The Lesson

“So, you must be Amery.”
The boy nodded slightly, trying to fall through the floor. He wore the cleanest jeans he had and a plain white shirt, largely at his mother’s insistence. It was his first day at the museum, after all.
“That’s me. Um, Sir?”
The older man chuckled, reaching to pat Amery on the shoulder.
“Call me Bobby, Amery. I’m going to be your training ranger until you get the ropes. Sound good?”
Amery scuffed one sneaker against the floor and shrugged.
“Sounds great…Bobby.”
It was hard to be less excited than the summer camp groups being paraded through the museum, but Amery was managing it. Bobby, though, he was entirely different. He was excited to have someone else there, someone new to share his love of this place with.
“First thing’s first, let’s get you a hat and a vest so folks know you’re one of us now.”
Bobby walked off like a man with a purpose, Amery trudging after him.

It was a few days later that Bobby called Amery to one of the back storage rooms.
“Today, you get to be my demonstration.”
Amery’s eyes went wide and he took a step back, thinking about what he’d helped show the camp groups already.
“I am definitely not okay with amputation!”
Bobby just laughed in that way he had.
“No, no. It’s a’right. Promise. We’ve got some Union uniforms in the back, but they’re not gonna fit me anymore.” He patted his gut and laughed. “You, though, you’re about the right size. Go get dressed and meet me outside. We’re leading a walking tour today.”

Amery found a uniform in his size without too much trouble and started changing, grimacing when he realized it was wool. He was going to roast alive. This was so not worth minimum wage. Shouldering the musket that had been left nearby, he opened the door again to go find Bobby.
He blinked a few times. How was he going to find Bobby when he couldn’t even find the museum? He was standing in an open field on the edge of a town. He could see the rolling hills, the farms nearby, the roads that all led to Gettysburg. His breathing started to speed up. He could hear the drums and the cannons. Then he heard it. The sound that made his blood run cold and his hair stand on end. The Rebel yell. With one look behind him, he realized they were coming right at him. Some scattered, frantic part of his mind realized what he was seeing. Screaming, Amery turned and ran as fast as he could towards where he hoped the Union lines would be.
An arm grabbed him and pulled him down into the Union position.
“What are you doing, Boy? Take your position. Where’s your cartridge box?”
He opened and closed his mouth a few times and then finally squeaked out.
“I don’t-”
The man shoved a fist full of cartridges and balls at him.
“Keep your head down and your musket loaded.”
“Um…Yes, Sir.”
The battle was like nothing Amery had ever experienced. The sound of musket balls whizzing past him, the screams, the explosions. He could barely figure out how the musket was supposed to work, but he did his best to copy the others and keep himself out of the line of fire. He didn’t want to know what would happen if he died before he was born. Everything was going to chaos around him. He could hear some of the men yelling for a retreat. Suddenly, he found himself face to face with a man in a gray uniform and the stock end of a musket slammed into his face.

Amery woke up again on the floor in the storage closet. Bobby was standing over him with a smile on his face.
“Enjoy the demonstration, Amery?”
He reached to offer Amery a hand up.
“What-what was that?”
For the first time that Bobby had seen, Amery was excited, interested. Good.
“Exactly what you think it was. Not exactly my finest hour, mind. But a good solid lesson.”
“Not exactly your…”
“I was on the other side back there. Had to, for Virginia, you understand.”
Bobby smiled slowly.
“Now then, come on, we’ve got a tour to run and folks to teach.”
And as they walked off, Robert Lee slung an arm around Amery’s shoulders and whistled an old war song never forgotten.

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