There is no weather in June that favors our work, none at all. it is either hot or it is pissing swamp-rain across Virginia. I carried a flag of truce but none was needed. No one cared.
I knew him as Krapp, and whether that was surname or epithet I never came to know. Krapp vexed me; he vexes me still. He was already an old man when I met him, but vivacious and prone to all manner of evil. I first made his acquaintance as we picked out way toward the Chickahominy, through a mountain of dead.
"It is a sight to warm my heart," Krapp said, and I knew then that we would not be friends.
The dead lay in great, blackened heaps. One could not be told from the other. The rebels had been briefly driven from their breastworks, but they had turned double-shotted cannons on General Hancock's celebrating troops. There was a stink in the air that day, a hot stink of equal parts human effluvia and indescribable feculence. The sun beat down.
"I am looking for a Colonel," Krapp said. It was heavy work and we were both panting beneath the parapets of the Cold Harbor fortifications. A soldier picked his teeth, watching my flag bob.
"Go speak to the pickets," I said, "they'll let you through."
Krapp laughed. It was a good-natured belly laugh. "No, sir," he said, "my Colonel rides with a General still mightier. He's dead as a post, laid out by southern cannister in the last charge. Or so I am told. Tell me if you spot a cockade or some other signifier among the calamity. Peter Augustus Porter was his name."
I knew then what he was. I would come to know him more intimately very soon, for we were rivals in the trade.