

Johnny slipped into camp quietly. A voice greeted him from the open tent flap.

"Did you get the coffee, Johnny?"
"You know I did. Cost me three tins this time, but it's worth it."
"Too bad we can't drink it now. No telling whether we'll be around tomorrow night."
"The captain would take it as contraband...I'll keep it safe though. You know I will. We'll stay alive tomorrow for the coffee's sake."
"Right, Johnny...for the coffee's sake."