The Eleventh Hour

Teresa Jane Wouters

Four hours!  Stupid transport plane is late.  Trapped in the tiniest airport I’ve ever seen.  There’s no one here.  Not even a vending machine.  Man, I need a coffee.

I wipe a smudge off my watch with the cuff of my parade tunic.  1052 hours.

I shift on the hard plastic chair.  Are my dress pants getting wrinkled?  1053 hours.

Looking out the big window, I compare the dull shine of rain falling on the tarmac to the polished shine of my parade boots.  I grunt at my reflection.  1054 hours.

Puttering sounds are getting louder.  The boy’s camouflage pants are of the Walmart variety.  1055 hours.

He makes crashing sounds as his toy plane hits a potted maple tree.  1056 hours.

The boy leans against the tree and stares at me.

“My mommy’s coming home.”  The boy doesn’t smile.

“That’s nice.”  I look away.

“She’s in the army too.”  He hugs the tree.

“Oh ya?  What unit?”  I half smile.

“PPCLI.”  He swings around the tree, “That’s army.”

“Ya, I know kid.”  I watch a plane steer toward the building.  1058 hours.

“There’s her plane!”  The boy’s voice is a whining missile.  He grabs my hand and leads me toward the window.

I try to pull my hand out of his but he won’t let go.  His dad gives me an apologetic smile.  The plane stands still on the tarmac.  1059 hours.

We watch a flag covered coffin get lowered from the plane.  1100 hours.

Silence.

“Curtis.”  The dad takes his son’s other hand, and turns towards a beckoning Sergeant.

I feel the boy’s fingers loosening.  He tries to pull his hand out of mine.

But I can’t let go.

Writing has been a hobby for Teresa Wouters since her grade seven English teacher allowed ten minutes of free writing every class.  Since moving to Grande Prairie, in 2004, Teresa has been publishing her short stories and winning writing contests.  Teresa graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing from UBC in 2014.

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