After leaving the Air Force Base Sam was soon on Highway 95, called the Veteran Memorial Highway. It would take him straight through Las Vegas and on to Spring Valley where he lived with Eve and his two children. After the day’s experience he felt, that he too could soon be a veteran too.
A cloudless sky was spanning the dessert surrounding the glittering city. The air conditioned cocoon, that was his car, transported him from work to home, from one world to another. To his right he could see the sun setting behind the Spring Mountain Range. In the twilight, the multicoloured lights of the entertainment capital were already visible. The traffic increased the closer he came to the city centre – “Paradise” indeed.
What a difference to Afghanistan and Pakistan where his skill as a Predator operator was in great demand. His activities at the base created havoc in the lives of so many people he had never met. In contrast, there was no physical danger to his own life. He was a modern warrior who eliminated people from a distance.
He turned his Lincoln off the highway into a suburban road and soon reached his home street. In the front gardens people had their sprinklers going as if water was no problem. In the dry desert air the water spray evaporates and so much water is wasted. Sam was thinking of taking up the offer of City Hall and have his lawn removed. As he pulled into his drive way his two children, Andrew and Rebecca, came rushing out as he fastened the hand brake. “Daddy, Daddy,” they called out in unison.
“We have been waiting for you all day and Mum has the dinner ready,” Rebecca said.
Eve came onto the front porch. She smiled. Even though he was delighted to see his wife, the whole picture reminded Sam of an old movie from the fifties. But when Eve saw Sam’s face her smile vanished.
“What happened Honey?’ she asked.
“I had a bad day at the office, that’s what happened.”
“I made a roast. That will cheer you up.”
“I don’t really feel like eating right now,” Sam said irritated by the thought of having to eat right away. He entered the home. Eve and the children followed. Andrew ran past him to his room and brought out a model plane he had built.
“Look Dad, what I have made. Isn’t she a beauty?” It was a model of the Drone, the very unmanned plane they were using in Pakistan.
“For Christ sake, take the fucking plane out of my sight,” Tom exploded. The boy started to cry and ran back into his room.
“Look what you have done to Andy. Can’t you control your temper?” Eve asked. She was concerned and angry that he had brought his frustrations home. There was silence when they sat down at the dinner table . The meat had dried out and Sam jumped up and screamed on top of his voice.
“I can’t eat this shit!” He rushed into the bedroom, followed by his wife.
“I know it is not easy for you at the base, but that gives you no right to throw a tantrum and scare the children,” she said as she was shutting the door behind herself.
“And don’t give me the shit that it is tough being a soldier. If I think of it, you are not much of a soldier, are you? I’m from a military family and have some understanding what it means to be a soldier. Grandpa stormed Omaha Beach and Dad fought the Vietcong at close quarters in the jungle. What you are doing is mere child’s play sitting at the console and playing computer games all day.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Sam said. “I should not scare children. But I’m not fighting ˗ I execute! I do killing for a living so you can have dry roast and overcooked veggies any day and buy those retro dresses and look like a broad out of Mad Men. The only thing missing are the cigarettes. With your attitude you belong to the fifties.” He stopped to get his breath back and collect his thoughts. He calmed down a bit and continued,
“I watched a man all day, waited for an opportunity to wipe him out…”
“Why would you do that,” Eve wanted to know.
“ ’cause they told us the son-of-a bitch was a insurgent, a Taliban. You know, those men with black turbans. When he tried to enter a house, probably a hideout, I thought, I released a missile. Let him have it! Kick arse! Just at that second, before the missile travelled the last half mile some crazy children came out of the house and were running towards him, just like Becky and Andy are doing when I come home. The guiding system never makes a mistake and when the white smoke cleared there was no sign of them. They were all vaporised!”
“Are you sure you did that?” Eve asked.
“Of course I’m sure. I can follow everything on my monitor.”
“You are doing your duty. That’s all,” she tried to console him.
“You are calling killing children my duty? This is modern warfare where our state wants us to kill the enemy, but without any risk to our soldiers. We are a weak society that can’t take casualties. I probably kill more people in a week than your Grandpa and Dad did during two damn old fashioned wars. I can’t stand this any more.”
“What do you mean?” Eve asked. “I hope you don’t want throw all away we worked for. There is enough unemployment and foreclosures in Las Vegas already.”
Later, when they returned to the living room and switched on the TV they caught a news item.
“…..a spokesman for the Pakistani government had expressed his concern at the US government’s use of Predator Drones after the latest incident, in which a Pakistani business man and his children were killed. A spokesman for the Pentagon would not confirm the incident but promised, that they would investigate.”
“You bastards,” Sam screamed again and used the remote to silence the TV. It was not clear whom he meant. Later, during the night they were laying in bed and starring at the ceiling, were the flickering lights of The Strip played a macabre spiel with colours. They were too angry to seek comfort from each other. Their marriage, as their country, was heading for the abyss. Next morning Sam went to his car to drive , as usual, to the base. He was not ready yet to give up his well paid position with all its entitlements. And when he said, “Good bye” to Eve he added,
“Let’s see whether I will do more collateral damage today.”