On the field. You think of battle, don't you? When the soldiers were first deployed to Iraq, the phrase used to describe them was "boots to the ground."
Boots. You think of running, don't you? You think of stubborn running even if you're tired. Up hill. Down. Throug(more)h swamps but mostly desert. My nephew sent a picture back of himself posing with a camel. The boy had six-pack abs and Hollywood glasses, sand for miles all around him.
Sand. You think of water, don't you? The mere pleasure of a glass of H2O and then another glass and plenty more. The character Tom Hanks played in "Cast Away," newly returned to suburbia, filled his car with bottles of water of every description.
Every description. You think of what you can have, don't you? What might help. If not boots, then water. Yesterday, I got a 12 dollar hair cut because it was the one thing I could control. You don't think of hair, probably, but you do think of control, what little thing is yours, the gold coin you can flip and catch again. The hair stylist scraped my head so hard with a comb, I thought of Guantanamo. Not her fault. She had a line of people willing to pay.
“Hey. Them looks like they'll fit. Gimme a hand here Lem,” said William, in his distinct Southern drawl.
The two young men, dressed in battered gray uniforms, scrambled up to a mangled body in blue. William wiped his bloody hands on his frock-coat, then grabbed one of the(more) fallen enemy's black leather boots and yanked. Lem held the body by the arms to keep it from sliding on the ground.
“Come-on. We gotta hurry,” said Lem, as the second boot slipped off. “The Yanks ain't gonna stay away for long.”
Cannon-fire and musket reports sounded over the adjacent hill as the battle raged on. Smoke from the nearby explosions drifted across the torn landscape, partially concealing the Confederate soldiers who scurried amongst the scattered remains, removing anything of value to their own cause.
William sat on the ground next to the now bootless corpse. The Mississippi volunteer grimaced as he removed his own, nearly useless shoes from his bruised and blood-encrusted feet. He gently massaged his toes for a moment, imagining lazy afternoons swimming in the cool water of Wharton's pond.
Zing! A stray musket-ball whizzed within a yard of the daydreamer.
Jesus, I'd better hurry, William thought. He grabbed a boot. Tears rolled from the corners of his clamped-shut eyes. His clenched teeth ground against one another. OK. That was the first, now one more to go. The young man whimpered as his second foot slipped into place. A momentary sigh of relief.
“Much obliged Old Boy,” said William as he patted the lifeless leg next to him. “If I stay alive, I aim to remember you.”
William stood and gingerly rocked up and down on his heels for a moment.