first person fictional essay being on the front line


All I can do right now is focus on getting out of this damned country and
back to Brussels. In the months that I\'ve been here I\'ve become as confused as
the Spaniards themselves. It seems as if I\'m torn between which pain medicine I
want like they\'re torn between governments. If someone were to have asked me
last year what I would be doing at this time I would definitely not have guessed
lying in a hospital bed with a gunshot wound. What the hell was I doing caught
between those Moroccans anyway? Additionally, what were they doing firing at a
journalist? It\'s no wonder the Spaniards consider them savages. When the
newspaper gave me the assignment of covering Madrid, I knew there would be
danger involved. I just didn\'t know it would be this dangerous. Up until this
point in my life I have not seen battle as heated as that which I witnessed just
days ago. In retrospect, I should probably have never ventured out of my hotel
room at the Gran Via. I had a great view of the Plaza, the Casa de Campo, and
the University City. However, I, just being myself, wanted more. I didn\'t want
what I got.

Well, I must make the most of my situation. Because a colleague of mine is
now covering the battle action I have an excess of free time and unprintable
thoughts which will be great for this journal and writing to the family. This is
actually the first entry that I have made since coming to Madrid on the sixth.
On that day the tension was so thick that you could feel it in the air. Everyone
had a sense of urgency in their step and the streets teemed with market goers.
The \'Insurgents\' were making their advance on the city. General Franco\'s Army of
Africa was coming east from the Tagus Valley led by General Mola. As early as a
week before, the German Condor Legion began some bombing raids on the city. It
seemed to me that these raids only outraged the citizens of Madrid and hastened
their preparation for the coming onslaught. I have never seen so many people
come together to put up barricades, soup-kitchens, first aid stations, and
message centers. So much for demoralizing the citizens by bombing them!

Bombing continued on into the first week of November and Mola\'s army kept
advancing, gaining one small town after another. Some of my colleagues from
Portugal deemed these small towns as "keys" to the city and predicted
that Madrid would soon fall.

However, those folks didn\'t take into account some of the tricks the Popular
Front had up their sleeve. By November fourth Russian fighters were flying
against the Germans and establishing their superiority. I\'ve heard that from the
ground they seem much more quick and maneuverable than the German Fiats and
prevented the German Junkers from deploying their cargo of destruction.

By the sixth Madrid was ready for attack and I was ready to photograph and
write. As I was entering the city, however, the government was removing itself
to Valencia. Just days before it had been reformed to include the Anarchists as
well as the Republicans, Socialists, and Communists. This only helped the
Popular Front garner more support, which it seemed, was definitely needed at the
time. When President Caballero decided to leave Madrid he appointed a little
known general, Jose Miaja, as the supreme commander of the city\'s defenses. I,
like most others, scratched my head at the appointment of Miaja and also at the
choice of Valencia as the home of the government in exile.

Most people assumed Miaja would be the scapegoat for the government and the
responsibility of losing Madrid would fall upon his shoulders. He apparently
thought otherwise. I don\'t know what happened that first night I was in Madrid
but when I awoke the next day everything had been thrown into a feverish pitch.
Thousands of civilian troops had dug trenches and the entire city had been set
into a motion of defense. Madrid had transformed almost over night. I had heard
some days later that Miaja had taken it upon himself not to be the scapegoat
upon which Madrid would be set, but rather its savior. He was actually quoted as
saying that if troops were to retreat they should retreat to the cemetery. These
seemed like overzealous aims considering the impending bombardment of the city.
However, many, including myself, underestimated Miaja and his troops.

On the seventh Colonel