The walls of the tiny house shake; a flash of light affirmed the proximity of the explosion. We pull the blanket tighter around us feeling somehow more secure. We think of people living this way for years at a time, people we do not know, far away people, but people with faces, hopes, lives. For us if we survive this night it will be over for another year. Another explosion, farther away this time, the cat asks entry but is refused.
“There are only the two of us now,” a tall gangly tow headed teen age boy whispered to the thin, five foot two inch girl pushed as close to him as physics would allow.
“All the others are gone?” her disbelief was clear but heard only by the boy as she spoke inches from his ear.
“We are the only ones that made it this far,” he repeated, not sure he believed it was possible.
“What can we do?” she felt the task overwhelm her.
“We do what we were sent to do,” he answered with the confident voice of a trained military troop but without feeling any confidence at all.
“They sent hundreds. We are only two.” She sounded very much like a small, scared, girl. He remained silent, unwilling to acknowledge the hopeless truth.
“Mark,” she vocalized his name, no longer whispering. He turned and looked toward her. In the complete darkness he still could not see her even though his nose brushed her cheek.
“How do you know my name?” she had been just a face in the crowd to him. Now just a soft, frightened voice and warmth of her body.
“I’ve been watching you since the first day of training. I was working up the courage, but then…” her voice trailed off, she preferred not to relive this morning. “My name is Jill,” she added even though he hadn’t asked.
“Hi, Jill,” the greeting sounded odd whispered in the darkness. It sounded very plain and day-to-day, not a greeting for this night.
“Mark?” this time she asked a question.
“Jill?” he questioned her.
“Before we go,” she paused. He waited. “Will you kiss me?” she asked in a small quiet voice he could barely make out even though the sound came from less than an inch away. Without hardly any movement at all, just a slight tilt of his head he found her mouth with his lips and gave her a kiss. A kiss like his mother had given him on the forehead every morning when he left for grammar school. A kiss like he had given his sister on her cheek when he was leaving for college. But she would not allow it. She added passion, and urgency, and desire.
“Now?” he said still breathless but knowing their duty.
“On three,” she answered.
Over 300 thousand refugees flee Syria and enter Egypt; the US helps where we can. 50 thousand children approach our boarder, some are used as decoys by drug cartels, some flee war and bad people, many flee hunger. The answer in this case is not stronger boarders. These children are not coming here to pick lettuce – so they are not a threat.
School seems to be a necessary evil, I’m a kid, I go. Over all it’s not a complete waste of time, I could see someday using long division. Ricky, my best friend, waits for me at his house that is six houses up the street. Ricky is the only nine-year-old at the school smaller than I am. We’ve been friends since out first day of Kindergarden. That first day of kindergarten – it wasn’t something easy to forget. Ricky’s mom had dropped him off with hugs and tears. She was just a kid too, only twenty years old. But at the time it was a bit disconcerting to see a mom cry. When she was out of sight Ricky was left standing in a room filled with kids his own age, a bit overwhelmed. Then he noticed us in the carpeted part of the room. We had piles of red cardboard blocks painted to look like bricks. Rick wandered over where I was giving instructions to two teams of kids. Ricky gave his standard introduction, “Hi, I’m Ricky.”
“Hi Ricky, we need a wall right here and if you can figure a way to get a roof on our fort that’s what we need. Your on our team.” I said.
We worked much of the morning once everyone was clear on what a fort was and how to build one. Our wall curved to form a half circle – there was no roof. A pile of hard wooden blocks was referred to as ammunition. It was important to have lots of ammunition near by.
With hindsight I see half a classroom of kindergarteners engaged in a creative project for a least an hour. I’m sure Miss Hanna, our teacher, was very proud of her first day as a kindergarten teacher – her well-behaved brood content, at work and quiet.
At this point I stood up and in a loud low voice – as manly as a five year old can sound said, “This is war! You’re the bad guys. We are the good guys!” I picked up a hard wood block and threw it across the room knocking a few red cardboard blocs out of the bad guys fort. Ricky, my second, from that day forward – picked up a hard wood block throwing it as hard as he could at the enemy fort. His throw went high just above the wall of the apposing teams fort. As luck would have it one of the bad guys looked above the rim of the fort just as the block passed its goal leaving only the kid’s forehead in it’s path. I can still hear the scream – kids cried, the teacher turned white.
I remember sitting outside the principles office on a bench at the end of a long hall. Seems like we sat there in silence for a long time. I don’t remember how we got there. The principle, a giant man, a very stern man – invited us into his office. He seated us on a sofa in his office, side by side, our legs sticking our straight. Our legs barely long enough to keep our shoes off the upholstery.
The Principle pulled a chair close, bent over, looking into our cherub like faces said, “What was that about?”
I answered without a pause, without excuse – in a clear direct statement of truth. “It was War.”