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Bernard Peasley

No one in her team knew that the military had shipped her own lover back from Iraq in an electric wheelchair with only one footplate laid down. She had watched her perfect, Montana quarterback inch down the rear exit of the C-130 troop transport and whir across the tarmac towards her, grim-faced and broken. Her stolen glance at his profile as he watched the car-yards flash past on the drive out of town, marked the first day of her futile struggle to bring his mind back to the farm.

She could have told all her injured soldiers the whole, sad story, if she thought it would help. But then, she’d have to tell them what came next – how one day, while she was at work, her lover solved everybody’s problems with a bullet he’d hidden in his wheelchair.

After a year she thought she was over it, until she found herself in a recruitment office answering their questions, and concealing the truth. She wanted to bring other injured boys home to their families, to their old neighbourhoods and friends, and to their new lives, however different from their old. Her boys would never be soldiers again, and she knew the badly damaged ones wouldn’t be good for much else either.

Her dedication was so intense, it stopped them giving up. They let her take the hopeless ones – to care for them, day and night, in her own way and to be by their side until the final flight home, when she had to let them go.

On the day the soldier left for the States, she pushed the gurney across the tarmac herself, one hand on the rail, one hand on his arm. He was silent, so she hummed his favorite song, low into his good ear, so only he could hear it. At the last minute he finally asked her what he looked like, how bad it really was. She didn’t hesitate.

‘Well soldier, you ain’t no oil painting that’s for sure, but I’d go to bed with you any day – if you’d have me, of course.’ The warp in the bandages told her he had smiled, and that he might just be OK when he got home.  ‘Remember everything we’ve talked about, soldier – you know how important it is. You got it from Parker, so you can believe it.’


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