BFF #223 Devotion
The young men huddled around a small cook stove. It was dusk, they could risk a little warmth and maybe some hot food for a change. The nights are so cold while the days are searingly hot.
It was John’s rotation to take watch. Slipping from his fitful slumber, he extends his arm to be assisted into a full upright position. He hadn’t slept deeply, barely skimming the REM sleep they all so desperately needed.
John hit the latrine all the while thinking it really was one of the most important areas of the encampment. While all the fellas thought they should be sleeping in that hidden alcove, he demanded they set this safe haven aside for mornings like this. There are some things better not done under gunfire.
“Some coffee left over from last night if you want a jolt this morning.” Aaron had been the one to shake him awake with his boot. With a small shrug of his shoulders, John poured the last bit of weak coffee into his cup. Careful not to pour the grounds at the bottom of the pot, they could be reused and extend the rations.
Taking his cup of Joe to his sentry location, his eyes scanning the horizon both near and far, John allowed his mind to unfocus.
Lately he had been scrutinizing every move he had made in his short life. Reviewing his belief system. Trying to understand a broader picture of the world called Earth as well as his personal social world.
Before enlisting, he hadn’t been much of an academic. Reading had been difficult and cumbersome. Philosophy and History were just the names of classes he had to pass in order to get out of school with his diploma. That was when he couldn’t begin to fathom how to see other’s as humans. The same as himself.
In school he had been a “jock”, football and baseball were his specialties. No one in the school gave him any guff about anything he did. Well, except those kids he called nerds. They didn’t so much give him a hard time as he gave them a hard time. They seemed so different, so odd. The truth was, they were cerebral, an idea he had been struggling with for a while now.
He had enlisted with the army. John felt the Calvary would suit him nicely; get a gun, hike for physical movement, don’t think, just do. It seemed a comfort.
Scanning the horizon, John sees movement. Ten clicks. These hills are good for cover both for us and them. This movement is too close for comfort. Eye contact and hand signals, he speaks with the other sentry. They both turn their scopes to the movement.
Adrenaline pumps up! Every hair on the back of his neck is standing at attention. Hold, reserve your ammo until you can see the cause of the movement. It may be foe, then again, it may be friend. Do not shoot automatically out of fear. Reign that emotion in. It has no place here.
The snow leopard peeks from the scrub. Alfred, the other sentry, gasps. The excitement is nearly palpable. The rest of the unit awaken. Signaling for them to take up their scopes, everyone viewed the scene before us. A sight they will probably never witness again; an adult snow leopard hunting.
John recalls he is on duty as sentry and scans the horizon. All clear, for the moment.
Unable to stop himself, John recalls the last batch of letters from home. His mothers letters are filled with mundane gossip, economic changes, the latest thoughts from the political pundits, family news and of course the latest diet fads. His mother doesn’t want him to rejoin civilian life uneducated.
His siblings, Arthur his younger brother and June his older sister, both write about school. Arthur is still in high school as a senior. He writes about girls and graduation. Not much thought to the future, other than the upcoming weekend parties. June is the serious one. June writes about the varying views of the war in general. She writes with thought. June writes to keep him abreast of life from a scholarly view.
Cathy, his girlfriend, writes about everything and anything. She has enclosed drawings from her nieces and nephews for John to chuckle over. She knows there are no electronic gadgets out where he was posted, anything she wanted to send him needed to be hard copy. The photographs buoyed his spirits and often made him laugh.
This particular mission had them out longer than normal. One of his unit members was a reader and they had passed his book around Pillars Of The Earth. Initially, he had enjoyed the book for its time period, sex and war. As more of the unit read the book, they began to discuss their interpretations. John began to see through the political subterfuge. John began to see the nerds he had bullied and now wished he could rescind those harsh words. But, it had been that very attitude which brought him to his current station; a foot soldier in a war far from home. He now had enough time on his hands, to fully appreciate all that he was there fighting for.
Devotion from his family for supporting him even when his decisions were made hastily without full information. Devotion from his family to keep him in their lives. Devotion from his friends and girlfriend for making him feel he will be home where ever they are. Devotion to his unit and buddies and their devotion to one another had kept them all alive to that point.
He looked again for the snow leopard, catching it dragging the carcass back up the hill. Just out of the corner of his sight, he sees the cub. He could see the reason behind the slaughter, it was life. Devotion to life and her cubs. Smiling to himself, he wondered if he had just become a nerd.
John began to look at his own actions and determined the best things in life begin with devotion.