A Christmas Alone: Part III

2013-01-01-23-26-51

Photo by timatkins at morguefile.com

 

***Attention!!!*** Find Part I here, and Part II here.

 

2 Days Later

After another wake-up slash reminder text from my mother, I roll off the couch and set down to my computer. Surely Corporal Nesbit has better things to do than write back to me. Then again, I’d think my mother would be busy enough not to bug me when she has four other kids.

I find myself smiling a little, in spite of everything, when a new message from him is there waiting for me. This time, thankfully, without a note from Mother. I wonder if she’s gone ahead and read this one too?

Hello Evelyn,

Do you mind me calling you that? Ma’am is stuffy and with so much structure around me every second I’d like to take a break from it. If you don’t mind.

As for the name of God, His I think I’ll stick to. Whether you mind or not. Not to be combative, but it’s saved me a time or two that I know of, and probably many more that I don’t. Like my great grandpa used to say, there are no atheists in foxholes. I didn’t believe that until my first tour the Christmas before last, but when you have a bomb refuse to explode in your face, you tend to realize God’s hand was at work holding the mouth of the lion shut, so to speak.

In case we don’t speak again until after Christmas,

            Wishing you a very merry Christmas,

                        Corp. Nesbit.

Rolling my eyes, I hit reply.

Sir,

No, too formal. Delete.

Corporal,

What am I, his CO? Delete.

I tap my foot. What do I call this guy? I don’t care what he calls me, honestly, but his first name seems too…personal.

Nesbit,  

My husband would have agreed with your great grand but I don’t. Not anymore. Chris would still be alive if that were the case. I’m glad you survived but you’re clearly the exception and not the rule.

This being said, I would like to know the story if you find yourself with the time. If not, I get the gist. The other side screwed up and threw a dud your way and our side won in that moment.

Wishing you green, and no red,

                                  Evelyn.

I hit send and drum my fingers on the table. I feel the heat creeping up my neck and wonder if steam is coming out of my ears. Looking at the sink, I see it piled with dishes. I jump up and sway, realizing I shouldn’t do that. Probably should stop drinking too.  

For the next couple of hours, I clean. Everywhere I turn it’s like dirt materializes. Has my house been this gross, or am I about to start my period and I just want to murder some dust bunnies?

My laptop and phone ding in unison and I almost fall off the step stool I’m using to reach the top of my fridge. Hesitating, I sit down again and open his reply.

Evelyn,

Just finished dinner over here and decided to check my email. Glad I did. The fact that my story isn’t the norm is what makes it worth telling, to me. I’m no one special. I don’t know why I survived when others, like your husband, don’t. I do know it’s my job to tell others what has been done for me, though, and so I’ll be happy to share.

I was on night watch in Iraq. Our side had just taken a key city earlier that day and everything was quiet. I was a couple miles from where the main fighting had been, where our side had won, so I was cocky, joking with a buddy of mine. He had a sense of what was coming, somehow. I’ll never understand it completely, but he was so jittery. I wouldn’t stop mocking him for it, either. I called him every name I could think of and he kept jumping at shadows until it wasn’t a shadow anymore.

Everything went from dark as midnight to bright as noon in the space of a second. The noise was defining. I was knocked off my feet by the shock wave. The other side had just bombed the barracks and taken out what should have been about half of our unit. Sleeping soldiers gone with their dreams.

I turned to run for cover, not knowing where the next bomb would fall, or where the demons would come running from when I saw my buddy on the ground. He had been sticking closer to the fence than I had. Shrapnel from one of the buildings had found its way past his safety vest. I lost my mind. Every ounce of training I’d gone through went out the window. I was just a kid watching another kid, one I’d grown up with, die.

I heard, what I thought, was someone sneaking up behind me and I spun on them, without my gun, and saw the bomb land just a few feet away. I sat there for what seemed like a decade, but was probably a second, staring at this crude, ugly, lump of metal and fuel. Everything around me stopped—Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard that before, but it’s true.

It was almost like that bomb was alive. Like I could hear it breathing and growling. A big cat waiting to pounce. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I grabbed my buddy and left my gun. I just managed to drag him into the ditch behind a big boulder just outside the gate, when that waiting lion decided to pounce. I looked up and saw the fireball going up and over us, cresting like a wave before falling into the only empty area of the camp. That bomb didn’t touch a single person out in the open and the whole rest of our group was exposed. When the smoke cleared, our side rallied and was able to fight them back.

You see, those that should have been sleeping had been surprised, as we would have been after our shift, with an early Christmas dinner, courtesy of our loved ones back home. All but 5 of those who should have been sleeping were safely away on the other side of the camp in the mess hall. When the enemy came in person, we outnumbered them 3 to 1.                   

God bless, and Merry Christmas,

            Corp. Nesbit.

 

To be continued… (And a VERY Merry Christmas to one and all!!!)

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