Accidental Traitor

(Tommy Smithson stands in the darkened parlor of his parents’ house. It is 1916.)

I don’t know what to do. I’ve already seen too many of my old buddies go off to France, off to Flanders, and come back home in boxes made of wood. I’ve heard the stories of the carnage in the trenches, and I don’t want it. It makes me bloody nauseous. But here I am, standing in my parent's’ living room, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the darkness of war, in 1916, not even independent enough to live by myself...

I should probably run away. Yeah, that’s the ticket, away from the poppies and towards the moors...I’ll live like a savage! I mean, the war itself is already so barbaric, it’s just the same thing! You know what-I’ll go right up to that man in khaki at the draft office, look him straight in the eye, stand toe to toe with the bugger, and...and…

...And I will just go to the war like the rest of them. If I dodge this one, they’ll find them. They’ll haul my arse away to jail in an instant. I can see it now, right at the top of the Sunday Times, “Tommy Smithson, scion of Kent millionaires, arrested because he chickened out of his duty to his country…”

And they said war was fun! You get to buddy up with your boys, they’ll be your friends forever...all of the mademoiselles down there, you’re bound to find a pretty one...and most importantly, you’ll get to stick it to Jerry! You’ll kick the hun right where it hurts! Yeah, we’ll have the Kaiser quaking in his boots! Yeah! Of course, of course, I could...I could...die…

Why can’t things be the way they were before the war? Summer was endless then. It was always mild, everything was quiet. Garden parties lasted long into the night. We ruled the waves, we ruled the world! When I was a boy...oh, that seems so long ago now...I had no cares. All of the wars were far away, in the Transvaal, in the streets of Peking....not right next door! I could romp happily in the yard, climb up the tree, crawl around the nursery, entertaining my little sister…(he starts to cry)

Uncle, I know you can’t hear me. You’re too old to go to the war. You shielded me from this, told the draft board that “he’s too young”, “he’s valuable to the family”, “he has more money than Lloyd’s of London”. Of course, my parents said for me to go, to be a man, to stop shirking my patriotic duty. Mum said, “Tommy, this is for your country. If you don’t go, then we’ll have rows of kraut soldiers in the streets, in the towns, raping our women and killing our children. I don’t know why your uncle coddles you like this…”

They beat him down...those bloody monsters known as my parents brainwashed the bugger. My uncle, he should have protected me. But he went and told the man at the local draft board to sign me up. Dragged me over. Gave me a hideous khaki uniform, a helmet, and a rifle. (Picks up the helmet).

You know, I wonder...maybe there’s a man just like me, over in Germany, and he’s twenty-one, and he’s pampered, and he doesn’t want to go to fight country. He’s just like me. He’s an accidental traitor.

Oh, he loves this country...this...this...Fritz. Yeah, his name is Fritz. Fritz loves the rolling hills and lovely people and busy towns of his country. He just doesn’t love his nation’s generals, that’s all. He despises his generals, full of useless pomp and sparking medals on their chests, only there to commemorate how many men they’ve killed.

(He pauses. Tommy breathes for a moment, puts the helmet down, and sits on his bed.)

But I really have no choice, do I? I’m just bargaining with myself. Trying to buy a little bit of time when I don’t have any. I can hear the machine gun fire already. I can feel the mud and the muck up to my knees. And then I go over the top, and I hear the boom of the cannonfire and I see  the fiery eyes of the hun…

Before he died in the fields of Flanders, my friend Jonathan sent me a letter. He told me the one thing war taught him. He said that, at night, he could hear the moans and whines of Jerry over the muddy expanses between the trenches. He said he saw those German bodies, right next to the British bodies. And he said they’re all the same. Both cold, both stiff, both with eyes shut.


I think I know where I’m going tomorrow…

(He puts his head in his hands. The lights slowly dim)

Comments (2)

Gabriel Copeland (Student 2018)
Gabriel Copeland

I absolutely connect with the character as although the monologue was confusing at points, the feelings and emotions conveyed and the story line were all things I understood. "The Kaiser quaking in his boots." was a great line and it made perfect sense with the power, longing and naivete of war.

Thomas Wallison (Student 2018)
Thomas Wallison
  1. I can totally connect with this character. I can practically hear them talk as I read it.
  2. The part where the main character is considering running away and then immediately talks about that won't work is memorable.