The War Hero Speaks To Her Cenotaph

“I too have served,” Russ says, and drinks deeply from the long-necked bottle she carries. Long-necked and graceful. She remembers—well, nevermind what she remembers.

“For fifteen years I was in the corps. Fifteen years. Went through tech school. Went through advanced training. Best marksman in my unit. ‘Jo,’ they’d say, ‘we got a kid three rows down ain’t gonna make her grade.’ ‘What she need,’ I’d say. ‘Just twenty six points.’ ‘So a bull’s eye and a ten do it?’ ‘Sure thing, Jo, thanks.'” Drinks, coughs, spits, wipes her mouth. “No sweat.”

Storm and stress play about the mountaintop. Lightning off in the distance. Thunder rolls and she swears.

“No wars, just police work. Keeping the peace on the farms. This scar, here—and this one, here—got those from a fieldhand who thought I was muscling on her girl. Hadda nearly kill her taking her down. 90 days for that one. She wrote me a letter afterwards, apologizing. Nice gesture, I thought, nice kid…”

Her own face looks down at her, deep-socketed, sarcastic curl of the mouth. How did I die, she wonders, and how came I to this memorial?

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