Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Mother's Day is Hell
Mom sat down in the doorway of a bombed out house. She leaned her rifle next to her, took out her canteen and swigged some water. She hadn't slept in two days and it didn't look like she'd be sawing logs any time soon; not if the boys in C company were gonna get to Le Mans by sunset. One of the grunts walked up and shook a smoke out of his pack. Mom took it, too tired to say thanks. The kid flopped down in the dirt beside the house.
"How much farther we got to go, Sarge?" The grunt said.
Mom took a drag off the smoke. "Best I can figure, we're about ten miles south of where we need to be. We keep up our pace, we oughtta hook up with the 5th Armored by around nineteen hundred hours."
The kid spat in the dust. "I gotta be honest, Sarge, I don't know if I kin make it thet long. I'm awful tahrd."
Mom looked the kid in the eye. "Listen, Hayes," she said, "this ain't been a picnic for any of us. Maloney over there is down about a pint of blood after that Kraut ambush. You got any holes in you?"
Hayes looked sheepish. "No, Sarge. I guess I ain't."
"Then suck it up and stop your griping." The kid looked like he might just start bawling. Mom switched gears. "Look, Hayes, I'm sorry. This has been a rough couple days. And I gotta be honest with you, it's not gonna get any easier for a good long while. You eaten yet?"
The kid shook his head. Mom took a chocolate bar out of her pack. She broke off a piece and handed it to the kid. "Here," she said, "eat some of this and then get on your feet. We gotta get moving." The kid took the candy bar. Mom tossed the rest of the cigarette and then went to check on Maloney. He didn't look so good. All the color had drained from his face and he was limping like a hunchback.
"How they going, Irish?" Mom asked, trying to sound as cheerful as she could.
"I'm aces, Sarge. This is like walking through the Bowery on a Sunday afternoon." Mom smiled. She loved this crazy little Mick. "We pulling out, Sarge?"
"Yeah, Irish. We've got a long hike ahead of us." She clapped him on the shoulder. "Round everyone up and let 'em know we're heading out in three."
Maloney grinned. "Hey, Sarge, Jersey and I were just talking about what we're gonna do when we get back home. I was tellin' him I'm gonna marry my girl and open up an ice cream parlor. Don't that sound great? All the ice cream I can eat. What're you gonna do, Sarge?"
Mom thought about the scene waiting for her at home. Sitting in the kitchen with some crochet work on her lap, the dogs at her feet. Then she cast it out of her mind. "Listen, Irish, right now, I'm not thinking about home. All I'm thinking about is getting to Le Mans and killing some Germans. We rendezvous with the 5th Armored, you can tell me all about your ice cream shop. Meantime, let's get moving."
Maloney shut his yap and hobbled off to spread the word. Gomez, a new kid just arrived from the States came up to Mom. "Sarge," he said, "you remember earlier I was telling you about my girl?"
"Yeah, Gomez," Mom said. In fact, he'd talked about her non-stop for about a mile this morning.
Gomez pulled his wallet out and took a picture from it. "I just remembered that I have a picture of her. Look, there she is." He showed the snapshot to Mom, who wondered if Gomez was talking about the little girl who looked like she was still in elementary school or the dress-wearing string bean with the Coke bottle glasses. She figured it wasn't a good idea to ask. "Yeah, you're a lucky man, Gomez."
Gomez shoved his wallet back in his pocket. "When I get back home, I'm gonna marry her, Sarge. That Betty Lou is about the nicest girl I've ever--"
Before he could finish, Gomez's chest exploded and he fell to the ground. Mom hadn't even heard the shot. The company was looking around, panicky, like a bunch of deer in a bunch of headlights. Mom yelled, "Sniper! C company, find cover!" She saw Jersey helping Maloney to the side of the road. Gomez lay crumpled at her feet. He sucked air as blood poured out of the wound. He was a goner. Still, Mom couldn't leave him there. She picked the wounded man up and threw him over her shoulder, then ran as fast as she could for the ditch.
She laid Gomez down in the grass and scanned the trees and houses for the gunman. As another shot rang out, hitting nobody but tearing the bark off of an oak, Mom caught a flash of light off of a scope. There he was, in a tree branch not a hundred yards away. Mom picked up her rifle and took aim. The sniper saw what she was doing and squeezed off a shot that kicked up some dirt a few feet in front of her. Mom took her time, knowing she might not get a second shot. She got him in her sights, said a prayer and pulled the trigger. The sniper fell out of the tree.
Mom turned to Gomez, who had stopped breathing and lay in the grass, dead. He'd never make it back to Betty Lou. "Sorry, Gomez," Mom said. "At least I got him. I could do that much, anyway." Mom lowered her head and thought about the ten long miles to Le Mans.