The nice thing about working second shift is I don’t have to worry about setting the alarm. I stay up until 5:00 in the morning and wake up between 9 and 10. It takes about an hour to get coffee, eat, check email, twitter, blogs etc and then I am ready to write. Unfortunately, by that time I have a couple of hours to write and I am just getting started when it’s time to quit and get ready for work.
I finished my final revision of PALADIN this morning. It came in at 135,400 words. This will most likely change after beta readers get it, but I think I am looking at the 135,000 word mark regardless.
I can live with that. I hope agents and editors will forgive the extra length with a gripping story. Therein lies the question; is it gripping?
Time will tell.
The most important part of all this is I can write about what I really love without feeling any need to do anything else, except eventually get ready for work.
What I want to rejoice about, wallow in and meander through is a phone call I received yesterday.
I was reading through yet another chapter of PALADIN and wondering if I would ever be done with it when the phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize and didn’t even look like a real phone number. I figured it was yet another bill collector for Susan King and nearly didn’t answer, but I did. I said hello a couple of times and no answer. Hmmm, no wonder the number was goofy. It’s a prank call or some computer getting information about when I answer my phone. Eventually I hear, “Hey Mom.”
Only one of my children say that. I would know who it was even if that deep, melodic voice were disguised.
I have to admit, my heart fluttered for just a moment as my breath caught. Will!
He is still in Baghdad taking classes. Flights delayed, sitting in airports, typical garbage. The upside of being in Baghdad is he has access to a phone in between classes. It’s the first time I’ve talked to him since he deployed and my heart is still tripping like a jackhammer.
I ask him about the picture of the guys sleeping on the floor. That one was actually taken in Kuwait. They had no place to keep the guys so they slept in a gym on the floor. Shortly after the picture was taken they were all told they had to wake up and get all their equipment out of there because the civilians working there had an aerobics class and they wanted “their” gym. Apparently, not only did they act the ass in kicking the sleeping soldiers out of the gym, they laughed at them in the process.
Yes, makes me want to go slap the crap out of some clueless people. Of course, the civilians are sleeping in nice rooms with all the amenities so what does it matter if they rouse out a bunch of soldiers who are trying their best to get some sleep even if it is on a floor?
“I hate civilians,” Will says. I don’t doubt it.
We talk about the chances of me getting a job over there. Iraq is gearing down and the KBR contracts are being canceled, but Obama’s push to put more civilians in Afghanistan might be a big plus. For the first time in a while, I am feeling some hope on that horizon. Just need to get the weight off and get in shape and he says that might not even be that important. All righty then.
I asked him how the guys are who were in the truck that got bombed. Two of them have been released for duty. One is back in Texas. One is still in the hospital in Germany where he underwent surgery for a broken ankle. I ask him about the holes in the window that looks suspiciously like bullet holes to me. Apparently the truck was blown up in the air and set back down. The holes are shrapnel. Any other vehicle would have been demolished along with anyone in it.
One good thing that came out of this war, the military equipment that was woefully out of date was forced to be updated and improved. Considering how much the military had been gutted, it’s a tribute to America at how much we have turned around to protect our soldiers.
The downside, drawing down the troops and shifting them to Afghanistan means this unit, which was already undermanned is now also largely responsible for security. The marines make periodic passes, but they don’t patrol like they did. This is a dangerous road in a remote area so it has to be patrolled regularly to keep it safe. There is another route that is relatively safe, but it goes through a town and our politically correct leaders don’t want to upset townspeople by running convoys through their town.
I’m biting my tongue.
In another effort to run a kinder, more politically correct war, convoys no longer have the right of way. In times past, convoys had the right of way. Traffic was expected to pull over and stop. If a vehicle kept coming towards the convoy, it was almost always a suicide bomber and the populace knew the soldiers would stop them. Now, traffic keeps coming and the soldiers have no idea if there is a suicide bomber beside them until the car or truck blows up. Then they may stop the driver. Umm, excuse me. What’s left to stop?
I asked him how the population there views America. He said contrary to the news, most Iraqis are glad to have us there. Schools are being rebuilt. All children can now attend school. Improvements are being made to their infrastructure and life as a whole is better for them. Yes, they are tired of the insurgents, but they are encouraged with their opportunities also.
Will’s advice. Stop watching the news. It gives you the picture it wants you to see to advance their political views instead of what is really happening.
We discussed rugs. He is going to send one of the natives out to buy me some rugs. The prices have gone up dramatically, but they are still quality rugs and handmade. As soon as I settle a bit, I will put the money in his account to get me some. I wasn’t going to do this as I didn’t want him out in some market where he would be a target, but they have a system. They give the money to a native and tell him this is what they want to spend and this is what kind of rug they want. The native gets to keep the difference between the money and whatever price he haggles the vendor down to. Apparently haggling is a way of life there. So glad it’s not me. I detest haggling.
He spotted some souvenirs for me. Marble camels and giraffes. He is well familiar with my love of marble.
We discussed politics. None of which is repeatable here if I want to keep my writer’s head. I long ago discovered you can diss agents all you want, but treading onto the political scene can mean certain death. He made some predictions that I was surprised are pretty close to what I have been thinking. We’ll see how it shakes out. Of course, he is much closer to what is actually happening in some of these areas so he is living what I was suspecting. Threatened pentagon cuts while we rebuild Gaza may have some very serious consequences and the price may be very high. Suffice to say lives depend on sufficient security and equipment. It’s going to go far beyond a dollar amount if some changes are implemented.
They guys love my peanut butter blossom cookies. A couple of them have offered to buy them. He normally takes the cookies to maintenance for the guys or keeps some at his desk for the ones coming in to get weapons or ammo. “Yes, you can have a box of ammo, but you have to take a cookie.” Umm, yeah, my cookies are threats now. Apparently some guys find excuses to come see him. Now he just normally takes them to maintenance so he doesn’t have to figure out if they really need something or just want cookies.
Unfortunately, I sent him two big tubes of Sensodyne toothpaste and some socks last time and he didn’t bother to dig down to the bottom of the box to see them. I told him to be looking for toothpaste in the next box so he doesn’t give it away.
One guy pops in every now and then. “Yo, Weathers. Got any cookies from your mama?”
“Yeah, let me get a bag.”
“Cool. Knew I could count on you to hook me up, man.”
Sounds suspiciously like a drug deal going down.
Will has sworn off eating the cookies. He said he lives on junk food due to his schedule and the crappy mess hall food and is gaining too much weight.
He said he was at a base where they had an Olympic training center. The soccer field is the site of where some players were executed for not playing well enough. He said it’s pretty sobering to think of men dying there because they lost a game. Why anyone would even want to be an athlete in those circumstances is beyond me.
I think people in America have forgotten how horrible the circumstances there really were. Despite what news pundits say, there was a serious threat there. The “grandfather” of modern bomb building was based there and trained his protégées there thirty years ago. Terrorism in that region is not a new thing.
His tour has been extended. We are all sad about that. He has decided to re-enlist and will probably become career military.
Needless to say, my pride and love for him know no bounds. The mother’s fears are shushed and rocked to sleep.
I pray daily for his safety and for God to keep them all surrounded with a shield.