Summer, 1914

by , under Fiction Prompts

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“Ah! There you are my boy!” The old gentleman smiles up from his table. “I hoped I would see you today.”

“Sir,” I reply. “How do you do this evening?”

“Splendid!” He claps his hands, gestures to the chair. “Won’t you join me for a glass of Sillery? It goes down well after such a hot afternoon.”

I  see no way out of it. He pours the sparkling yellow wine into a tall glass. “So tell me, young man. Are you a political animal?”


“Do you hold opinions? A philosophy? Something about you that is more durable than your excellent manners and obvious wealth?”

His cold blue eyes pierce me. I realize now that he must know, must have seen us together. We have been careless. We cannot help ourselves. Her recklessness is an aphrodisiac for us both.

He expects an answer. A correct one.

I clear my throat.

What Pegman Saw


“IF I TRY TO FIND some useful phrase to sum up the time of my childhood and youth before the First World War, I hope I can put it most succinctly by calling it the Golden Age of Security.”
― Stefan ZweigThe World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European

The European summer of 1914 was marked by especially fine weather, day upon day of glorious sunshine and warm afternoons. The spas of Bohemia were a favorite destination for the noble and wealthy.

By winter, the world left behind its innocence as the Great War began, killing or wounding a quarter million young men in a matter of weeks. Soon enough, Bohemia itself would cease to exist.


  1. k rawson

    Love this piece. Your characters leap off the page. I was so entranced I never saw the tension coming until it had me by the throat.

  2. James

    Reading the history of the area, I had a difficult time deciding on whether or not to do a historical piece. I chose not to and am glad to see that you made a different decision.

    • J Hardy Carroll

      Thanks, James. It’s an historical piece only in that it’s set jn that era. It’s really about how the seeming tragedy of something like a thwarted romance might drive a young man to join the army at that pivotal moment. They are clearly a more modern couple, but it was modernity that made that war such a hideous slaughterhouse. The old ideas of the way the world works died in 1914.

  3. Dale

    I loved this piece, Josh. Without the footnote, it could mean simply that the father found out his daughter was seeing this young man…

  4. EagleAye

    A tense moment, but nothing I suspect, like the horror about to be visited upon Europe. Loved the dialog in this one.

  5. Lynn Love

    I liked how the tone shifted here. We begin with a sunlit afternoon sipping wine but then the cold steel enters the old man’s eye and we know tragic times lie ahead. A lovely reflection of a doomed relationships and youth doomed by war

  6. rochellewisoff

    Dear Josh,

    A splendid interaction. I could feel the young man’s discomfort and trapped feeling. The footnote is icing on the verbal cake. Well done.




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