As predicted, the train slowed. With a swift motion Lester grabbed onto a handle near the door and pulled himself forward. One leg didn’t quite make it before hitting the trees as the train passed by. Lester didn’t mind though. After he drank the bottle of gin he had in his knapsack he wouldn’t be feeling the throbbing in his leg anymore.
The train car was empty. Lester sat down, leaning back against a wall of the car. He opened the bottle and took a long drink while the rocking of the train lulled him.
“Good-bye!” Kate called from the front porch. Angus MacIntosh turned around and gave her a wave. He shaded his eyes from the early morning sun so he could get a good look at his pretty, red-haired wife and young son, Angus Junior, she had resting on her hip.
Angus, or Mac as all his friends called him, swung his lunch pail and whistled a little. He had finally found a job after a long search. Today was his first day working as a maintenance worker at the Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah.
Angus hoped maybe now, since he would have a regular paycheck, he would be able to buy nice things for Kate. Maybe now, they would all be happier and he wouldn’t have to turn to the numbing relief of the bottle quite as often.
“Mac,” someone called, “Over here.” Wayne Roberts, their neighbor who lived just a few houses down was just climbing into his car. “Would you like a ride?”
“Sure.” Mac jogged to Wayne’s car. “Thanks,” he said. Wayne had helped Mac get the job. His wife Betty was a good friend of Kate’s.
“Ready for your first day?” Wayne asked.
“Yep,” Mac said with a smile.
They were waved through the checkpoint at the entrance to the base and Wayne dropped Mac off at the maintenance station. “Have a good one!” he said as he drove away.
Mac waved and walked into the building. He’d always been good at fixing things and working with his hands. Once inside, he was issued a permanent ID card and a collection of tools and keys. “I won’t be able to keep my pants up if I hook all these keys to my belt,” he quipped. Everyone laughed. That was something about Mac. He could always make people laugh.
He was assigned to go with Mitch, a gray haired barrel chested man who wore no nonsense overalls. There was no question about his pants staying up. Walking across the base to attend to a hot water heater that wasn’t working in one of the barracks, Mac and Mitch didn’t talk. Mac could sense Mitch wasn’t one for idle chatter.
The sounds of the base filled Mac’s ears. There were orders being barked, followed by staccato “Sir, yes sir!” replies. Suddenly, there was the bugle call for the morning flag raising. That’s when Mac staggered. He nearly fell. Mitch just kept walking.
Mac put both hands to his head and tried to shake loose the crazy thoughts he was having. It was all so familiar! Had he been here before? He was Private Lester Van Tassell of the 84th Infantry. He had been at the Battle of the Bulge. He was on leave in California before their unit was reassigned to the Philippines. That was when he left. He couldn’t do it any more.
Mac looked around, trying to make sense of his surroundings. What had happened?
Check back tomorrow to learn more about Mac/Private Lester Van Tassell!