Arlene awoke in the middle of the night. She rose to her feet. Quietly she grabbed the journal off her dresser and walked to the bathroom. She retrieved her slippers and robe then marched down the dark hall into the kitchen. She turned on the light and placed the journal on the counter. She reached in the cabinet for a wine glass and gently placed it on the counter. She opened the fridge and grabbed the bottle of red wine. The quiet of the house was interrupted by the banging of the bottle against the thin glass. The wine pouring into the glass sounded like a running river. She was mesmerised by the red wine pouring into the glass. Her mind wandered. Did the blood pouring out of her mortally wounded son look like this?
“Shit!” she said as the wine spilled over the edge of the full glass onto the counter. Her attention span has been short. The journal has been home for five days and has reopened lots of healing that had taken place since his death. She hardly can function normally. Why did he send it to her? It’s a question that won’t leave her mind. She takes a sip of wine and grabs the journal.
Leaving the kitchen light on she walked into the adjacent living room and sits on the couch. She takes another sip of wine and places the glass on the coffee table. She settles onto the couch with the journal is on her lap. She sits quietly staring at the red wine in her glass. Then she grabs its and takes another sip. She removes the rubber band wrapped around the plastic bag containing the journal. Her hands shake as she touches the journal itself. She places the plastic to her side and holds the journal before her. She reaches into her robe pocket for her reading glasses. With the journal clearly in view, she opened to a random page. With light from the adjacent kitchen she maneuvers the journal so she can read.
10 November 2004
My sweet mom. Day three of our sweep through Fallujah and it’s getting tougher by the minute. Death if all around. Nothing can prepare you for this. No book. No veteran. No movie. NOTHING. This place makes hell look like Disneyland. That’s why we are the best mom. But worry not. I am safe in the hands of my Marine brothers. We have fought our way into town and my platoon is holed up in a convenience store we nicknamed the candy store. We are getting 12 hours a rest at a time which we must square away our gear but it also serves as a breather from the reality outside these walls. Before I wrote this I was thinking of how hard war is. But I am made for this. I understand it just like my fellow Marines. You just are born with this inert ability to stare death in the face and maintain your bearing. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong. I am reminded a line from Tom Hank’s character in “A League of Their Own” when Gina Davis tells him that baseball got too hard. His reply:
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Not everyone can do this. The Marines can. We are special. And we will win and I’ll come home and be a better man.
Time to get back to cleaning my gear so I can get some rack time. Worry not. I am safe. In the candy store.
Till we meet again. You son Michael PFC USMC.
She manages a quick smile that shifted the streaming tears from her cheeks across the edges of her mouth. He was brave. She understood that before he joined the Marines. That is what scared her the most. She knew he enjoyed that movie yet she was surprised at the quote he chose. “It certainly fit his situation,” she thought.
A quick moment of pride was washed out by the agony of his words. Through her tears she reached for her glass and drank the remaining wine. She laid on the couch in a fetal position, crying herself to sleep. She was reliving his death all over again. When will her pain end?
This is fiction written for Daily Prompt Silver Screen. This work was inspired by the prompt and written for the ongoing story The Journal of PFC Patterson. Stop by and read more about a mother dealing with the loss of her only son in Iraq and the turmoil created after reading his journal.
I was selfish. I am not ashamed to admit. However, I am ashamed and disappointed in my actions.
It started on 07 February 1983 when I stepped onto the footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. I went on to give four years to the Marines. I served during peace time and had an uneventful but successful tour. I came out a different man than when I entered. For that I will always be grateful.
Fast forward to 20 Jan 1995. My son was born.
Now move forward to 19 March 2001. The United States invades Iraq. Even though my son was only six at the time, I thought there was potential that the conflict would still be active when he became of age to serve. I was scared for my son. I consciously made a decision not mention my military service. I also made a decision to tuck the war in the corner and not make note of it in our home. I kept a distance from any coverage and news reports. I made sure I put no faces to those Americans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In our home, I made as if the war didn’t exist.
My son is now 18.
A few weeks ago I wrote a fictional story about a mother receiving the journal of her son who was killed in Iraq. In my mind, the story didn’t end with that particular post. It only began. I researched the battles in Iraq in order to add historical accuracy to my story. That research lead me to You Tube where I watched countless clips of returning fallen Americans and their journey from Dover AFB to their respective hometowns. Hundreds to thousands of people lined city streets and rural road to pay tribute to these men and women. I listened to servicemen honored with the highest awards given by our country for valor. I was deeply affected by all I have learned about this generation of our military.
As a kid, I remember watching Walter Cronkite end his nightly newscast with how many had died in Viet Nam that day along the total dead. It had a profound affect on me and was a big reason I joined the military those many years later. However, I didn’t want my son to follow the same path. I selfishly decided that our family had given enough to this country. Not only hadI had served but so did my father in WW II. I didn’t bring this war into our home. I didn’t want any seed planted. I didn’t want my son to serve. I did what I thought was right for my family.
I accomplished my mission. Regardless of my reasons, I am ashamed of myself. I don’t know if what I did was unpatriotic. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. Actually, I don’t know what to think or say other than I am sorry not to have acknowledged the sacrifice of so many serving our country in this war.
There are many like us out there. We all look the same. We are those who suffer at the hands of the alcoholic. You would not recognize that we suffer. We hide it well. We often seek shelter inside our shell yet can’t escape the pain inflicted upon us. A pain received at the hands of someone we love. Both emotional and physical pain.
I was one of the many. However, one person extended a hand. Understood my reality. Sacrificed herself in order to make our life somewhat more manageable. Tried to make normal of the abnormal. A shield of sorts. Often taking the abuse upon herself so it may bypass me. All in the name of love. A love for her only child. A protector till the very end.
She was more than a protector. She was my loving mother. She did all she could do. For me. And I thank you.
This is fiction written for VisDare 10: Whimsy. No PFC Patterson this week. The picture didn’t allow it. It was difficult to come up with something. This is all I could bleed today.
This weekend, we want you to give us a thirty-three response using the wordstone as one of your thirty-three words. You can use any definition of the word that you’d like, but we are specifically looking for serious, well-conceived entries. This isn’t the weekend for light-hearted posts about the difficulty of posting before the linkz close, and we are not looking for hilarious commentary about your cats (THIS time). We want something serious and deep from you guys this weekend, because the sun is starting to shine a bit more, and we think we can handle it now. Take your time with it and give us your very best work.