I remember just after I finished Basic, I was late for Guard duty and the SM thought I should work it off in the kitchens. I spent days peeling potatoes, mopping floors and washing dishes. My hands were constantly wet so my skin started to slough off – which was pretty gross for anyone who was getting them for lunch. I was up from 4:30 am and worked solid until 9 pm. I thought I was tired. I really did.
I’ve spent the last two days doing laundry. Scrubbing makeshift bandages and rinsing liquified skin from dressings literally from sunrise to sunset. Again I thought I was tired.
The fireburst caused hundreds of casualties. That’s about a thousand injured. The Colonel is off doing his own thing investigating what happened as he reckons it was unexposed munitions that someone set off. While we’re all happy to have him out of the way, I know he’s scared there’s more than one of these incendiary fireburst monstrosities out there.
Doc is a machine.
I don’t know much about her, no-one does. She is never without her headscarf. I know she speaks great English, probably better than me. I know she’s lived in loads of countries or been to them at least. She rhymes off places she’s been to like I rhyme off baseball players. I’d barely even heard of Poland before I was shipped out here – which I know is a damning indictment of our education system back home. I knew that some people were “Polish” or “Polacks” but I didn’t really understand what that meant. I didn’t associate it with a place or a people. Just a term to describe kids we didn’t like.
But back to the Doc. She’s up before the rest of us, and stays up later than the rest of us. She has time to pray, she has time to wash and she has time and endless compassion for her patients. I’ve never heard her speak with a raised voice but I’ve seen her glare at the Colonel when he’s having one of his moments. She talks about how we have to pull together, we are all humans now. The Colonel still thinks the war is on.
I don’t know how the Doc ended up here, in this hellhole. But I’d damn glad she ended up with us.
This afternoon, I brought her coffee, some of the last in our stores, and we sat and cried together. Just a few moments of humanity before we got back to the grind.
While I’ve been washing bandages, Monk has been tinkering with the vehicles. I think it’s his way of avoiding work he just doesn’t want to do. When something is going on, he just fades into the background or makes an excuse and disappears. You’ll find him under the engine of something later. Talk about avoidance issues.
I can’t say much about the Colonel. Colonel Alexander Harland. He’s a gung-ho stereotype. I swear he bleeds red, white and blue. Despite everything he’s well turned out, always clean shaven and I know his weapons are as clean as a whistle. But for all of that gruffness and military precision, he’s also the best scrounger I’ve ever met. Doesn’t matter if he needs to get 30 ft of copper wire or requisitioning an APC, the Colonel can talk anyone out of anything. A real mix of charm and authority.
I suppose I should mention our new hanger-on. For the last two days, we have had a young Czech lad helping out. I think he was a refugee here and when the fireburst hit, he was homeless again. He’s helping Doc with anything she asks. Nice lad, kind. Who knows if he will stay with us.
That’s our crew. We aren’t anything more than survivors. We’re not a force to be reckoned with – we’re just trying to get to somewhere beyond the bombs and bad guys. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a couple of heavy hitters join us, but those folks are scary as fuck. How can we trust someone like that?
There aren’t many people I’d take a bullet for. Until two days it was my mom and my little brother. I’d take a bullet for the Doc. No question about it.