In A Different World
He was a beautiful baby boy. At 7lbs, 4 ounces, a healthy James Patrick Harris came out kicking, screaming, and fussing. All in all the labor was short and sweet, everything had gone well. Family members had gathered outside and were anxiously awaiting the news. Prayers had been said and nervous conversations were had.
Most of the conversations were about the boy's father. Just a few months before he had been deployed and was now in Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Storm. The date was September 6th, 1990.
As with all wars, there were casualties. The Gulf War was no different. As James Patrick was breathing his first few breaths, Sgt. Patrick Lynn Harris was breathing his last. Stationed at the Iraq/Kuwait border, the base had seen little action in the first few months in the desert.
The fighting lasted only a few hours, but in the end the American forces suffered 6 casualties before dislodging the battalion. Of the force of around 1000 men, hundreds were killed before surrendering.
While James Patrick was being delivered, Rahim Sahar was brought into the world with little fanfare. Like James, Rahul's father was not there as he took his first breaths. Abdul Sahar was training due to the recent fatwa. And like James, little Rahim would never meet his father.
Abdul Sahar died due to a gunshot to the head. During a drill, he had been caught in the crossfire. These mishaps were common during training, and were considered part of the sacrifice for the cause. There was no shortage of men to take his place.
For the Harris family, the news of Patrick's death was devastating. As the blessings and joys of a healthy baby boy circulated, James Patrick’s mother, Linda, was visited by the Chaplain. The balloons and flowers in the room contrasted with the funereal faces of those hearing the tragic news of the baby’s father. He had died a hero’s death, but he was gone nonetheless.
As time passed James was told many times how his father had bravely served his country. Growing up, he often stared at pictures of his father. With eyes that were full of life, the handsome man in the pictures was almost like a character in a book. His mother often told him stories of how they met; fell in love, and how excited he was upon learning that he would be a father.
James had only recently celebrated his eleventh birthday when two planes flew into the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001. He was in school at the time of the attack, as lessons of fractions were interrupted and the teacher turned on the TV. The class sat in silence while listening to the grim voices describe the carnage. It was then, at such a young age James vowed revenge, he was ready to enlist that day.
For Rahim, that day was much different. In Afghanistan, the reactions varied as news of the successful attack spread. He watched as men celebrated the falling of the towers, and the blow to the great satan. He saw others weeping, fearing the retaliation of the United States. The confusion was rampant in the war torn country.
A few weeks later, while playing tag with a group of boys, Rahim was approached by a well dressed man. The friendly man offered candy, food, and money, things the kids had only dreamed of. He showed up again the next day and the day after that. He paid special attention to the young Rahim.
James Harris had become quite the athlete. As a defensive end on the football team, he was selected to the all state team his junior year. Scholarships were being offered and the 6’3” 225 pound James was being recruited from all angles, and at the moment the marine recruiter had the edge.
Rahim had been serving for years at this point, and although small, he was a promising soldier. Smart and well trained, those in the ranks of the insurgency felt he was ready. His mission was crucial to the movement. The western forces, bolstered by the surge of new bodies, had been making great strides in the past year. Rahim Sahar was more than a loyal soldier, his mother and younger brother had been killed by drone strikes only three years before, leaving him thirsty for vengeance.
Three months after basic training, James Patrick Harris was deployed to Afghanistan. There had been a goodbye party with his family, a cookout at his grandparent’s house. His grandfather had pulled him aside and with moist eyes, had told James just how much he reminded him of his son. With laughter and tears, the family told stories and reminisced about good times
The U.S. outpost was located in an ancient farm building near the outskirts of a small village in the northern moutains. Life at the outpost was anything but easy. On patrols with his unit, James would often waive to the children playing by the roadside. Gaining the trust of the people in the nearby village would not happen overnight. For all of their good deeds it seemed the actions of a very few soldiers would set them back and they would have to start over.
The attempt was bold. The plan had been devised months earlier, and was similar to other attacks across the region. Rahim was part of the force of 200 men, another force of nearly 100 attacked the nearby post as to keep reinforcements from interfering. As dawn approached the battle began.
Upon hearing the gunfire from the higher ground, James knew the post was in danger. Grabbing his gear and rushing to the action, he quickly assessed the situation and the chaos involved. The insurgents were raiding the checkpoint, unorganized but resourceful, they were large in number. James noticing a man down near the observation post. He began making his way towards him but under the heavy fire he was forced to take cover behind the large sandbags near the front of the building. By his estimates air support would be there shortly.
Rahim, entering through the window in the back of the structure and with others, was able to force his way into the bowels of the post. The sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard outside. Men were screaming as the battle waged into the morning. Rahim led the men towards the barracks, when suddenly they were met by gunfire.
The skirmish lasted only seconds, but was deadly for all involved. As bullets sprayed the dirt walls and floor, clouds of smoke and dirt filled the air. Groans could be heard as blood left the bodies and mixed into the earth.
James’ eyes met those of the gasping Rahul. Both had been shot multiple times and were only moments away from death, just as their fathers before them. Born on the same minute of the same day, the two men could have been classmates. They could have been teammates or college roommates. But they had been born worlds apart, and the parallel paths that had suddenly crossed and brought them together had been deadly. As they looked at each other, their blood spilling into dirt, the two men said a prayer to their Gods and took one last breath together.
Copyright 2012 Pete Fanning
Other Short Stories by Weestro
- A Stranger's Help
One stranger's kindness sparks an unlikely bond between two passengers on a plane.
- The Ridgeway Curse
A dark tale of a man unable to let go after a tragic accident.
- Unskilled Labor
For David, life is about avoiding attention, until the day life grabbed his.
- Earnest Gibbons
Earnest Gibbons is one of thousands of cab drivers in the city. When a suspicious passenger gets into his cab, he has to make a quick decision.