As The Wind Walks
[A]s The Wind Walks tells a story of survival and of men who face each other in the cauldron of war. It describes events through the eyes of the common soldier, and the horror, and valor of fighting for the man who stands at your side. Killing, destruction, political malfeasance, and stupidity are confronted by the indomitable human spirit. The novel is a love story viewed from many levels.
In the working class streets of 1940 Baltimore, young Edmund Carter leaves his home on a blustery evening, and hikes to the blue-collar docks of Fells Point. He walks toward his great-grandfather’s home, hoping to cool down from a heated argument with his mother, away from her unbending attitude about him joining the Marines. Her argument is based on her fear of war in Europe creeping closer to home.
Ninety-two year old Civil War vet, David Werner, greets his grandson by calling him Pete; a name Gramps began calling him two years ago. Edmund knows this a prologue to a night filled with banter and stories. “Pete? That’s someone else’s name, Gramps. I’m Edmund.”
“I know who you are, Pete. You’re here to get away from my granddaughter. Come on, sit a spell, we’ll talk. What’s the topic?”
Gramps amazes the eager boy with tales of the time he lied about his age, and joined the Union Army at the age of fourteen. Edmund and David connect like never before and David believes he has found an ally in his grandfather.
“I set about my work, sighting the carbine and sniffing at the wind. I could feel no breeze, just the remaining morning damp. I spoke the words that steadied my breathing. When I reached, As if the wind did walk, the Starr snapped. The men nearby jumped in surprise. The bullet struck true. It burrowed through a rotten log and blew a hole above the sniper’s eye. No more New Yorkers were bothered for the remainder of that day. During the night Union forces fortified their position. The Dutch boys from New York sent over a boiled egg to the sharpshooter that had saved their hides. On my oath to God, I’d never had a morsel of food that tasted so good.”
Later, Gramps focuses on the ugly reality of war, speaking about the grim nature of killing other men.
Then, as always, fate intervenes. Edmund helps out a friend by purchasing two tickets to a Big Band dance. Since his girlfriend had just ended their relationship, he finds he is without a date for this dance. Out of desperation he asks the neighborhood beauty, Athena, if she will accompany him, believing she’ll probably turn him down. She happily accepts.
In this coming of age moment, two young people begin on the road toward an epic romance. Weeks go by and Edmund is no longer as concerned about the drumbeat of war in Europe. Athena joins Edmund on his visit to Gramps’ home. She too becomes mesmerized by the stories of the boy from the 1860’s. Both are caught up in the account of a Civil War sniper and his soul-stealing reminiscence of battle and death.
As the year passes, all of their lives move on toward a fateful day, December 7 of 1941.