Page 10 of 19
was lying remarkably intact about 50 feet from the main part of the carnage. His body had been thrown with tremendous force from the chopper as it spun around uncontrollably before the final crash. Jason rushed up to his friend and held his hand. He saw that Luke was bleeding about his head. There were rivulets of blood coursing down his face from his cracked helmet. Luke’s eyes were open as he took his last few agonizing breaths. Jason could see that Luke was not looking at him. Rather, he was looking into a space that is far beyond this broken world. Finally, after a few moments that lasted an eternity, Luke’s eyes closed and his breathing slowly faded away into a whisper and disappeared. Luke had gone to a place of light and the peace that passes understanding. Jason knew that his friend had died.
At that moment Jason felt at once shocked, terrified and violently angry. He wanted to smash the butt of his rifle into the ground over and over again. His thoughts became black and he was reeling inside. In his mind the dark hand from hell had reached up from depths of depravity to grab his friend’s helicopter and pull it crashing down to Earth. The senseless loss of Luke’s life before Jason’s eyes made him feel crazy with rage. When would all this killing end? Had the entire world gone mad? Did it matter what happened anymore? Is the meaning of life so weighed down by suffering and grave disaster?
As Jason looked up from Luke’s silent body he could only see a world that was held tightly in the grip of a dark and menacing force. Soldiers rushed about rendering first aid to men that were mortally wounded, while black smoke rose like whirling devils into the rancorous air. The Earth cried long rivers of blood for each man slain, regardless of their nationality. The world of life had been replaced by a sordid scene of devastation and death. On the battle field, light had descended into darkness. At that moment it seemed to Jason that the devious force from hell was winning the war, while every man, woman, child, and the soldiers from both sides of the conflict were the losers. There was no freedom or escape from this hellish nightmare, only the resolve to kill the enemy, but would more killing release Jason and the rest of the world from the hideous presence of darkness that was stalking the land? Or was it more likely that by killing again and again, the cruel and hellish power would only be strengthened? Chaos reigned on the battlefield, and within Jason’s heart and mind there was no resting place.
Jason sank to his knees and his body erupted into uncontrolled sobbing. He bent down and clutched Luke’s lifeless body, burying his face in Luke’s chest. He knew full well that he could not bring his friend back to life, but that did not stop him from wishing that Luke would suddenly return. Jason had seen too much. By an act of grace he wept and grieved for himself, his lost comrade, and for the whole world. If he had not wept, he would have broken down completely and never been able to return to sanity. Such are the wages of war.
Shortly after Jason had gone away to boot camp, Charlene discovered she was pregnant with Jason’s child. Although the morning sickness was a little rough to go through, she was excited about being pregnant. She was wearing Jason’s engagement ring, so she had no problem telling Grandma Kate she was expecting a child. She was equally elated to share the news with Jason’s parents, Bill and Maddy Stiles. In fact, she wanted to share the wonderful news with everyone.
The responses from Grandma Kate and Jason’s parents could not have been more opposed. Charlene expected Grandma Kate to be joyous at the revelation of her pregnancy. Instead, Grandma Kate was unsettled and reactive. Grandma Kate had never said anything rude about Jason until now, but once her tongue was unhinged there seemed to be no end to the condemnation and rejection of Jason and his clan. Years of resentment and bitterness stepped forth into the room. “How can you be pregnant with that boy’s baby?” Grandma Kate remarked with rejection and disgust in her voice. “Don’t you know that the Samuel and Stiles’ families are not alike?” And worse yet, “If I had known you were dating a boy from the Stiles’ family, I would have done something about it!” Charlene’s feelings were deeply hurt by these comments. “I love Jason and I’m wearing his engagement ring,” Charlene responded with tears welling up in her eyes. She held forward her left hand for Grandma Kate to see the gleaming engagement ring. The ring was yet another surprise, which Grandma Kate had not encountered. The sight of the engagement ring brought a surprised look to Grandma Kate’s face, which quickly turned into an expression of meanness and anger.
