Moondrops & Thistles
=== 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
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
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.”
“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.”
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.”
Daws tried not to hear the doubt in his major’s voice. “Sir?”
“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
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
“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
“God willing.” Daws knew Major Reynauld meant the lightning
storm. He also knew the major would realize he didn’t.
to meet Deanna