Sunday, November 11, 2012

Armed and Ready

   He was armed and ready, hunkered down behind Grandpa’s old wheelbarrow by the woodshed, his brothers in secured prone positions under Mama’s lilac bush, … and just in time.  The droning of the crop duster engine grew steadily nearer.  Adjusting colander and sauce pan helmets, walkie-talkies crackled as stick rifles lifted and sling shots stretched into position. 

    One last kiss.  She resolved to smile bravely, to send him off with courage, to be strong for the children… again.  As the Chinook engines droned, he sat with head in hands, praying for their safety.  He knew she would be faithful to him.  But so many of the other guys who sat around him, consumed in their own thoughts, what of them? 

   Murky trenches, pelting sandy wind, sweltering heat, bitter cold, and waiting… waiting for orders, waiting for letters from home, waiting for rations, waiting… always waiting… and always ready.  Canvas walls offered meek attempts to shut out the constant droning of military vehicles day and night.

   Grand reunions, red carpet, medal ceremonies, flags unfurled, apple pie, warm welcomes, friends and family.  Joy, real and surreal.  Slowly the last pickup truck drove away leaving in its wake a gently receding drone in a small cloud of dust.  Everything had changed and his youth was gone.  Who was he?  What was important?  How would he lead without following orders?  Where would he go from here? 

    He sat ready with pocket watch in hand… and just in time.  He saw her through the small round window standing bravely beside the children.  He felt grit in his boots and the weight of his pack.  He smelled the stench of smoke, of filth, of wounds.  He heard rhythmic boots marching in cadence.   As the droning of the crop duster engine gradually faded and was gone, her trembling hand patted his own tenderly.  She was there to wheel his chair slowly through the day room and down the hall.

~Mrs. Arlene Eldridge

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