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Flash Fiction: Early Morning Unwelcomed after Dawn
Early Morning Unwelcomed after Dawn
Stretching arms outward John grasped his HK14 assault rifle while his trusted M9 was holstered at his side. Limited to six magazines for the rifle and two for his pistol he hoped there were not encounters for the day’s patrol. But, he knew better since the street fighting was more intense in recent weeks. It would be days before resupply and dependence would be his small squad of comrades. One street at a time was the objective though it might take a week of ducking into abandoned homes while singling out two or three of the enemy militants. They were embedded and had knowledge of the twist and turns of the maze of doorways, windows, and dirt streets.
The lingering light of the moon and stars cast eerie shadows across the dusty dirt floor and masonry walls. They were ghost tales waiting to be told at a bar-b-que back home between the men standing holding their beers. Silence certainly would accompany the remembrance of this tour of duty that carried with it patriotism’s glee between them. A nod or two of the others would accompany a glance to grasp his emotions, which would be their answer of compassion. “But, you’re here now with us and there is a steak waiting,” might be said. Stealth like he may catch in the background his wife stealing a glance with half a smile and half of grimace of what he was enduring in his idle chatting.
Bert was snoring like a snorting hog burying its snout in a puddle of scraps of corn and other vegetables. He didn’t like lacing his boots bottom to top while half tripped on them. They had a nasty habit of becoming untied. Surely that would be a demise they all thought when stopping for him.
Paul stirred and then sat up staring blankly out the window searching the darkness. He made a fist measuring up his left hand now barely able to move his fingers. Tripping the fall he suffered was as violent as a rocket exploding tossing him to the ground. Soon, they would emerge from the tasks set before them with this mission and he would receive medical attention and a ride behind the front the lines. Would it be a day or would it be a week or more? He was thankful he could manage to hold his weapon steady enough to take aim.
A shadow danced across his face giving him an appearance of a surreal painting with bent, melting features. Half of it was obscured into a fathomless, hopeless dimension while the other half rang true that with the rising sun there would be salvation. Salvation from the coming months and him becoming whole again. John wondered if the thought these streets they patrolled reminded him of the New York alleys back home. In that familiar accent Paul boldly took pride he asked, “You up too, John?” John gave a nod and half a chuckle seeming to say, “Morning is arriving soon”.
“Can’t you guys wait until sunrise and let a man sleep,” Scotty sneered. Kicking a splash of dirt onto Paul’s legs he blurted, “Shut up!” Rolling over he snuggled close to his M16 keeping it always ready. He carried the weight as the group’s sniper not having an assault rifle and a scope mounting on his weapon. Scotty treasured that job thinking it meant assuredly he would not have to be his turn to lead a search into a barren building that always offered a surprise.
Like an hour glass, the shadows now announced the morning sun climbing higher. Even though it would be hours until the welcoming rays became ravaging heat, its light gave a sense of hope. Hope exposed would be those doorways and windows harboring men seeking their death. John’s for the day was that there would be no encounter as they conquered another street.
Grasping his canteen Paul gulped down its prize of quenching the dryness of the tragedy of the night’s short life. Then, he pulled the half leftover MRE from the leg pocket of his pants. His fingers dove deep into the package bringing the delight of the morsels of shredded beef to his eager mouth. Fumbling again into his pocket he pulled out a package of crackers to add to the awaiting feast for breakfast.
John’s stare was fixed upon how he was a musician playing his finely tuned violin breaking the silence of the small room. As Paul rummaged into his plastic package of beef with its crinkling sound minced by the following crunch of boring crackers the music had a rhythm all its own. Soon, John added his tune opening a package of taco pasta awaiting the tone of slurping the noodles.
Emerging through the doorway Sergeant Willard head scoured all of them looking for life. Noticing John and Paul’s concert he gave a thumb’s up as he left as fast he entered. His shadow revealed he was like a mother hen as he stood about a foot through the window empty of shadows. He was always on top of them ready to give guidance on what lay ahead. He muttered past the window saying, “Better get the rest up and tell them to eat too”.
Paul got his revenge on Scotty kicking his feet as hard as he could. Then he brushed off the dirt sent his way earlier. Scotty always woke up hard like he was in another place. His speech would stumble words half spoke and meaningless. Nobody was able to interpret his strange mystic language until maybe a half hour later. Everyone just tossed an acknowledging “Uh-huh” or a futile “What?” But, he was like a rattlesnake with reaction time with its stark clatter like an alarm clock waking everyone to unexpected movement even in the shadows. His eyes were like a feral cat preying on scampering mice.
Bert stirred ending his trombone’s contribution to the melody of early dawn’s performance. He jumped up then left the room to stand outside the door. Stretching his arms he welcomed the now rising sun breaking past the distant horizon sight unseen. The light of day drifted silently like ocean waves on the shore beginning to chase away the darkness held tightly by the street. Oddly he did not have his rifle with him. “Bert what are your doing man,” John yelled at him. Sargent Willard barked, “Get inside idiot!” while grasping his arm and shoving him inward.
Like a bird taking flight, Scotty ducked closer to the floor. Bert halfway through the door stumbled then fell. Moments flashed by like the ticking of a clock as they all realized it was only a singular shot and not a volley. Willard was the first to arrive beside him saying “Where are you hit?” Bert’s silence echoed off the walls like an explosion. Paul’s eyes drew hard on his body looking for a twitch of pain to guide him. There was none. John noticed the shadows of night had stopped dancing as the sun’s welcoming arms stretched filling the other side of the street walls. Dawn had become early morning but was unwelcomed.