The woman sprinted toward their position, black robes flowing around her, yelling as she ran.
He took aim and fired.
“Shut up…” he mumbled, reaching for the alarm. Fifteen minutes later he rolled out of bed. As he stumbled to the small bathroom, it hit him.
Shower, shave. Shirt, tie, and suit. He shoved a bagel in his mouth and ran out the door. Walking to the bus stop, he wondered how the hell he’d managed to be outside the barracks in formation on time every day for four years. Guess it was a lot harder when you didn’t live with twenty guys who did the same thing.
He reviewed the notes he’d made the night before. Maybe this will be it. Another day, another job interview. Same as it has been for the last six months.
“Sergeant, she’s still alive.”
Of course she was still alive. He didn’t shoot to kill. “Keep your eyes on the crowd.”
“She needs help — ”
“Keep your eyes on the crowd, Private.”
The woman lay on the ground, bleeding, screaming in pain.
He woke when the bus stopped and cursed when he realized he’d somehow slept through two stops. Was he going to screw this up too?
Getting out of the bus, he set off at a brisk pace. A glance at his watch — the same watch he’d worn on two deployments — told him he could still make it.
If he were to tell his buddies still serving about this, they would laugh their asses off. His former soldiers, who now led soldiers of their own, would find it particularly amusing.
Stopping at a crosswalk, he checked the map he’d printed off the internet. He couldn’t find the street he was on. How could someone navigate through a desert on the other side of the world, yet get lost in a city back home?
He checked his watch again.
A couple of civilians from the crowd moved towards the woman, but his men yelled and aimed their rifles at them until they backed off.
The woman’s screams grew more desperate.
“All right,” he turned to the men. “Johnson, you’re with me. Doc, I’ll signal you if it checks out. The rest of you, keep your eyes on the civilians. If somebody moves in, I don’t give a shit how old or how young, you will open fire. Is that clear?” They nodded.
“Johnson, follow me.”
A Vietnam vet seated on a bench begging for change gave him directions, and he managed to make it almost on time.
The interview lasted less than ten minutes.
Normally, interviews followed a pattern. Same questions. Same answers.
“Tell me about yourself.”
“What are your weaknesses?”
Most times, he was spared the usual “How do you work under pressure?” and “Are you a team player?” His interviewers had the sense not to ask a former US Army sergeant that. Today, he didn’t even get to that part. The interviewer took a look at his last name and told him flat out that they “didn’t sponsor visas”. He could have corrected him, but the urge to punch him for his stupidity was too great. The idiot saw the “Sánchez” on his application but didn’t see the veteran box he’d checked.
Perhaps next time it would be different, Sánchez thought, as he drank his usual six pack that night. He needed a job. All the money he’d saved from his tours was gone, and his credit card balances kept going up.
Yes. Next time it would be different.
He saw it by chance. As they approached the woman, a little boy in the crowd dropped his soccer ball and bent down to pick it up. The man behind him was holding a cell phone.
“Johnson, get down!” Sánchez yelled as he turned and hit the ground. Behind him, the woman’s body exploded. Shrapnel and body parts flew in all directions.
As Sánchez fell asleep in front of his TV, his heavy eyes lingered for a second on a picture of himself standing at attention while his commander pinned a medal on his uniform. “Hero” he’d called him.
Sánchez shook his head once and passed out.
Henry Lara is a writer, avid reader, and all around good guy (so he says). He attended the University of Puerto Rico and earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, major in Accounting. After serving in the US Army for four years he moved to the area around Boston, Massachusetts, where he lives to this day. He is currently working on a novel as well as several short stories.