“I guess no one ever told you about the Stiles family stealing 40 acres on Acorn Ridge from my Great Grandpa Samuel, all those years ago.” The indignation and pain was no longer hidden in Grandma Kate’s voice, as she also shed tears. However, for Grandma Kate the shedding of tears was not to be confused with an expression of sorrow or grieving. Grandma Kate’s tears were a thinly veiled expression of her underlying rage. The tears were only a meager attempt at maintaining control and civility, as what lay beneath was years of hatred and loathing. It was as if the full repository of the Samuel family’s anger about the fate of those 40 acres had been unleashed in the form of Grandma Kate’s outburst.
Charlene was incensed by Grandma Kate’s vilifying remarks. Her tears had reached a full torrent and there was no holding back her next comment. “I don’t care what you say, I am having Jason’s baby!” And, “You’re not my real mom anyway!” Finally, and without thinking about the consequences of heated remarks, Charlene exclaimed, “All I ever wanted was my real mom. I’ve always hated you and wanted you to go away!” Despondent and hurt, Charlene turned away from Grandma Kate and lamented, “I wish my real mom was here today.” At this point Charlene broke down into full sobbing that rocked her whole body. Grandma Kate simply walked out of the room, wanting nothing more than to smoke a cigarette. A cigarette would be the perfect means of calming frayed nerves as well as expressing the underlying rage, which seethed within her. However, no amount of nicotine would quell the vengeful thoughts that were fermenting in her mind.
By the next day Charlene had composed herself enough that she was able to pay a visit to Acorn Ridge. It was Sunday, and she wanted to tell Jason’s parents about the engagement ring and being heavy with Jason’s child. Charlene was a little fearful that Jason’s parents would be upset, but she sensed that she would find acceptance, rather than rejection. After driving the distance to Acorn Ridge, she walked up the driveway and timidly knocked on the front door of Jason’s family home.
Bill and Maddy both appeared at the door simultaneously. Maddy smiled and said, “Well hello Charlene,” and, “What brings you out for a visit?” Charlene politely asked if she could come inside for just a few minutes of their time. Of course, Bill and Maddy welcomed Charlene into the living room of their home. Seated together on the sofa, Charlene showed Maddy the engagement ring, which she had affectionately worn since the day before Jason shipped out to boot camp. “Oh my!” Maddy said with the most delightful smile. She lightly held Charlene’s left hand while gazing at the ring given by her son, Jason. Charlene blushed with shyness and looked slightly away from Maddy. Grappling for words she quietly spoke, “There is something else I want to tell you.” She squirmed in her seat with embarrassment and after a long pause said, “I’m pregnant with Jason’s baby.” Maddy was speechless, but so overjoyed that her encompassing arms were suddenly flung around Charlene in a wonderful hug. “This is great news! I’m so happy now!” Maddy exclaimed, brimming with excitement as she bounced slightly on the sofa.
All the while, Bill had been sitting across the room in his easy chair, somewhat bewildered by all the news, but not upset in any way. He had always been amazed at the way women folk relate to one another. He considered the whole of, “women talk,” as being somewhat puzzling and illogical. Over the years, he had become accepting of the ways of women. And after all, Maddy was such a good cook!
While sharing this joyous moment, Charlene became emotional and a little tearful. She related the story from the day before, of how Grandma Kate had been so cruel and rejecting at the news. It was cle
ar that the painful barb from Grandma Kate’s searing comments was still embedded in Charlene’s skin. Charlene was vulnerable now and had to ask the hardest question, “I really don’t want to live with Grandma Kate anymore. Can I stay here, at your house for a while?” Charlene felt self-conscious and a little desperate in asking the question. Her voice quaked and she was visibly trembling.
Bill had been silent until now. He cast a quick glance at Maddy and said, “Yes, you are welcome in our house. If Jason gave you his ring and you are carrying his child, then our house is your house.” Charlene looked up with a smile of relief and delight. “Oh, thank you so much. You are so kind to me,” her words flowed freely. She was finally at ease, knowing that being pregnant would require a lot of emotional and financial support. And she appropriately said, “I will not be a burden and I will do my share of the work around the house.” In Texas hill country it is typical for a pregnant bride, or bride to be, to move into the home of her husband’s family. However, in this case there would be no dowry, and no sure settlement of the