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The War – Episode 33

September 22, 6:17 AM Central
Minneapolis, Minnesota


Jadah stood at the bus stop with her son, Marshall. She looked critically at how short the sleeves of his jacket were, and made a mental note to take him to buy a new one on payday. It was the first really chilly morning of fall, and she had pulled last year’s light jacket out of the closet so that he could have an outer layer over his ever-present sweatshirt.

The nine-year-old saw her looking and rolled his eyes.

“Mom,” he said plaintively, “I can do this. You can go home. Really.”

Jadah shook her head and replied, “Nope. You gotta be escorted by an adult until you’re ten.”

Marshall rolled his eyes again and went back to talking with his friends. Their mothers all smiled at Jadah and after a moment, they all laughed a bit.

“His birthday’s in December, right?” one asked.

“Yeah, and he can’t wait to get cut loose,” Jadah replied, looking up as Linda, one of Marshall’s classmates, and her mother, JoLynn, hurried up.

“Guess we’re not late after all,” JoLynn said, her breath coming out in puffs of vapor.

“You’ve got a couple of minutes,” one of the other mothers said, “Linda looks nice today!”

JoLynn looked over at her daughter, who was talking with Marshall and another boy, and smiled.

“She had me do her hair and help her pick out a skirt,” she said, “Guess she wanted to look special today.”

Jadah snorted. “For real? Wish I could get Marshall to do more than brush his teeth and pull on an old sweatshirt and jeans in the morning,” she said.

The women chatted for a few more minutes before they heard the bus snort its way around the corner at the end of the block. The children picked up their backpacks and formed a line in the grass along the curb, while their mothers stepped back to the sidewalk. As the bus pulled up and the doors opened, JoLynn stepped forward and reached out to her daughter.

“Stop!” the bus driver cried out as she reached for the button to close her doors. JoLynn looked up at her and smiled.

“Just fixing her hair!” she called as she tugged on her daughter’s dark curls and straightened the red bow at the top of her ponytail.

The bus driver opened her doors again and yelled out “Get back on the sidewalk! You know better!”

JoLynn looked up at her and smiled. “I know,” she said loudly, then released the switch she held in the sleeve of her jacket.

A flash of light and a cloud of smoke enveloped the line of children as her suicide belt activated. JoLynn screamed as the explosives burned instead of exploding. Her wool jacket charred and peeled back, exposing her torso to the open air and intensifying the flames.

The children, including her own daughter, scattered. Mothers grabbed children, sometimes their own, pulling them to the ground and shielding them with their bodies. After a few seconds, the sizzling and popping of the flames ceased as the last of the explosives burned off, and the quiet of the morning was only broken by the gunning of the bus’s engine as the driver floored the accelerator, as well as JoLynn’s screams as the pain from her burns surged through her body.

Jadah pulled herself up from the sidewalk and the child underneath her. Her knee throbbed where the concrete had torn into her pants and scraped her skin, but adrenaline dulled the pain to an afterthought. She turned toward the writhing figure on the ground.

“Bitch!” she roared as she started kicking and punching at the woman who had tried to murder her son. She was soon joined several of the other parents, who tore into the failed bomber with clawed hands and booted feet. JoLynn continued to scream for a few moments, but by the time the police arrived, her cries had stopped echoing from the buildings along the street.


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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1 Comment

  1. That one was an attention getter!

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