Life Is Like That. A Simple Twist of Fate.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Steve looked at the notice board in dismay. ´Darn it!´ He thought,´ When did we last have a chance of some fun? A dance , of all things on the 17th. Tch ! ´
Steve was on Night Patrol, Sentry Duty on the 17th, so there was no chance of him doing what he loved so much..... dancing.! In the Officers Mess, no less. ´Bet there´ll be a few local girls coming onto the base as well as our lovely WAFS´ He thought , as he continued his walk back to his bunk and started dismantling his rifle. Each piece had to be scrupulously clean.
Steve was very particular with his gun cleaning regime. He´d heard of the occasions of a rifle jamming, and not firing at a crucial moment. A clean gun could mean your life.
This young man was no coward. As brave as they come, he was, but he was NOT going to be taken out by the enemy due to a dirty part of any of his weapons.
At that moment, his thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Gary, his bunk mate, who flopped onto his bed , put his hands behind his head and stretched his long body out´..
Áah!´sighed Gary, ´that feels good´.... ´Hey Steve! You on sentry duty next Thursday from 17.00 hours.?´
Ýeah´moaned Steve ´Don´t rub it in. There´s a dance at the officers mess and we´re all invited but l´m on bloody duty..´
Óh! That´s harsh. man. l´m free to go and l hate dancing........´
Ánd´interrupted Steve ´You are married. So keep your eyes off any gorgeous girls that turn up. Some of our WAFS, out of uniform are pretty hot stuff too. You´d never think they had anything to do with a fighting Air Force.´
Steve continued cleaning his gun , when suddenly Gary sat upright on his top bunk , leaned over and asked ´´You wanna trade?´
´What do you mean trade?´asked the other man.
´l mean swap, exchange, l´ll do your duty Thursday and you can go to the dance, if you´ll do my duty Friday night and l can go AWOL for a few hours into town´.
Ýou serious?. You´d do that for me?´.
Gary looked down at Steve, who was still meticulously cleaning his rifle. ´Hey! What are friends for?. Besides l´m not ALL heart, l´d much prefer to go into town and have a few beers and maybe a couple of whiskies and if we exchange shifts we both get what we want.´
Steve looked slightly shaken. He so much wanted to say yes, please., Yippee! Thanks mate.
Instead he found himself saying.... Ýou know how dangerous it is to venture into town after dark, booby traps, snipers.....
Áh! l´ll take my chances, as we do every day that we´re in this flipping desert., besides, you must be kicking yourself to find you´re on duty on a very rare ´dance night´ Mr. Fred Astaire.
Steve grinned at the comparison. He would never compare himself to the great Fred Astaire, but he did love dancing enough to have given some thought of getting some more experience , training to teach and eventually open his own dance school, when he got back to civvie land.. It was his dream. He could waltz, he could foxtrot, quickstep, jitterbug, you name it. , he´d be able to dance it.
He shook hands with his mate , said thanks , that would be wonderful and smiling, continued the guncleaning.
The night of the 17th arrived. Steve dressed in his best, with shoes shining till he could see his face in them, started to walk across to the Officers´Mess.
The room was buzzing with voices, laughter, and music from a rather ancient gramophone. Áll these guys here from different backgrounds, you´d think we could have formed a band of some sort,between us,´ was Steves´first thought when he heard the gramophone crackle. ´Still l´m not complaining. This is a fantastic night to be relieved of duty.´
Dance after dance, there was no shortage of a partner for this young , good looking man. It wasn´t just his looks, or his cheeky grn , but everyone knew him to be one of the good guys, reliable and a gentleman.
Meanwhile, Gary pulled his heavy coat around him and turned the collar up. Rather than sweating on a hot dancefloor, for Gary the desert night was becoming very chilly. Sometimes it was so hot during the day, and the temperature dropped so quickly at night that it felt very cold.
Steve had the time of his life, and he eventually walked back to his barracks grinning with happiness. .
He enjoyed his time in the Air Force, and was seriously looking forward to the following week, when he had pilot training again. he could hardly wait for the day when he´d be allowed to fly a plane on his own.. Even so, an evening like this, forgetting about work, or possible rebel attacks, just enjoying himself, was a wonderful thing to re charge his batteries.
Gary pulled his collar higher up around his neck. He was feeling the cold tonight, but at least there was no wind, he thought to himself, That would make it colder and with sand blowing everywhere you may as well be blind.Always looking on the bright side, was Gary.
Steve slept like a baby and awoke with a start as usual to the noise of so many men getting out of bed at the same time and heading for the showers. By the time he arrived at the canteen for breakfast , Steve felt alive again but thought the atmosphere in the room to be subdued. He heard a whisper......Ýeah could happen to any one of us´ ...... Ít´s the nature of the beast´ came from another part of the room....Then.....´l´d like to get out there and pick of every one of those darned rebels, then we can all go home.!´
´What´s evryone talking about?´asked steve as he sat next to some friends with his tray in his hand.
Óh! Haven´t you heard? Sorry, man, Gary ís a good mate of yours, isn´t he?
¨Sniper got him last night. He didn´t stand a chance. One bullet straight to the back of his head and one more in his back for good measure. Flipping cowards. Shooting in the back.´
Steve could not speak. His head was spinning with thoughts of ´That should have been me....l was dancing.... It should have been me.. Oh God!! l can´t take it in. l can´t believe it´.
Sadly it was no mistake. Steve would have to believe it . It was true. He felt crushed with guilt.
A week later, Steve sat next to his instructor in the cockpit of what would soon be ´his´plane to fly. The rebel war continued..................