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The War – Episode 3

December 19, 6:56 AM Eastern
Louisville, Kentucky

Jim kissed his wife goodbye as he headed for the door. She was zipping up her parka for the trip to the corner with what he believed to be their son, Jordan. With the heavy coat, hat, scarf, mittens, and boots he was wrapped in, the only indicators that there was a six-year-old boy in there were the bright blue eyes peeking out.

Jim patted him on the head, saying “Be good, buddy.”

“Yes, dad,” came the muffled reply.

Jim smiled at Jeanine as he opened the door and a puff of chilly air blew in. “You know,” he said, “if you let him get used to the cold, he’ll be able to breathe.”

Jeanine scrunched up her face and smiled. “It’s freezing out there. Not everyone was born in a snowbank like you.”

Jim laughed as he held the door for his wife and son, then watched as they walked down the driveway to the sidewalk and turned toward the bus stop. Little puffs of vapor escaped through the scarf across Jordan’s face, but the snow, which had crunched under his little boots the morning before, had melted before Jim could take him to play in it after school.

Got to get that boy on a sled sometime this winter, Jim thought as he looked up at the cloudless, star-filled sky. Shrugging, he opened the door to his truck and started the engine. Jeanine had tried to get him to go out and start the old Ford up so that he would have heat as soon as he climbed in, but he’d laughed that off. Their normal morning banter about him being of sterner stuff than she was used to and of how he could freeze from his own stubbornness was more entertaining than a warm truck anyway.

As he got in, the top-of-the-hour news came on.

“… twenty-seven bodies, including three children, in the rugged terrain at an Army base near Sierra Vista in Arizona. The Pentagon has made no comment, but sources report that the victims were migrants caught in the on-going war between cartels south of the border, which has recently spilled over into the southwestern states. Officials at a near-by national park reported finding several migrants shot dead in a remote section of the park, but there is no indication that the incidents are related.”

Wonderful, Jim thought, taking a sip of his coffee and putting the truck into gear. As he backed down the driveway, the reporter changed the subject.

“The Justice Department reported late yesterday that investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have arrested two men in New Jersey on charges of conspiring to commit acts of terror during the holiday season. Sources report that the men expressed sympathy for foreign terrorist groups on-line, and attempted to purchase weapons and explosives from an FBI informant. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a statement assuring the public that there are no imminent threats, but we should all be vigilant.”

Two fewer idiots on the loose, Jim thought as he put his truck into drive and started down the street.

“State Department officials had no comment on reports that direct negotiations between the United States and Iran have broken down. Sources close to the meetings in Geneva say that the Iranian contingent did not attend a scheduled meeting overnight, but low-level negotiators plan to meet later this afternoon. The White House has issued a statement calling on the Iranians to honor the agreement made earlier this year, and to return to the negotiating table.”

“Good luck with that,” Jim muttered as he waved to his family. They walked toward the corner, where two other groups of parents and children waited for the school bus.

“Overnight, pro-Iranian protests in front of American embassies in Paris, Athens, and Berlin became violent, with protesters setting fire to the guard shack in front of the Berlin embassy. There are no reports of Americans injured, although police in Paris say that two gendarmes were sent to the hospital with cuts and bruises.”

A commercial for a Christmastime tire special came on as Jim got to the light at the edge of their neighborhood. While he waited, he punched the scan button on the radio. After a moment, it stopped at the country station, which was also reporting the news.

“… a naval task force, including the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, has steamed through the strait of Hormuz, and into the Persian Gulf. This makes the third task force in the area. Iranian state radio has announced that in response to quote “provocations by the United States”, the Islamic Republic will be holding military drills in the region near the border with Iraq.”

“The President and President-Elect met again last night to discuss the situation in the Middle-East before both left Washington for the holidays.  The President-Elect returned to New York, where he and his family will be enjoying the holidays and preparing for the move to Washington next month.”

Jim shook his head as the light turned green and he accelerated toward the on-ramp for the freeway. He cursed when he realized he had missed the weather, but didn’t change the station.

“The President and the First Family left Washington late last night to spend the holidays at the western White House. The First Lady plans to visit a nearby daycare later today, while the President will be taking several high school golfers out for a round or two tomorrow. After that, the First Family plans to enjoy a quiet holiday together and complete plans for their move away from the White House after the New Year.”

“Turning to business news, investors held a sell-off yesterday, with the Dow sliding 212 points to 19,570.  The NASDAQ, on the other hand, was up slightly at 5,601.  Today is expected to be the last busy day for traders before the Christmas holidays.”

“In local news, merchants at both malls report brisk pre-holiday business. There are hopes that this may be the best holiday shopping season since 2006. The post office reports record numbers of shipments, with this Saturday scheduled to be the busiest day of the year. Local stores and shipping companies report that they have hired several thousand seasonal workers, which is helping many Kentuckiana families have enough for the holidays.”

“Thank God for small favors,” Jim said as he merged onto the highway. The asphalt was coated in a generous dusting of salt, which whipped back and forth in eddies as semi’s sped past. The radio switched over to modern country, which Jim quickly replaced with classic rock from his music player. The rest of the drive was spent banging his fingers on the steering wheel in time to music that was not new when he was born.


Other episodes can be found here.  The rest of the story can be found in Escort Duty, available now at Amazon.

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