Monday, May 28, 2012

In Honor

In honor of Memorial Day, a PG excerpt from "Dead On Her Feet", my (very much not-PG) story to be included this fall in the Duty and Desire anthology due out this fall from Cleis Press:
Jamie kept her eyes closed, even though the plane was descending and she couldn't sleep. Tired wasn't the word. Exhausted wasn't even the word. Dead on her feet came somewhere close. Non-essential travel, like finally coming home after two years in the God-forsaken desert, was slow. And frustrating. She'd caught a supply truck from her unit's camp that ran three hours into the city base, and then waited around for most of a day for a military transport plane that had room for her, which had flown eight hours to Germany. Then it was a bus to take her to the commercial airport in Munich, where not a single ticketing agent could be found who spoke English. She'd made do, though -- a soldier made do, even in some crazy backwater where a shovel-dug latrine was a luxury and female soldiers couldn't leave base without escort and even the kids you were there to help hated you for the uniform on your back.

But this was Germany, which was friendly and civilized and the only thing in the way was words. That was easy, even allowing for her being tired and discombobulated from travel already. She'd pulled out her Blackberry and loaded up an atlas and pointed and zoomed and pointed and zoomed until she'd finally made the crisply-dressed, ultra-polite young man understand her destination. Then it was commercial transport all the way, with its much more comfortable seats but its annoying security protocols (didn't they understand how goddamn hard it was to get in and out of combat boots?) and its annoyed civilians. Munich to London, London to New York, in and out of customs and security, retrieving and then re-checking her duffel every time she went through customs in a new country...

Thirty-four hours on the move, now, and counting, dead on her feet, but this was the last flight, and her ears were popping with the descent. Maybe another hour, now, and then she'd step out of the Atlanta airport into the lush thick humidity of proper Southern air, maybe even one of those summertime afternoon deluges and she would stand there and just let the rain soak her right to the skin. And then she'd take a bus a couple of hours down into Georgia, to a tiny little town that no one had ever heard of who hadn't been born there, and then it was only a couple of miles from the bus depot to Casey's mama's house. To Casey.

Eyes still closed, Jamie's hand stole up to her shirt pocket where she kept the most important things: her passport, and the receipts for all those planes and busses, and her ID cards, and the cash she'd drawn to pay for food... and the picture of her and Casey at his sister's wedding two years back. She'd looked ridiculous in that bridesmaid's dress with her fresh-from-basic close-cropped hair and those mannish muscles on her bare shoulders, but Casey had looked so very, very fine in that tux, and he'd pulled her close while they danced and told her she was the most beautiful woman there, and they'd snuck off down to the basement and almost not made it back in time to see the cake cut, and luckily the tux jacket had covered where she'd got lipstick on his cummerbund.
Thank you to everyone who's ever served. Thank you for helping to keep this a country where I can do the things I do, write the things I write, and say the things I say. Freedom has never been free, and while I don't often talk of it, I'm a patriot at heart. Today, I publicly honor those who have paid freedom's price -- with your service, with your blood, with your peace of mind, with your lives.

No comments: