July 19, 2024

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Dear Diary:

I woke up.

Everything seemed to hurt.  I slowly opened my eyes to a clear blue sky above me.  The lighting was different.  I realized it was no longer early evening.  The sun was in a totally different position.  It must have been morning.  

I looked over to see Mom was holding my hand.  She was sitting next to me, crossed legged on a blanket, eyes closed.  Her face was dirty.  Her long, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail.  Her rifle was leaning up against her leg.  I then noticed she had a bandage wrapped around her left upper arm.  Despite the dirt and the bandage, with her eyes closed, she looked almost angel-like.

“Mom,” was all I could croak out, my mouth cotton dry.  

Her eyes snapped open. She gazed down at me with concern and asked me how I felt.  

“Water.”

She reached over for a water bottle and helped me sit up to take a few sips.  My head swam. I nodded and laid back down on a sleeping bag.  

I told her I hurt all over.  

Mom asked about my head.  It hurt, but not any more than everything else.  

Mom then called out for ‘Daniel,’ a name I did not recognize.  A middle-aged man came over and asked how I was feeling.  He took my pulse and then my blood pressure using a manual cuff and a stethoscope.  He asked if I felt well enough to sit up.  I responded I did not know till I tried.  They gently sat me up.  He shined a penlight into my eyes.  Then, he asked me to follow his finger as he moved it from one side to the other, then up and down.  He said he did not think I had a concussion but to watch for behavior changes, loss of balance, losing track of time, or changes in vision.  Mom nodded.  Daniel told me I would be fine but to tell Mom if anything seemed off.  He then went off to see to others.  

I asked her about her arm.  A bullet graze.  She said it hurt but was just a flesh wound.  She reassured me she would be fine.  Just then, Dad rushed up.  He had a bandage around his head.  At the look I gave him, Dad held up his hand and said he was fine. He actually banged his head getting out of one of the defensive line vehicles and cut himself.  I could not help but laugh and immediately regretted it.  A wave of weariness swept over me.  I asked if it would be okay if I took a nap.  Dad said,

“Of course.”

I smiled and closed my eyes, Mom and Dad looking over me.

Dear Diary:

I woke up again.

I slowly opened my eyes to a clear blue sky above me. The lighting was the same, and the sun was in the same position. Had I taken a short nap?  

I felt better, but I was still not 100 percent. Gingerly, I sat up on the sleeping bag and looked around. I could see Sean’s log in its four corners. All around me were others who had been wounded. Some had simple bandages, others had splints on their arms or legs, and a few were missing an arm or leg.

I stood up slowly.  At first, I was a little off balance, but my balance returned after a few seconds, and I felt even better. 

Mom and Dad then rushed up to me, insisting I should lay back down.  I told them I was feeling much better.  Dad commented that I should, after sleeping for nearly twenty-four hours since yesterday, when I asked to take a ‘nap.’  I replied, “Oh . . . I am famished.  But first, I’ve got to pee.”

When I came out of the outhouse, Mom had a bowl of food for me.  I sat down on Sean’s log and could not help myself but nearly inhaled the whole bowl of food.  Very unattractive.  I asked if I could have another.  Dad smiled, took my bowl and walked off for the chow line.  I looked around at the wounded and then looked directly at Mom and asked what happened.

Mom looked down at the ground and sighed.  After a moment, she looked up at me and told me what happened.

The attack Jack, Carlos, Anna, and I did was successful.  It tipped the balance of the battle.  We took out two more grenadiers and two more machine gunners.  The rest of the gang retreated using covering fire from the remaining machine gunners and the grenadiers.  

Carlos and Anna died in the grenade explosion.  

Jack was in the same condition as I was. Daniel said we would be okay after a few days of rest. He was a paramedic before the power went out. Now, he was the closest thing we had to a doctor.  

What remained of the gang retreated northward toward their base.  

What remained of the market fighters and our militia decided to hold the position and not pursue the gang back to their base, lest our forces ‘rush’ into a counterattack.  We were in no condition for more fighting anyways.  We needed to regroup, rearm, and tend to our wounded and our dead.  

With Jack down, Sean took over, focused on repairing and manning the defensive line.

Jack and Rae then walked up to us.  Like me, Jack was moving slower than normal.  

“So the hero of The Battle of Four Corners lives,” Jack said and gave me a grin.

“I don’t know about a hero. Sure don’t feel like one,” I grinned back.

“Oh, honey, everyone is a hero,” and Rae gave me a gentle hug.  I looked her over for signs of a wound.  She reassured me she was fine.  After Jack sent her to pass the word, she was on her way back when two militia fighters took fire.  She helped carry them to safety and to be treated.  

“Honey, the good Lord above must have been looking out for me.  Not even a minute later, a grenade blew up the exact spot I was just in.”

I could not help but smile at hearing Rae’s rich voice, calling me honey with her deep Southern accent.

I turned to Jack and asked how he survived the grenade explosion that sent the mini-van flying.  He called it ‘dumb’ blind luck.  With Rae and I gone to pass the word, Jack left the mini-van to get Carlos and Anna for the flanking attack we did.  He was in a vehicle two away from where I stood up and took out two gang members.  

