UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL
(excerpt from August Challenge)
On a cloudy, below zero afternoon, Ezra and I were in a jeep with three other soldiers. We were headed back to base when out of nowhere, the jeep was thrust into the air.
I was laying in the snow and couldn’t remember why. I couldn’t hear anything. I looked around and saw the jeep, a smoking pile of shrapnel. My right shoulder hurt real bad and I couldn’t move my arm. One of the soldiers came over to me and knelt in the snow.
“You alright?” the soldier half yelled half asked. Though I couldn’t hear anything, I understood what he was asking. I gestured to my shoulder and he saw that it was dislocated. “This is gonna hurt. Close your eyes.” I read his lips as he spoke. I closed my eyes and felt him put his foot under my arm and he grabbed my wrist. When he pulled on my wrist there was a loud popping sound in my shoulder and there was a stabbing pain in my forearm. I gritted my teeth to stifle a cry and opened my eyes. I could move my arm again but moving my fingers was difficult.
“Thanks,” he held his hand out to me and helped me up. He stood there another second or two before going to the other soldier he was with before. I was looking around, searching. There, I saw an arm from underneath the jeep. I stumbled towards the jeep. “Ezra”I breathed.
I waved with my left arm at the other soldiers and yelled. The soldiers helped me move enough of the smoking shrapnel to get to Ezra. I felt for a pulse. I found one. Weak and barely there. But it was a pulse. He was unconscious and not moving at all. He was breathing, it was raspy and irregular. His uniform was charred, especially around the ankles. His whole right leg was unbearable to look at.
In Germany, at the same hospital I was at about a year or so before, I waited in the very room that Ezra had waited. An hour went by. I fidgeted with my sling. Two and then three hours ticked by ever so slowly. I had to go back to Iraq in two days. I stared at my boots while my right knee went up and down in a quick motion.
I closed my eyes, rubbed my face and drew in a long breath. I flinched when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Hey, you okay?” I stood up and turned around, I was hugging him before I even opened my eyes.
“Derek,” was all I could think to say. He hugged me back and whispered in my ear.
“It’ll be alright,”
“How did you get here?”
“Oh, I know a guy who knows a guy,” he winked. “What’s this?” he motioned to the sling.
“My shoulder was dislocated and I fractured my radius. I also had lost my hearing, but it’s back now.”
“Nice,” we sat beside each other while we waited to see Ezra.
It was three in the morning and we still waited. “You asleep?” I jerked my head up when I heard Derek’s voice. I was embarrassed when I realized I was resting my head on his shoulder.
“No. I’m awake.”
“Yeah, now you are,” he teased. A nurse came into the room right about then. Derek and I stood up and looked at the nurse.
“You can see him,” I looked at Derek. Neither of us liked the look on that nurse’s face. We went to the door that lead to more rooms. Before I passed through the door, the nurse touched my arm. “He isn’t out of the woods yet. There is a small chance of his survival,” I nodded with a straight face. The nurse led us to a small room down the hall. “One at a time,”
Derek gestured for me to go in. I took a long breath and straightened my cap. I entered the room and the young man in that bed wasn’t the same man that I had grown up with. He wasn’t the same, bright, strong, fearless Ezra that I had served with for almost four years. This man, was pale, weak, covered in several bandages and looked totally helpless. I went to the side of the bed and slipped my hand into his. I bit back the tears that made my throat feel so tight. My head turned when I heard the door open. It was Derek.
“Can I come in? The nurse changed her mind,” I nodded. Derek came in and slowly closed the door. “You okay?” I was scared to say no but I couldn’t say yes. I drew in a shaky breath. I shook my head. He came up behind me and laid a hand on my shoulder. I sighed. I wished more than anything That I could take away his pain and make him well again.
I didn’t know what to do. So I just stood behind her. I wished more than anything that I could change all for this for her.
All of a sudden, Ezra’s chest stopped rising and falling, I panicked for a second, then the heart monitor started a steady scream. Nurses and doctors poured into the room. I pulled Joan to one of the back corners.
I was frozen. what just happened? I grabbed Derek’s hand. I watched in horror as they tried to revive him. I wanted to scream his name and punch something and hug someone all at the same time...
(original and unedited)
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