REALLY Rough Draft
(Because I Had No Guidelines Whatsoever For This Thing)
It was early in the morning and the day was already humid. When Nick Fallier woke he could already feel the sticky sweat that accompanied a life in North Florida. He had lived his whole life in Tallahassee, but he still disliked the city’s tendency to have humidity so thick that a fish could come on land. Outside the sky showed signs of imminent rain. The regular training activities had been cancelled for the day, but not due to the forecast. If rain justified cancelling training, then there wouldn’t be a camp in Florida. Instead, a somber mood had fallen over the camp in remembrance of the events of the day before.
Nick Fallier and John Brown hadn’t grown up together, but they were in the same grade at Leon High School so it would have been impossible for them to not meet. Their friendship grew with each passing year in school, and with war on the horizon their shared sense of duty only strengthened that bond. When Nick decided to train as a pilot at Dale Mabry Army Airfield, John was only too willing to join him. They both enlisted immediately after graduating in the spring of 1941. They went through basic training together, and shared their fears and excitement about the future. John had always been more confident, the perfect foil to Nick’s reservations.
A clap of thunder brought Nick’s thoughts to the present. He dressed in preparation for the impending rain, and walked out the door without knowing where he was heading. The base appeared deserted; Nick walked and found himself catching only a glimpse of human life here and there. No doubt the men were taking advantage of their day of reprieve by sleeping in, but Nick couldn’t; his nightmares had kept him getting any sleep.
The day before was sunnier, but no less humid. Training exercises had increased after the events in December. It was 1942, America had joined the war, and pilots were needed in the Pacific. Nick was doing laps with several other cadets. He was tired and it was their last exercise before dinner. He couldn’t wait to meet John at the cafeteria and hear about the other’s day. Today was John’s first day of firing at practice targets as a pilot. It was a moment they had both looked forward to, and John’s natural instinct as a pilot meant he would experience it first. Nick slowed as he approached the final stretch and saw his drill sergeant looking intensely at him.There was an odd expression on his face, and Nick could tell, something was wrong.
Rain began to fall from above and Nick paused. He lifted his head to the sky and felt the droplets of water on his skin. He hadn’t cried any yet, and he didn’t know if he ever would. With another crack of thunder the heavens unleashed. Nick looked around for the nearest building to escape the downpour. His eyes fell on the church. Inside it was cool and empty. He took a seat in one of the pews in the back and focused his gaze on the carving of Christ on the Cross behind the pulpit.
“There’s nothing we could have done… he wouldn’t have felt a thing.” Nick’s ears rang with these words. Were they supposed to be comforting?
“He may not have ever seen combat, but he died for his country. He died a hero.” The drill sergeant hesitated, as if he wanted to put his hand on Nick’s shoulder but thought otherwise. Nick gave a resolute nod and turned away. Just like that, John was gone. There were no farewells, no closure. It just happened. They had discussed the possibility of death during combat, but in training camp? In their own city? All activities were cancelled the next day. It gave the men time to grieve and the officers time to figure out what went wrong. John had been a popular guy, he would definitely be missed. The news had only just broke and already the atmosphere of the camp felt different. For a while Nick had just stood there, his back to the base, looking at the treeline. He didn’t know how long he was there, minutes, maybe hours, but as the sun sank below the trees he finally headed back to his bunk. To his bed next to John’s. Except it wasn’t John’s anymore.
“Are you Nick Fallier?” asked a voice. Nick snapped back to the present and saw a man looking at him. “Yes” he replied in barely more than a whisper. Apparently someone had noticed Nick’s presence; it was the church minister.
“I heard you were good friends with the man who passed yesterday.” Nick sighed and slouched over. The pain was still too fresh, and he didn’t want to have this conversation yet.
“Yes sir. We were friends and bunk mates and we enlisted together and thought we would ship out together” Nick said in an almost monotone voice. Apparently the minister had noticed his disinterest.
“I know you must be grieving, son. But these things happen. No one knows the will of God, and no one can even begin to guess it. Take comfort in the knowledge that your friend died for his country, and that as long as you have him in your heart he will never be forgotten.” The ministers words chafed Nick. This man never knew John, and would never know him. The words that were meant to soothe Nick instead unleashed the pent up anger in his heart.
“But that’s just it!” Nick cried aloud. “He won’t be remembered. There won’t be any plaque or award with his name. And who know’s how long this base will even be here? No one will know John’s name! No one will know that he was a brave man, and a better pilot than me! No one will know his story.”
The minister looked at him, long and hard, and for a moment Nick thought the man would leave. Instead, he took a breath, and very slowly, and deliberately said:
“So then do something memorable enough for the both of you.”
Comments**Fantastic start. 1) Was there a church on base? 2) What kind of planes are they flying? 3) Can you research a real accident and base it on that?