“Watching that little stunt, I questioned if you were very stupid or very brave, but I have met your parents and know you are not stupid.”  

“Thanks,” I replied dryly.  

Jack then gave me a one-armed, brotherly hug.  

Jack, Rae, and I sat back on Sean’s log when I asked him about the gang. He looked northward for a moment, his eyes thoughtful.  He then said he missed a key part. The gang had been doing reconnaissance in the market, asking odd questions. Some of those questions were about the sheriff, his deputies, Sean and his group who ran the market, and others with leadership or military experience, specifically Jack.  

Jack then said, “Their leader is either crazy stupid or crazy smart.  I think the latter.  He figured I would expect they’d attack the next day in the morning, and I would set an ambush for them.  So he sent his gang, figuring we would be not only surprised but they could march right in with little resistance.  What he did not figure was for us to set up a defensive line as we did, clearing the area and the trench.  What he did not figure was our militia.  A lot of ‘figuring’ going on there.  We had superior numbers, but the machine guns, the grenade launchers, and their walkies-talkie communications negated our advantage.”

Jack sighed, looking down at the dirt for a moment.  He looked again to the north,

“I think at least one, likely several, had military training.  The grenadiers and the machine gunners, most likely.  In our flanking attack, one of the grenadiers or the machine gunners was the overall tactical leader with the most experience, giving directions and orders.  Once he was killed, the rest of the gang lacked leadership and direction, and they panicked and retreated.  And we have not seen them since.  I would say I would not expect to see them again, but I was wrong previously,” he said solemnly, looking again at the dirt before him. 

Rae took his one hand.  “Jack, don’t ‘what if’ yourself crazy.”

Sean then walked up, his face grim.  He nodded to me and reported to Jack. 

About a third of the market denizens had been killed or wounded.  Of the militia, about a quarter were killed or wounded.  The sheriff lost an eye.  Both deputies were killed.  Repairs to the defensive line were continuing but at a much slower pace with the reduction in manpower.  There were twenty four dead gang members, the shots to the head, face, exposed arms, legs or groin left no wounded as they either died on the spot or bled out in a few minutes.  A number of the market defenders were using premium-grade hunting ammunition with explosive effects.  They recovered four machine guns and some ammunition for them, but it looked like they were running low.  Jack said that could be good news. The surviving machine gunners also might be low on ammunition.  Sean also said they recovered seventeen assault rifles plus three assault rifles with grenade launchers and a few grenades.  There was the body armor, the helmets, and some of the communications gear had survived, but most of the market or militia were not so sure they wanted to wear them.

Jack looked at me and commented that the gang’s dead were about half of what we saw when we conducted reconnaissance of their base.  I thought on it for a moment and said, “There still is their leader, the fat guy with the tattoo on half of his face.”  

He nodded.

Jack asked Sean to find two precision shooters and set up an observation and listening post a half mile up the road to warn if the gang came back. Sean nodded and walked off.

With a full belly and some water, feeling better, I offered to stand watch at the defensive line.  

I sat with my back against a tree on the North side of the trench facing the road, rifle across my lap, thinking about everything that had happened.  

Diary, it all seemed so surreal.  From delivering the butt stroke to the boy to passing the word in the middle of a firefight, to standing up to take out two of the gang, and finally, the flanking attack that Jack, Carlos, Anna, and I did.  

Just over a year ago, I was a high school student in a uniform.  My biggest worries were Savannah and her bully friends, if the cute boy in third-period English liked me, and if Mom and Dad would buy me a cool car to drive once I had my driver’s license.

Looking back at myself, I was so naive.  

And yet, so innocent.  

Now, I carry a rifle with me everywhere I go and feel naked without it.  The guy I think of as the big brother I never had taught me how to use that rifle.  I have shot and killed at least four people that I know of.  The woman I think of as the big sister I never had put a degree of steel in my back that I didn’t know I had before.  

On one hand, I feel like I have lost something.  

On the other hand, I have grown up.  

I had to.

Diary, I am not sure how I feel about that.  

Entry Two

A storm front rolled in the afternoon with intermittent light showers to heavy rain.  Jack and a small team of militia went to check on the gang’s base.  We sat in one of the larger shacks on the South side of four corners around a small fire, listening to the rain when they returned just as night set in.   

The gang was gone.  

Using the thunderstorm to cover their approach, they watched the homes from the hilltop Jack and I had used to recon their base.  Jack looked at me and said the big plush chair I saw the leader sitting in was still in the driveway.  After an hour had passed, seeing no movement or signs of life, they moved in.  

The homes were trashed and ransacked for anything of value.  They did not even bother to bring water in to flush the toilets.  Jack thought it was an indication the gang intended to ‘take’ the market for theirs.  In the house, the big plush chair sat in the driveway, the team found a message written across the front of a stainless steel refrigerator in black permanent marker in neat penmanship,

“Jack,

See you again soon . . .”

About 1stMarineJarHead

1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.

He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.