Whatever’s Left of Normal

I sat with my back against a Humvee’s tire, smoking a Kool cigarette I’d learned to love here. A notebook and pen lay on my lap. Most of the men emailed home, but I found romance in such Hollywood war images as the handwritten letter. My body was on Kosovo time, my mind on New England time. I thought about what Mom was doing now, and P.J., and Angelina, and my little niece and nephew. Christmas evening here, Christmas morning there. Who got what? Would Kelsey’s face squinch with delight when she opened the doll I’d bought her in Frankfurt? Would little P.J. Junior whoop when he got the electric loco, class E44, from Fleischmann’s original HO range? Me: Uncle Luke. I thought about how it was time to get started on my own family.

The mountain range on the horizon, dabbed with snow, seemed strangely blue this evening. The misty air stung my cheeks and hands, and I followed the sweep of wind across stubborn wildflowers to my tent’s flapping doorway. The diesel generators made an infernal racket I hardly noticed anymore. Small arms and artillery fire popped in the distance.

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