Rockets Can Be Fun – Episode 1

Two months had passed since I had written Rockets Can Be Boring: Episode 1… Reading back through these accounts in my journal, I’m surprised to find that I was still running for cover in October … I guess in my memory I’d quit doing that sooner than I actually did. Of course, I’m with Crowsie here – he was always a good influence. He had kids back home. That old boy could run.

 

October 2006

Colonel Corviday and I discovered that we hadn’t fully thought through the options available when caught outdoors during a rocket bombardment at this new camp. About half an hour ago we settled ourselves on lawn chairs at the scenic west end of camp – the Back Porch, as we call it – to enjoy a broad view of bare dirt scattered with discarded plastic water bottles, a distant road, and a few hulks of airfield hangars, all of that scenic beauty framed (!) by the little squares of a double layer of chain link fence and softly lit by a candlelight glow from burning oil and gas vents on the horizon.

This end is a little exposed, isn’t it, I observed absently as I lit a smoke.

What if a rocket came in, Crowsie mused. Right now.

The sandbagged hooch door behind us, I noted, glancing over my shoulder. I’m there.

Crowsie laughed. You might not get that far, he warned me. I’ll grab you and pull you down on top of me. I’ll be fine.

Rank has its privileges, I conceded.

Yes, Crowsie agreed with a mildly apologetic tone. Yes, it does.

 

Not five minutes later, as Crowsie was recounting intricate and hopeless details of a problem project in Maysan, I thought I heard or felt or sensed three far, far away thumps that might, just possibly, could barely have been artillery. Crowsie must have heard it as well, because he stopped talking for a moment, freezing in place to listen.

It sounded like artillery, I said. But was it? I wasn’t entirely sure I’d heard anything at all. I flicked my cigarette butt through the fence, staring off at the horizon as if I could spot a rocket arcing up from it. Un-hunh.

It might have sounded like artillery, Crowsie agreed. He grinned at me, white teeth showing up in the dark. Wouldn’t that be funny after we were just talking about what we’d do if rockets started flying?

Just as he finished speaking, all hell broke loose: sirens screamed at us from above and alarms from nearby camps wailed in competing keys, creating a deafening cacophony of mayhem.

We both leaped up, banged into each other once like a couple of cartoon characters, then took off running.

I went straight for that sandbagged doorway I’d identified earlier, yelling, Which way are you going Crowsie?!

For an answer he grabbed the collar of my armor, plucking me out of the doorway, lifting me right off the ground. He set me down in front of him and shoved me down the lane nearest us as a couple rockets exploded in the distance. We ran full-out down the pitch dark brick-paved lane between trailers, aiming for our hooches at the other end of camp.

I don’t know what Crowsie was thinking, but I was thinking that this was a really stupid thing to be doing, running all out and upright, when we could and should be hunkered down low, static behind sandbags. In the way of adrenaline-rush thinking, I was simultaneously deciding that, stupid as it might be, running toward an air-conditioned room with a soft bed was a welcome novelty and worth the very low risk of a rocket actually landing in camp, much less within shrapnel distance of me. And between those pragmatic thoughts I was laughing out loud (laughing hard!) as I ran, imagining Crowsie’s paw grabbing me from behind, tossing me to the ground, and big ol’ him burrowing beneath skinny little me for protection. Probably best that his instincts had led him to a different choice of action.

Things were pretty busy there for thirty seconds.

 All things considered, a few bunkers might be a pragmatic addition to the new camp.

back porch

The back porch in daylight ...

(As if we’d use them when we can just as well scramble off to the air conditioned hooches equipped with soft beds and a book or dvd player to help pass the time until the all clear sounds … right.)

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