Saturday, February 18, 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night [Chapter 34]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I've been on travel, so this posting is a bit late. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 34:

Iraqi domestic policy had justified his father’s killing. American foreign policy had justified his mother’s killing. Little orphan Haroon Hadad, six years old, lay giggling in a bed of straw. He and the soldiers of Platoon 110 were packed into the middle of the shining hard floor of the aluminum airplane hangar used by American forces for recreation and regrouping. Haroon was proud and happy, luxuriating in the new clothes that the soldiers had gotten for him, crisp blue jeans and a bright red T-shirt. He held his pet goat, Akbar, adjacent to the straw bed with a loose, black dog-leash. Lamech sat cross-legged behind Haroon and Akbar, gazing at both of them with well-acted maternal affection. Haroon smiled broadly with his happy brown eyes, clumsily holding large chocolate bars, another gift from the soldiers, in each small hand. He was a good-looking boy, used to being treated special. Strangers often smiled at him when passing, especially women.

The soldiers of Platoon 110 stood behind Haroon, Akbar and Lamech in a loose semicircle. They were at rest, poised and gay on the expansive, clean hard floor, fans abuzz in each far corner of the airplane hangar, pushing dry air over and through the staggered cluster of bodies in soft pulses.

It was Easter Week and the young soldiers felt compelled to celebrate. First Sergeant Blake had cajoled a dozen eggs from the cook in the mess hall that morning. The soldiers hard-boiled the eggs and painted them with combat face paint, covering them in lovely swirls of black and green. They placed the eggs into Lamech’s overturned combat helmet, which sat at a relaxed angle on the floor in front of their makeshift manger.

They had no hymnals, so First Sergeant Blake settled on singing what he thought they might all know by heart — “Silent Night.” The soldiers talked through the lyrics that morning in excited anticipatory exchanges, agreeing with each other on the exact words and the relative order of the innocent, peaceful imagery of the stanzas. They practiced twice while showering and shaving. Stirred to action, they then went about creating a proper scene for the celebration, complete with manger, animal, mother and child. Although they had successfully constructed a manger and had found an internal volunteer for Mother Mary, they were missing a child and an animal. They found both by renting a nephew of the small, unobtrusive Iraqi man who cleaned their Recreation Room.

“Ready, soldiers,” said First Sergeant Blake, standing before his beloved platoon, holding his arms and hands high, like an orchestra conductor. It was not often that he allowed himself to smile around his troops, but when he did, his face glowed with a loving sense of paternal responsibility, tiny wrinkles forming and radiating in little lines from the outer corners of each of his bright, blue eyes. “Let’s sing!” shouted First Sergeant, gaily, dropping both arms in unison.

“Silent night! Holy night!” the teenagers sang. “All is calm, all is bright.” Their voices filled the hollow hangar, unexpectedly harmonious.

“Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

“Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing, Alleluia.
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!”

Their voices rang melodious, male, cradled in an overturned, hard aluminum bucket.

“Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Haroon Hadad laughed, sharp and high, and began an unmusical, discordant accompaniment to the soldiers’ singing. The young men of Platoon 110 all smiled behind Haroon, happy to have him there.

“Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Giggling, happy chirps waltzed out from Haroon Hadad’s small throat as Platoon 110 now softly hummed behind him, his eyes laughing merriment, wearing the only brand new clothes that he would ever have, for he would be killed in an American air bombing later this week. Behind the innocent one, Lee smiled down in friendship at Lamech. Lamech sat cross-legged on the floor, continuing to regard Haroon with maternal affection. Sanders was serene, contented, his hands folded over each other below his waist. Webster’s eyes were closed, his mouth formed in a smile, singing for his Beloved Savior in his own personal church. And First Sergeant Blake watched his soldiers with caring affection, brimming with pride, faithfully sure that each of them embodied the raw ingredients needed to one day become good fathers, good husbands, good men.

Standing in an echoing aluminum hangar that sat in stubborn discord to the unyielding sand and dunes around it, nestled in the cradle of civilization in an ancient and death-ravaged land, the soldiers of Platoon 110 celebrated a birth from millennia past, a birth that, at this moment, helped them bask in the comforting warmth of friendship, fellowship, peace, and the promise of a new and better tomorrow.

“Sleep in heavenly peace,” they sang softly now.

Haroon Hadad’s eyes smiled a happy succession of bright twinkles.

“Sleee-eep in heaaa-ven-ly peace….”

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