It’s Supposed to Be Hard

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.

Alone; The Journal of PFC Patterson

With Anthony gone, Arlene sat alone on the couch staring at the journal on the coffee table before her.  Her eyes glanced up from it to the window. The rain ran down the panes like blood must have on her son.  She took a sip of wine and placed the glass next to the journal. The plastic bag holding it was worn and dirty with grains of sand that once touched his hands.  The room was eerily quiet.  Her emotions swayed from anger to sadness.  

Why did he send the journal to her?  Wasn’t losing him enough! Now must she read his own words.  She was frozen in the moment.  Too scared to open the journal, she stood up and walked towards the wall holding his pictures.  The pain of losing Michael was as agonizing now as it was when two Marines in uniform delivered the devastating news last November. 

This is fiction written for VisDare.  This work was inspired by the photo 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.