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Crushed by Noises

Tags: war, mechanic, ptsd

Fort Hood wasn't much different than Iraq had been. 

I laid awake listening to the war game's machine gun fire and loud explosions. Army helicopters hovered over my house because I lived next to the airfield. I was tired, my back twitched, my room was muggy and hot, and the noises…the noises.

All three alarms were ringing and I was barely aware of them. They had been ringing for half an hour and the neighbor was joining the chorus by pounding on the bedroom wall. I jumped up and turned all the alarms off and threw on some shorts, socks, a blue t-shirt and my steel-toed boots. I jumped in my Ford and pushed the truck through the orc-camp to get to work on time. I was pulling my blue coveralls on as I walked into the shop. I worked on military vehicles for a contractor on Fort Hood.

“Glad you could join us Ms. Anderson.” said Mr. Beck, the shop foreman. I joined the standing circle of smurf-like mechanics in blue coveralls. We had a five minute safety briefing every morning, and each of us contributed a blurb of safety wisdom.

“Stop slips, trips, and falls. Lay your air-hoses out flat.” said Ball-joint. He was called Ball-joint because he always installed ball joints upside down or backwards. 

“Wear double eye protection, gloves and apron when using the solvent tank.” said Tony, a kind round child-like man.

"Use hearing protection and eye protection when using air tools, and call 'NOISE' to warn other people to do the same." I said.

“Use ground guides when moving trucks in and out of the bays.“ said Craig Ort. He wanted to be the boss, but wasn’t, so he was always telling on us so he could get Mr. Beck in trouble. 

"Well, time to go to work gentlemen." said Mr. Beck. The air compressor churned, the impacts rattled and trucks idled, the hammers banged and occasionally a pigeon would whistle through. It was a cooler day than normal. Usually it was just about as hot here as it had been in Iraq.

I didn’t have time to pack a lunch, and I only had half an hour for lunch, so going somewhere was out. I was standing in Tony’s bay talking, when an explosive clap of thunder hit. My nose was on the cement before I had blinked once. I looked up and began low crawling toward the nearest vehicle.

Tony calmly walked over and looked under the truck.

“I’ve never seen anybody move that fast.” said Tony. He was chuckling.

I felt so silly. I crawled out of under the truck. Tony waddled off and told all the other guys what I did.

“Well she was in a war.” said Mr. Beck in passing, he’d done four tours in Viet Nam.

Every time the thunder would roll again that afternoon, I’d have a convulsive shiver that would roll from the crown of my head all the way down my back, but I was prepared for it now. I didn’t drop to the floor and crawl under any more trucks that day.

“Bang.” said Craig Ort. He was following me down the narrow dark hallway that led to Mr. Beck’s office. “You’re scared of lightning.” I turned and saw him smirking.

####

When I got laid-off, I had a garage sale and sold everything. I drove to Oregon. I rented a little room from my brother in his house-boat on a quiet river. 

I woke up late to the sound of a fish or otter splashing under the house. It was quiet all night. I ate enough, was never too hot, and slept alot. I never saw a soldier. When I saw a helicopter, it has the tame sound of a bell hellocopter that belongs to a hospital somewhere. The river was so beautiful.

I was standing in the cool air under a flock of Canadian geese, listening to them honk. I teared up. There are no geese in Iraq. I never saw geese in Texas. I remember geese from when I was young. I remember all of the river sounds and smells from long, long ago, in a time before the army. I began crying.

“Are you Ok?” my brother said. He looked at me with concern.

“Yea.”

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