TITLE: In Jake's Shoes
GENRE: Adult Southern Contemporary
I knew the chow line would be long, so I stayed behind to let it shorten. No one wanted to stand or eat too close to anybody serving in the Mortuary Affairs Unit, anyway. Working around dead people left a smell.
I lay still as a bird dog on point. My eyes were open, but I couldn’t see a thing. I had taken off my boots and socks, because I wanted to feel the smoothness of the plastic under my heels and on the tops of my toes. As the plastic settled over my body, its heaviness was comforting, like the thick wool blanket mama used to lay across me on cool nights when I pretended I was asleep. I felt its weight and coolness where it touched my naked forehead, nose, cheeks, heels and toes. I tried not to let my chest heave too much, so I took deep, slow breaths. It didn’t matter. Each breath heaved my chest enough to crinkle-crackle the plastic, as if bone beetles scurried across the outside surface, searching for ingress.
Time stood nearly as still as I lay. No red dirt swirled up my nose. No fingers sweated inside my blood covered gloves. No dog tags lay crumpled on the ground to collect and catalog. No tattered pockets to search for hidden “I love you,” notes from wives. No wrinkled, bloodied photographs of unseen babies to smooth and place in plastic baggies. No leg-less, foot-filled boots to un-lace to remove the ragged stump.