The two of us flank the rear as our unit sweeps the area, weapons ready as we push through the territory. The stroll is casual, but we know anything can happen just around the corner, so the grip hangs loosely on the trigger. Gaze shifting to my partner, I condone his antics like a father would to a child. Our leader’s attention hasn’t caught this, and I shouldn’t either. Casting him a look as a reminder of the mission, he grins sheepishly under his helmet.
“What? I’ll be ready if something comes,” he reassures me. Having fallen behind, we briskly jog to rejoin the company, and smooth our uniforms down. “That’s what I love about this,” he says, his old green soccer uniform underneath that camo. “The colors are the same, just a shade darker.”
My head pops up at this comment, and with a sad sigh I am snagged on his words. It must be Monday, because I am thinking about whatever happened that previous Saturday night; all of us drinking in some barrack, thinking we’re grown men, while the veterans laugh at our youth, our naiveness. I furrow my brow, glancing around at the abandoned complex we venture through. I may not be the most aggressive soldier, but I think of the loose cannon next to me, ready to set off.
His point is made, however. We’re not the people we used to be. We’re a shade darker.
The hill on the lawn shines brightly, the entire side yard glowing yellow with all of the Christmas lights. They illuminate the night through the rain, a point for the people to pass as they drive down route 9. I don’t want to look at the horizon of clouds and stars, I want to forget it all as I gaze on the little fragile bulbs like a little kid, innocent and hopeful. The cold is still on the back of my neck as I watch through the frosted window pane.
Sometime during the night the lights go dark, and the lawn’s glow fades, joining in with the pressing blackness. The night’s weeping rain was at bay with the strings alit, but now its simply a pitiful cry. The lawn, like my sleepy closing eyes, is soon lost to the night, a shade darker.
The fish jumps off the hook, but lands on the dock, having been pulled violently from the ocean. It flops pathetically towards the bay, but to no avail. The fisherman approaches with a knife, slicing its head off in hopes of using it for bunker. The fish’s eyes fade, and its last sight is the man standing above it. Just like it pictured God.
But a shade darker.
What does God do when we’re not looking?
We were sitting along the bank, the bow man untangling the fishing line from the gunwhales of the boat. The man whose rod it belong too glared at us from the banks of the marsh, standing tall within the grasses that surround him. He begins to use a few choice words at us, to which coach replies with a few of his own. He then tells both the boats to row on, and we do so. I sit, waiting for the call, and then join in on the rhythm as we pull away together.
All week we’ve been bashing each other, because this group of eight rowers and a coxswain absolutely despise each other. But our conflicts cease to exist as we see the two men- this nasty tourist sitting and fishing, cursing a bunch of kids out for a small accident, and coach in his launch, broad chested and anger showing in his muscles that ripple under his signature coat- starting to yell at one another. As we go around the bend, we joke that the headline tomorrow will read “Dead Fisherman Found in Marsh”, because we believe we’re the right ones. The big guy has been the ideal image we have looked at for years, and we have a sense of superiority from being taught in his vision.
But as we head back to the dock, I think about how we glorify the man. We think of him as a god in this bubble of a little world. But he’s still just a man, and not yet do we realize this. Wondering to what is going on back at that mudbank, I ask myself what could he be saying that could possibly ruin our image of him?