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Moondrops & Thistles
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=== January 1991 ===

A downpour either way he turned. Opting for the lesser storm, Daws walked away from the television and toward the one small window in the sparse room. Lightning flashed thin streaks in the distance. He was drawn to it the way he was drawn to artillery fire in the night. He always enjoyed night training, the way the howitzers shot their rounds high up into nothingness and left a trail of smoke, now and then with a burst of flame. He especially enjoyed the rare bursts of flame. After tonight, he wasn’t sure that enjoyment would last. The call would come. He could do nothing but wait for it.

Thoughts of home surfaced, but he couldn’t go. He had leave time saved. It wouldn’t matter. They were on stand-by. All leave was cancelled.

Not that he had any particular reason to be home. No one was there to worry if he was there or anywhere else, but it was still home. He’d found that thought increasingly important over his ten years of service. After seven years of moving at the whims of the Army, he’d put in for his current duty station as a condition of reenlistment. He was now at least close enough to get back to the city with an easy five and a half hour drive. Daws had a fleeting thought that he should have gone drill and requested Fort Dix. Would’ve been closer. Maybe he still would.

“The liberation of Kuwait has begun.”

At Fitzwater’s voice, Daws yanked his eyes back to the screen. Apache helicopters had struck Baghdad and Kuwait. A shiver crawled through his body into his soul. He was prepared, as well as a man could be prepared for the journey into something unknown. His mind was set for it to happen. Still, he wasn’t gung ho waiting and hoping, as a few he knew. Very few. Most were resolved, aware it was their job, what they’d signed up to do if ever necessary, what they’d trained to do. They would happily go on about their business if the call didn’t come, however.

It would.

He turned from the dull light of the room to the barely dark outside the window, to raindrops reflecting the building’s security light as they fell, to tree branches whipped by rushing wind. Thunder rumbled louder, announcing the storm’s advance. Appropriate.

A sharp ring startled him, even though he was waiting for it.
As he turned the television down and grabbed the receiver, he managed to pull his well-taught military bearing into his voice, as well as his stance. “Dawson.”

“Sergeant. I assume you’re watching the news.”

“Yes, Major.”

“I wanted to be the first to let you know, although your lieutenant will send out the formal announcement within the hour. We leave tomorrow.”

Tomorrow. He’d hoped for a couple of days. Still, they’d been warned. “My men will be ready.”

“I have no doubt.” The major’s voice was calm, light. As always. “At ease, Sergeant. I can feel you at attention even through the phone.”

“Yes, Sir.”

A light chuckle preceded a pause. “Fred, it’ll be good to have you at my back.”

He faltered at the use of his first name. Only for a second. “I will be proud to be there, Sir. And I intend for every one of my men to come home.”

“God willing.”

Daws tried not to hear the doubt in his major’s voice. “Sir?”

“Yes?”

“Your family knows?”

“Yes. Just now. They’ll be fine. Marianne is a strong woman. If not for the boys, she’d likely re-up and go with. Will is here to help. I only hope he doesn’t go off and get married while I’m away.”

Images of things to come flashed on the silent television screen as Daws made himself listen enough to hear without allowing it to sink in too far. “I have no doubt he’ll wait for your return.”

“I imagine so, even if it has to be during leave. I do hope for a short deployment as they predict, for all of us. Now go out and enjoy your last night of freedom for some time to come.”

“Have to call my men.”

“Yes. After your lieutenant calls, and don’t let on you already know. No point him getting his nose out of joint because I broke protocol.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Sir.”

“You’re a good man, Sergeant. Never thought I’d see war again before I retired, but since it’s in the cards, I’m more at ease knowing you and your men are on my team.” He waited only a moment when Daws didn’t answer. “Go out and enjoy yourself tonight. This storm should blow by fast with as fast as it came in.”

“God willing.” Daws knew Major Reynauld meant the lightning storm. He also knew the major would realize he didn’t.

-- Continue to meet Deanna

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