Posts Tagged ‘foreign country’

I was part of an elite group of Navy SEALS operating in Italy. Our task was to sow confusion in the enemy by demolishing a bridge on a nearby island in the Mediterranean Sea. I was late to the mission briefing and missed all but the end when our commander, Owen Wilson, was assigning code names to all the SEALS in the team as he pointed to each of us.

“Red. You are Bump.You, Tony, will be nicknamed God.” Tony Reali seemed pleased with his. “And I’ll be code named Commander.” I thought that was a bit lacking in creativity. He didn’t give me a code name, and I was pretty disappointed. I guess I should have been on time.

Commander gave me the run down of the mission as we walked down a cobblestone boat ramp that lead into the sea across from the island with our target bridge. A small submersible would be used to tow us underwater in our SCUBA gear.  We jumped in and got in position.  I was clinging to the left side of the vehicle.  Commander told me to man the sonar readouts so I could alert him to any obstacles in our way in the dark water.  As he started the propeller and we got underway, I realized I had no clue where the sonar display even was.

The submersible picked up speed and we were soon zooming along the seabed at ludicrous speed. I could barely hang on. We neared the island and slowed to enter an underwater concrete tunnel. It looked like someone’s submerged living room. Couches, bookshelves and lamps lined the walls. As we rounded a corner in the tunnel we smashed straight into a chain link fence with flood lights attached to the top. I had failed in my sonar duties.

The squad was frustrated at the delay and put the submersible down to replace the broken light bulbs on the floodlights.  Everyone removed their SCUBA gear to allow for better freedom of movement.  The repairs were soon finished, but nobody put their gear back on.  We were all too busy showing each other how long we could hold our breaths.  I couldn’t hold mine any longer and started breathing normally even without the aid of an oxygen tank.

I didn’t want anybody to see I couldn’t hold my breath very long, so I covered my mouth with a blanket and tried to hide my breathing.

Bavarian Alps, Germany.  1970

Emily searches the rolling, grassy hills with her binoculars as I recline up against a large, smooth boulder, clutching my sniper rifle to my chest.  The hill we are on is the tallest for kilometers around and offers a breathtaking view of the German countryside.  Our commanding officer stands behind us.

“I’ve found them,” Emily states.  Our commander orders me to confirm.

I slide forward on my stomach through the grass and rest my rifle atop a small rock.  Peering through the powerful scope enables me to quickly locate the targets in question.  Over two klicks away, the faces of three women fill my view.  They just finished a round of target practice with rifles of their own and now sit on a blanket in a grassy meadow, relaxing in the beautiful weather.

One has her back to me, long blond hair blocking her face from my sight.  “Targets 1 and 2 confirmed.  I don’t have a clear line on the third’s face.”  As if in response, she turns slightly and my heart freezes in my chest.  She’s smiling at a joke told by one of the others.  I know that smile.  It’s the same she gives me when I surprise her with a box of chocolates, the same that so often turns into musical laughter and always makes me smile in return to see her happy.

My commander’s voice breaks through my thoughts.  “Can you confirm Target 3?”

“I…”

“Can you confirm or can’t you?”

Closing my eyes I manage to croak out, “Target 3 confirmed.”

“Good,” she says.  “Take the shot.”

Returning my aim to the first target I settle the cross-hairs on her face, in the center of her forehead.  My breathing slows, the steady thumping of my heart the only sound filling my ears.  I take a breath, let out half of it, and hold.  The trigger slowly retreats as my finger applies pressure.

The crack of the rifle retorts off the surrounding hills.  The bullet enters just under her right cheekbone.  I quickly track over to the second target and fire off a quick shot.  A hit.

As I bring my rifle to bear on the third target, I hesitate.  My love is panicked and confused, wildly looking around for the source of the gunfire.

I squeeze the trigger as slowly as I can, hoping that perhaps if it’s done slowly enough it won’t cause the gun to go off at all. “Forgive me, my love.”  The firing mechanism reaches the trigger point with a jarring click.  However, the only sound that follows is a distinct metallic ping.

“Misfire.”

I hand my rifle over to Emily and she removes the top cover.

“This round was loaded wrong,” she says.  Only a few moments pass and she hands the rifle back to me, reloaded and ready to fire.

“Reacquire target,” the commander orders.

I raise the rifle once more and sight the meadow.  The love of my life is nowhere to be seen.  With a sick, sinking feeling in my gut I spot her.  Tears stream down her face as she runs along a road, blond hair flowing gracefully in her wake.  All I want to do is wipe those tears away, hold her in my arms.

As if miles away I hear the commander.  “Take the shot.”  My finger twitches slightly.  “Take the shot!”  My arm tenses as I center the cross-hairs on her chest.  “TAKE THE SHOT!”

“I love you,” I whisper.  “I’m sorry.”

The hotel’s outdoor pool buzzed with excitement as the Floating Luggage Bridge Competition was in full swing.  Each team worked quickly, lashing together their own assortment of suitcases, duffel bags and rolling handcarts to create an elaborate floating bridge across the pool.  The crowd surrounding the pool laughed and cheered as they encouraged each team to build the best bridge in the shortest time.

I bobbed up and down atop my own gigantic military green duffel bag, surveying the frantic activity.  My perch slowly began to tilt to one side until it finally capsized, dumping me overboard into the water.  Tiny bubbles rose all around me as I sank, staring up towards the surface.  My nose began to bleed, leaving a crimson steam floating topside as I descended.  My butt thumped on the pool’s bottom, but I continued to watch the shifting, distorted images of the people above.  A Civil War era bullet plopped into the water.  It was covered in blood and left its own trail to the bottom.

I exited the pool and began searching for a means to staunch the flow of blood from my nostrils.   Wondering about the hotel’s gigantic lobby, I finally found a napkin dispenser on a small round table.  Seated at the table, in a comfortable looking chair, was a man reading the newspaper.  He gave me a dirty look as I took some tissues.

Once the blood stopped I made my way to the front of the lobby and outside the hotel.  The bustling sights and sounds of one of India’s grand cities spread out before me.  A steady stream of bicycle rickshaws plucked passengers from the front of the hotel and whisked them away down the street.

“Hi”

I turned around to find the source of the voice.  An American girl stood there smiling at me.

“Whoa,” I said. “I think that’s the first time anyone here has ever said a word to me!”

She just laughed and started down the steps from the hotel to the queue of rickshaws.  I could only stand there in shock, mouth agape at this incredible event.  As she jogged down the steps I noticed her blue t-shirt had a gray 4 on the back.  She hopped in a rickshaw and the pilot pedaled away.

Recovering from my amazement, I sprinted down the steps and jumped into the back of the first empty carriage.

“Follow that 4!”

The rickshaw driver stomped on the pedals and we shot out into the street leaving sideswiped vehicles and angry shouts behind us.  Number 4 was nearly out of sight when my driver cut across a roundabout against traffic, scattering rickshaws and cyclists onto the sidewalks as they crashed into one another.  The street took a sharp right turn to bypass a long series of steps down a hill.  Mounting the curb, my rickshaw shot up into the air, flying over a series of majestic fountains to come skidding to a stop just in front of Number 4’s parked carriage.  I raised my hands in triumph.

My victory was short lived as I noticed the passenger of the rickshaw we just intercepted was a woman wearing a #44 shirt, not 4.

“Damn it!”