Coming Home

(Flash Fiction)

Five years in Iraq, two in Afghanistan.   No wounds of any kind.  Not even a broken eardrum.  Somehow, he had managed to get through more than eighteen hundred days of smoke, noise, explosions, chaos, screams, and the malevolent chatter of countless guns and shrieking rockets.  No one could believe how lucky he had been. 

It made no sense at all.  


And through it all, the two of them had written endless emails.  Often they talked of his last furlough, a time of love and growing hope.  Sometimes she would tell him mundane things about work, about shopping trips to the mall, about getting stuck in the snow, about her best friend Bree who named their first child after her.

It made no sense at all.

In emails they would try out different names, names for their own babies.  What name would he like for a boy?  What name would she like for a girl?  They would write about what kind of home they would buy, what kind of furniture they would have.

It made no sense at all.

Sometimes, he would tell her about the sandstorms, the suffocating heat, the weight of his sweat-soaked vest and helmet.  Mostly he talked of the future, their future together.  He did not tell her about the nightmare that never went away.  He did not tell her about his buddy, Jake, who had tried to clear a path through a marketplace, who had tried to protect a pregnant Afghani woman from the jostling mob of sullen faces.

It made no sense at all.

Nor did he tell her about the swollen belly that turned out to be a rounded explosive device that killed the Afghani woman, his buddy Jake, and twenty-two other Afghanis, including three babies.

It made no sense at all.

She didn’t tell him about her own pregnancy.  She wanted to surprise him.  She wanted to tell him in person.  Nor did she tell him about the clingy black nightgown she had bought for their first night together.

It made no sense at all.

Nor did he tell her about the gun that was never far away, under the pillow, even here at home, where there were no explosions, no eyes seething with hatred, no walls streaked with blood and brains and bone.  The war was thousands of miles away.  And he was home forever now.  And finally safe.

It made no sense at all.

But the room was dark.  The gown was black.  The bulge was round. The nightmare horrors came rushing back.  And then in an instant, in one brief flash, in one concussive roar, she and the baby were dead.  And all their dreams, forever gone. 

It made no sense at all.