“How did we start talking about Joey?” My brother frowned. It was a bit weird I admit.
“Because we were talking about people we know, or knew.” I tried to adjust the flimsy plastic armor plate biting into my shoulder.
“Yeah, but she was a cat.” He leaned back against the netting of the seat and fiddled with the straps, some derision in his tone.
He chuckled and shook his head. I just smiled ruefully. A few more pallets arrived on an autonomous lift and were placed in the center of the hold. Neither my brother or I moved as the privates and corporals secured them. That felt weird too, but then we would have been in the way.
I continued, “I think it’s because she lived a long, full life.”
“Yeah, all 19 years. But do you really think so? You always could ‘reason’ your way through anything.” He focused on the tie-downs as the squad finished their work.
I felt a bit defensive, but took a breath before answering. “I was going to say that it really helped me.” I forced a laugh, “But I still can’t reason my way through this mess.” I waved my hand in a circle.
“No kidding. You’ve lived twice as long as that cat.” He didn’t continue down last night’s conversation. It was no use in raging about how in less than 2 weeks we would have a different administration, or in four months I would be too old for the draft. This president wanted to go out with a bang, just like when he came into office with scandals galore.
“Here comes the sergeant. Ready to go back to Texas?”
He grimaced. “Not to put down a riot. Not even just to visit in January.”
“Sirs?” Sergeant Hector stopped and saluted. It was nice that they gave both of us commissions after drafting us for our technical knowledge, but it felt like a dream, a bad one at that. I saluted and felt like I did it wrong. “We are just about ready for dust-off. Two minutes.” Idling engines spooled-up as if on his command. I nodded, and he turned to finish preparations.
“So many almosts,” I said as I pulled out my hardened tablet.
“Just so many things that I almost did.” I had to shout to be heard over the engines now. I attached the tablet to my knees so I could use both hands.
“We might get through this.” Strained hope at the top of his voice.
“Against violently celebrating, well-armed voters? So much for ‘great again.’” I hoped the well-armed part was a lie like most of the eight years. But I had to put politics aside and focus on the defense of the aircraft we rode in. If anybody hacked it, my brother, myself, and twenty-six other men and women wouldn’t even stand a chance to see a different world.
Dreams with happy endings,
Disappoint when awake.