It was a time of love. Tamara let the white silky summer dress slide down her upraised arms and down over her head. When it brushed past her nipples she smiled and thought of her husband’s gentle hands and how they had sent electricity between her thighs. The dress settled over her bottom and she thought of how tightly they had grasped each other when their love had became ferocious.

        She turned to her husband who stood before the full-length mirror. Wesley held himself erect with pride in his Marine Corps Blue Dress uniform. She came up softly behind him. It was a time to embrace. She wrapped her arms around him under his arms and felt slowly down his hard chest and stomach. They smiled to each other in the mirror.

        Wesley adjusted his white peaked cap and spoke to Tamara in the mirror, “You look wonderful. Are you ready for this?”

        “Only if you hold me.”

        It was a time to laugh, “I think I need you to hold me, dear. When the President says my name all those TV cameras will be on me.”

        “Don’t be nervous. You look so handsome.”

        “Oh, you’re right, of course. It will only be like a firing squad!”

        Wesley turned in Tamara’s embrace and hugged her and kissed her. She disengaged herself slowly and whispered, “It must be nearly time to go.”

        He asked, “Where is our Little Devil?”

        “He’s in his room. Can’t you hear him rolling his baseball into everything?”

        Wesley smiled and thought of the day he gave to their son that first baseball. Their little boy had stood in the backyard joyfully flexing his bowed little legs and clapping his pudgy little hands and beaming at his father.

        “Here it comes, Little Devil. Catch it.”

        “Honey,” Tamara had fretted, “he’s too little for Catch.”

        Wesley had lobbed the baseball toward his son and the little boy had burst into a squeal. Their Little Devil had bent down wobbly and captured the slowly rolling baseball with both hands.

        “Atta’ boy!” crowed Wesley.

        It had been a time to laugh. “It’s big as a basketball to him,” Tamara had said, failing to remain stern.

        Tamara now smiled at Wesley’s reverie. She said gently, “He’s a star pitcher just like you, dear. The limousine is here. I’ll get him. Meet me at the car.”

        Wesley thought of his own childhood near the lake, gathering stones together and casting them away at the surprised ducks so far out there. He became the star pitcher in high school. Tamara was trying-out for cheerleader but she had also tried-out for the love of his life. It was a time to dance. They couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. They were married after high school and Wesley enlisted in the Marines and their Little Devil blessed them soon thereafter.

        Now they found themselves sitting in their designated seats at the National Mall for the Memorial Day celebration and the Capitol Fourth televised concert. Tamara leaned against Wesley and wrapped her arms around his right arm. Little Devil sat on daddy’s lap rocking back and forth dazzled by the flashing colors and the musical sounds but Wesley held him securely with his left arm.

        The President was now speaking. It was a time of war. Wesley was drawn unwillingly into memories of his recent tour of duty, the days of combat, the last assignment.

        It had been a time of hate. Those hostages were going to die. It was a merciless fire fight. Wesley was not fearless. He was firing through walls into rooms that Intel had said held only combatants. The hostages were in the basement he had been told.

        He slid around the corner to confirm as “clear” the room he had just pumped full of fire and brimstone. There in the corner were two young children on a bed, cowering in each other’s arms, clutching each other. Wesley felt his legs almost give. How had he not killed them? He forgot the mission. He strode to their side whipping his semi-automatic rifle around the room.

        The children were crying hysterically. Wesley reached toward them. They screamed and cowered against the wall shaking their heads.

        “It’s OK, kids. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m a friend. I’m going to get you out of here.”

        The children whimpered and shuddered. The dust on their faces was streaked with muddy tears. Wesley shouldered his rifle and reached for them and took hold of the boy’s and the girl’s shoulders. The children screamed.

        “We got no time, kids! I’m sorry.” And Wesley yanked the boy and girl together up from the bed.

        The homemade booby-trap exploded imperfectly. It was a time to die. The boy and the girl were rendered into bloody debris. Wesley was thrown back across the room where his team found him.

        The adult hostages had been rescued. The kidnappers were dead. It was a time to mourn the poor dead children. Wesley cried into the shoulders of his men. And then it was a time to keep silence.

        Wesley now heard the President speak his name and he felt the heat of all the camera lights upon him. He saw himself in the big screen monitor behind the President’s podium. Tamara reached for Little Devil and whispered behind her arm, “Stand up, dear.”

        Wesley lifted his son who hung on his arm and passed him to Tamara. Wesley stood erect. He could have been carved from the finest wood. He raised his right arm to salute the President.

        Where his hand had been was now a white bandaged stump. He could still feel his hand as if it were only numb and he held the stump just that distance from touching his white peaked cap.

        He sat back down when the lights turned away. He reached with the white bandaged stumps of both his hands for his son. Little Devil grasped and hung upon those arms back to his father’s lap squirming with delight. Tamara wrapped her arms back around Wesley’s left arm and hugged.

        It was a time to speak, “I am so proud of you.”






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