Chess looked over to see Mal smiling at him. It made his heart jump in a warm and happy way. He shifted the backpack on his shoulder as the line of soldiers in front of him started to move toward the truck. It was early afternoon, the sun bright and warm, and the breeze that flowed over his face was cool. He felt as happy as he could possibly feel in this place.
They were nearly on their way, now, heading overseas to some unknown place of war. But between then and now, he would be with Mal. Maybe even after they got there.
A voice called his name, interrupting his thoughts. Surprised, he stepped out of line and was motioned over to join a group of soldiers, who were standing around one of the drill sergeants.
“Okay, you’re the last name on my list,” the guy stated flatly. “Wait here.”
Chess looked at Dallow, who was also in the group. “What’s going on?” he hissed.
Dallow raised one eyebrow. “In country, man.” he answered with a hint of a smile. “Defending your homeland.”
“What?” Chess gasped. “Homeland Defense?” He blinked in surprise. “Why?”
Dallow shrugged. “We’re good. They want us ‘cause we’re good.” Murmurs of agreement came from around the group.
“But…” Chess’s heart started to pound again and the people around him suddenly seemed much too close. “I don’t want -- Do you want to be in Home Defense?” he demanded, frowning at Dallow.
Dallow stepped close to him. “Are you asking if I would rather go overseas to die?” he hissed.
Chess did not answer. Suddenly, he could not remember what it was that had given him such a bad impression of the Home Defense forces. And he certainly could not fathom why he had been chosen for them. He stood staring at the ground for a moment… and then he remembered Mal, still in line.
“No, I – I have to change this,” he stammered, panicked. “I want to go.”
Dallow shook his head. “That ship has already sailed.” Chess looked up to see the back of the massive truck, moving down the long road, away from them.
The first few days in the Home Defense force were a blur of unfamiliarity, reminding Chess of the beginning of his basic training. He was alone, the only new guy in this company, and no one knew or cared that he was there… or about what he had just accomplished… or about where Mal was now.
The post where they were stationed was large, even larger than Fort Prince, where he had delivered the mysterious device that night. Chess found the two military bases very similar, though, both in amenities and in the general atmosphere of industriousness that filled the hallways and offices.
He discovered that he had arrived during a brief respite between missions for his platoon, and they were preparing to go out again shortly. But, in the meantime, Chess had plenty of time to himself.
He often thought about trying to contact Mal, but what, exactly, would he say? They were separated for good, now, and she was deep in the midst of war, and he was still safely in the country.
He managed to connect with his mom and his sister through the common networking sites – it was cheaper than phone calls – and he spent hours there, chatting with his sister. He told her all that had happened: how he had won the training exercise for his team, and the friends he had made at basic, and the secret night mission he had undertaken…
No: delete that. He realized that he was probably not allowed even to discuss that one, much less broadcast it on an open network chat. He sighed and swiped the words away.
He took in all that his sister had to tell him about what she was working on in college, the political campaign that was keeping her busy, and how his mom was getting along. But when she asked what he was doing now, he could only answer vaguely, because he just did not know.
“But where do we go?” Chess asked the soldier who was seated next to him at dinner. “When we go out on a mission, what do we actually do?’
“So many questions,” the guy laughed. His voice had a strange accent. “Eat, now.”
Continued next page...
Spock: T’Pring. Parted from me and never parted. Never and always
touching and touched. We meet at the appointed place.
T’Pring: Spock. Parted from me and never parted. Never and always
touching and touched. I await you.
Star Trek: Amok Time, Season 2 Episode 1 (1967)
Two writers that I have been listening to recently have been big fans of the public library. One is John Irving, author of The World According to Garp. Much of his latest novel In One Person – in fact, way more than you might expect -- takes place in libraries. He has such a strong emotional feeling that he even has trouble saying the word “library,” but that needs a long explanation entirely to itself!
Ray Bradbury, on the other hand, talks about his experience with libraries in the afterword to Fahrenheit 451 and in many other interviews: “I discovered me in the library. … When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.”
I share his enthusiasm. I also highly recommend listening to the audiobook of the fiftieth anniversary of Fahrenheit 451, read by the author himself. It’s a unique experience, usually found only in small pieces at book-reading performances, to hear an author give the words the emphasis that he meant for them to have. When Bradbury voices the main character’s various barrages of exclamations, you can hear echoes of the desperate fears that went into the writing.
However, for me, the weirdest part was hearing Bradbury chant the Denham’s Dentrifice commercial from the subway scene in the book, because it was so much different than the catchy tune that my tenth grade English teacher had interpreted for us. Which reminds me of something else I want to mention, but it will have to wait for a few blogs…
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