Episode 74 - Where's the good in goodbye?

It took me a full day to realize she was gone and another to start to grieve. It was not an easy task. Memories can be a wonderful thing and unfortunately they were making me miss her even more. She was not the type to except care easily from others; instead, she took care of everyone around her. And she did take care of me: a lot. In reality, she had volunteered to be part of this damned rescue mission that freed me from enemy hands. I also won’t lie: I still cared about her. Sure, she had turned me down. But I believe she had her reasons. “Wrong time, wrong place…” she once said in her own way. And that’s something to say about her death as well. She didn’t have to be here. She didn’t have to be looking for fuel with us. Fact is… she didn’t have to die this way.

Today, we decided to bury Jill Schneider. Malloy helped me put her in a body bag. Her red lips had turned blue and her cute rosy cheeks were now pale. It broke my heart just to look at her. Not far down from Base Camp, the big mulberry tree seemed like the perfect place for a burial. - Go grab Roy! I wanna make sure he’s part of this. Make sure he has a shovel - I ordered Malloy. A few minutes later, Roy appeared in front of me. His hands still tied; a remorseful look on his face. - Untie him. If he runs: shoot him - I instructed Malloy, who nodded in agreement. I picked up the body bag awkwardly and let Roy lead the way down the trail. Malloy walked behind him, her rifle muzzle poking Roy’s back constantly. I walked beside them, my head resting against Jill’s motionless body; the black body bag separating us uncomfortably. We walked silently. A quarter of a mile down the trail, we arrived at the burial site. I laid Jill’s body gently on the soft grass and mourned for a second or two. I felt awful. - Start digging, soldier! - I commanded Roy. He looked at me hesitantly, took his shovel off its carrying cover and nodded. For a while Roy dug quietly, not saying a word. He wouldn’t even look at me. Malloy watched him carefully, occasionally defending herself from hungry mosquitoes. - I’m terribly sorry John… - said Roy breaking the silence. - Look, I am so sorry for what I've done to you guys, even more to Jill, especially after everything you've done for me. I just wanted my mom back so badly, I couldn't even see that Ivanov was manipulating me. Please forgive me… - continued Roy. I was enraged. I closed my eyes and tried not to attack him. Roy had turned against us, disclosing valuable information to the enemy. Now Jill was dead. I couldn’t ignore the consequences of his deeds. I didn’t respond to his apology. He kept working the shovel. - What do you know about Ivanov? What is he planning now? - I asked Roy. He stopped digging and looked me straight in the eye. - Not much, they kept me out of the details. I was supposed to retrieve the camera and kill you…- Roy replied embarrassed. My anger grew stronger. In an attempt to control myself I accidentally squeezed Jill’s leg through the body bag. - Listen, I could’ve never done that John…I was gonna grab the camera and rendezvous with Dr. Johnson and the others by the pond. I think Ivanov is still here… something to do with Ben. They are planning an extraction of all Ivanov’s personnel next week. That’s all I know… I swear over my mother’s grave - finished Roy, realizing he chose his words wrong. He picked up his shovel and continued digging. Somehow I knew he was telling the truth. - Where? What are the exact coordinates for the rendezvous location? - I asked him. - By the pond, where Willis died - Roy answered me while turning his back at me. I could tell he was feeling guilty. By now Jill’s grave had taken shape. English law once required a burial depth of 6 feet to ensure corpses didn't spread the plague to the living. Of course, this measure was ineffective as fleas infected with the plague probably spread the disease. Besides, few diseases are contracted from contact with dead bodies. Although shallow graves allow animals to easily dig up the remains, a five feet deep grave seemed to be adequate to me. - Alright, Roy. That’s good enough… get out! - I ordered him. He put his shovel aside, wiped his forehead and jumped out of the grave. - I’m sorry sweetie…- I apologized out loud to Jill. I got inside the freshly dug grave and dragged Jill’s body inside. I did it slowly, pretending she was still alive. I moved out of the grave and stared at the black body bag for a minute. My eyes got watery. Memories flooded my mind. Good memories… I grabbed Roy’s shovel, I slowly started to bury Jill’s body with dirt and silently promised vengeance in Jill’s name. What a terrible way to say goodbye; what a waste… so, I worked the shovel for about 30 minutes weeping shameless like a child. I patted the dirt around, and buried a wooded post atop my darling’s grave. I placed her combat helmet there, a fallen soldier’s burial…We stood there in silence, contemplating the site. - Something is missing…- said Malloy walking to her left. She picked up some flowers from the ground and transplanted them over to Jill’s grave. She would’ve liked that. They are purple, that’s her favorite color….

by Corporal John Harris, April 12, 2007