Saturday, November 7, 2009

On the line.

On the line.

I never knew how to shoot a gun before this. My daddy never taught me how to. It was completely unnecessary. See my family owned some land out in the back channels of wild Arkansas. Despite all the hubbub over the racists we never had any problems running our land. Cotton. All my life set on running the land that my grandfather ran, his father and so on. These are just minor memories of a life left behind. A life so far remote from where I am today, sitting here, waiting for the enemy with my gun loaded.

From where I stand the trenches span for miles in either direction covered by remnants of war and bodies of the dead. The sky above is pouring down buckets of water onto the already saturated landscape. Muddy water trickles down the tunnel walls as I’m standing knee deep in the thick mud looking over the body of a dead comrade. Red color of death is mixed with the dank murky waters creating a thick stream of blackened blood. The likelihood of my living without pilfering through his belongings is slim. My shoes are wearing thin and this soldier’s boots are still new. His jacket has a lining and his helmet remains whole. Inside his knapsack there’s bandages and a few other medical reinforcements. Must have been a med tech out here on the line. Newbie at that. Poor boy couldn’t be a day over eighteen, with his baby face clean of any weather damage. Nonetheless I’m given no other choice to rob this dead child of his effects. Quickly I steal the last pieces of material life and move on.

As the enemy draws closer both camps are on the move. Miles of the dead scatter the battlefield above me. I continue to find my way through the darken afternoon that precedes the dusk. At no point does the rain dissipate as I sludge through the tight channel of muck. Carefully, I maneuver over the occasional wounded without much recourse and do not look or linger to meet the reaching hands. I can not assist or restore these fallen men. My path is determined I must rejoin the ranks of the advancing company before the enemy draws nearer.

As I move cautiously through the trenches near the enemy lines, drawing in closer towards the front line, I hope to find a familiar soldier. Shallow breathes escape from my mouth as body movements quicken through the wetness. The day grows darker and thunderous noises of combat closer. Taking shorter and deeper steps into this sludge until I can take no more. No choice as rest is desperately needed. Unhooking the gun from my shoulder as I drop the pack, it becomes clear, I’m not alone. Lying before me, nearly four feet away, a wounded soldier, the enemy unconscious but breathing. One arm over his exposed chest that is covered in red. Beneath, his chest is heavily wounded and risking a bad infection. Quietly I edge the pack aside and settle in with my gun pointed directly at the soldier. Just as I arm my weapon, he startles and raises his gun at me. We’re in a lock of arms. Face to face. Mere inches from death at the hands of the other man. His eyes are filled with doubt and fear as his hand shakes. Despite the dampness around me I can feel the sweat pool along the back of my neck. Certain is the mind and steady is the arm. Without hesitation I fire. The man is down before he can managed to return fire. Clean out his ammo and move along, deeper toward the front line before I’m found.

Shooting a gun isn’t the first thing they teach when you become a soldier. In fact, it’s one of the last things I learned and for the most part, I’m sorry for it every day. The psychology of a human mind is quite tricky. There’s a certain type of person that can kill, where another person can not. To be perfectly clear, there are times I wish to God I didn’t have the stomach for killing. But from where I stand it’s kill or be killed out here. Those days when the point of it all seems meaningless, I find myself dreaming of the beautiful fields of cotton back home on a warm afternoon with a gentle breeze pushing through. Someday I long to return to those very fields and continue that legacy of my father and his father. Until then I face this deadly expanse that welcomes me everyday, bodies of the dead, weapons, and shrapnel covering miles and miles of beaten earth.

Some might say knowing when death comes might be a familiar feeling. On the other hand, knowing could change how you face each day. My death could come at any moment, but I’d like to believe that there’s a greater power out in the universe keeping me alive.

This is the soldier story, at long last. Well? I know y'all thought it was something else, huh? And actually there is another thing that I mentioned I was contemplating working on... well that is coming too. Seemed appropriate since I was battling. For now, this is one for the week and maybe two will be up later. I'm sorry for the delay and I hate apologizing for silly things, but I feel bad that the work stuff was a handful this week. The stress of it prompted quite a few rewrites and in fact I started over a few times. It's moi, so, of course I'm scared and nervous for the future without work. Which prompted a little bit of contemplation. C'est la vie. Well for now, at least. kisses. m.

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