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Larry Foulke was sitting with a woman by the name of Jessica Flechazo, enjoying a cup of hot cocoa to warm him against the chilly October air. As he lowered the cup with his slightly built arm, he caught a glance of a long scar running along the bottom of his right arm, and his face let out an unnoticeable frown as memories of a bitter past returned to haunt him. As he looked up to avoid those memories, he found himself looking into Jessica's face. Larry smiled at her as he took in the beauty of her brown eyes and strands of blonde hair dancing in the gentle breeze. When she looked back at him, she returned the smile and opened her mouth as if she was about to talk.
Larry was quick to react, "Yes?"
Jessica let out a small giggle as she spoke, "You're never going to let me speak first, are you?"
"I'm sorry Jessica. Old habits die hard, but they'll go away someday," Larry laughed. "Anyways, what did you want to say?"
"Well, I was going to go to the skate park with my friends after my shift at the hospital was over tomorrow, but I found out that I couldn't make it so can you pick me up tomorrow?"
"Of course, Flechazo. You know, if I didn't know you better, I wouldn't believe you skate,"
"Why? Because I don'thave the scars to prove it?"
"Not really," Larry said. "I was thinking that you just don't look like a skater; you have always appeared to me as a model."
She blushed a little as he said that and then said, "Larry, you know that I'm a skater at heart. Ever since we met in high school in our freshman year of '87, I have always been skating."
"So what did you do before you moved from Sapin?" Larry asked.
"Pretty much the same thing. Out in the open desert though there's always enough room to see how fast our cars could go. My mom and I would sometimes take the family car out onto the highways and see how fast it would go. We passed a cop doing 110 and he couldn't catch up with us, so we never got caught."
Both laughed. Today couldn't have been better. They were sitting at a table decorated with a white cloth not too far from a Cathedral enjoying their storytelling. Jessica's tan almost blended into the light brown stone that covered the church and her dress fitted right along with the table cloth. Only her hair and eyes would tell him that she was right there across the table from him.
"At least you fixed up your hair nicely," Jessica said, holding back a giggle.
Larry let out a brief laugh at the comment. He never liked fixing up his hair to how he had it now. He is a practical man, and all he would normally do was to comb it out so that his hair was straight and looked decent and that was it. This morning he spent fifteen minutes fixing it up just perfectly for the event that he went to. He offered the hot cocoa to Jessica and she gladly accepted it since she was every bit as cold as he was.
As they continued their conversation, the rest of the crowd disappeared as they returned to their normal life routine: work, home, kids, etc., but Larry and Jessica stayed. They soon caught the noise of a car driving down the street towards them and they watched as the car pulled up next to the café where they were, and out stepped an elderly couple. They didn't look as elderly as most people would think, but the man was 58 years old and the woman was only two years younger than he was. He had white hair and she had grayish-brown hair and besides that, they could have been in their mid-30s to the average Joe.
Larry made a welcoming gesture with his right hand, "Hey, Mom and Dad. You kind of missed the whole thing."
The man looked a little disappointed but nevertheless happy, "We were caught up in traffic on the way here. You know how bad the infamous traffic here in Anfang gets."
Both Larry and Jessica stood and walked to his parents. He gave his dad a hug and did the same with his mom.
"Congratulations on your wedding, Sweetie," Jutta Foulke said. "Albert, you know Jessica. Remember?"
"Of course I do. She would always walk on my lawn, which I worked very hard to make look nice, and she would do everything with Larry. But she is a sweet girl. Larry, you're a lucky boy to have the chance to marry such a beautiful person," Albert Foulke said. He turned to Jessica and with a smile said, "Willkommen in der familie, Jessica Foulke." (Welcome to the family).
"Ich bin froh, dass ein teil ihrer familie, Foulke," Jessica said. (I'm glad to be part of your family). It's convenient that Larry taught her German in exchange for her teaching him Spanish when they met back in high school.
"I can understand what everyone is saying, but why can't we just all speak English for once?" Larry said. "I've been practically around the world and I just want to hear some English."
"Speaking of which," Jutta said. "What did you do when you left home all those years ago? Ever since you became a mercenary, you almost never wrote to us."
"I'll tell you guys what happened, but let's get in the car. I'm freezing," Larry said.
"Me too! Larry, I'll love to hear your story exposé," Jessica said.
All four turned to the street and walked towards the car, a grey 2005 Lexus GX470. Albert got into the driver's seat and Larry sat in the seat behind that, while Jutta sat next to Albert and Jessica got in the back with Larry.
"I just got this car washed inside and out, so no freaky stuff okay?" Albert said with a firm voice.
"Albert!" Jessica and Jutta said, somewhat grossed out by that statement.
"I was only kidding son," Albert laughed. "But really, please don't do that yet."
He put the car in gear and merged into the road, heading back to Anfang. They headed to his parents' house, which was a penthouse on one of the higher levels of a building complex in downtown Anfang that overlooked the coast. Larry bought them the house eight years ago as a gift and also a bit of an apology that he couldn't write as often as he would like. Along the way, he saw a road sign with a danger symbol with the number of miles to the hazardous area, that being the Anfang beach.
Everybody now paid attention to Larry except his parents. They already knew this part of the story, so they got up and walked into the kitchen. Jessica with Larry's cousin Stefan, who came to congratulate the two, listened closely. They were curious and wanted to hear what he had to say.
"I came into existence when my mother gave birth to me on December 15, 1972 in Hoffnung, Belka. My babyhood was like anyone else's: I had toys to play with, caring parents, and the works. My dad would take me to wonderful places around the world. One that I especially remember is being in northern Yutobania, where I learned to speak Russian over the summer vacation. Another great trip was with the whole family, when my parents and I went to the Futuro Canal on the Sapin side. My dad worked construction on it and we would often go with him while he worked. When I was six, mom and dad sent me off to a private school called the Belkan School of the Study of Society, or BSSS for short. Once I turned thirteen, I decided to attend school in the Belkan Public School System, which back then in '85, was almost a joke."
"So why did you go?" Stefan asked. "Why would you go to a bad school system if you were already getting a good education in private school?"
"Stefan, just because it's a private school doesn't mean it's a good school. BSSS was of that case. It taught social skills in my early years and as I grew up, they started talking about economics and society. A lot of things in there I agreed with, but they said that anyone that was below the upper-class was inferior. I hated that because I believed everyone to be equal. Back in the '80s, Belka was undergoing economic troubles and passed the Federal Law Review. BSSS didn't support the FLR because it allowed the Belkan territories to vote on their independence, which they did and became the countries of Ustio, Ratio, etc. They said that they shouldn't be allowed to do such a thing, and they wanted the colonies to stay under Belkan control so we could exploit the people and the lands there. After that, I lost all faith in that school and by then I also wanted to be around normal people; not the stuck-up kids in the private school." Larry got up from the chair to get a coke from the kitchen and then came back to sit again. He lifted the tab to open the drink and took a sip before returning to the story.
"When I came to high school, I learned a lot about what it meant to be middle-class and all the like. They were nothing like what the BSSS described them to be, so I stayed. I made a lot of new friends in my freshman year, most notably Jessica," Larry paused to look up at her and continued talking. "To tell the truth, I had a crush on her since I met her and only later did I have the courage to ask her out. She was a true flechazo." (Flechazo - Love at first sight).
Jessica blushed and gave out a cute, "Aww ..."
"So what made you want to become a pilot?" Stefan asked eager to know.
"When I was ten, my dad took me to the annual Belkan National Air Show hosted in a small town called Stokstad, which was near a major Air Force base. The first plane I ever saw was a Belkan Air Force MiG-31 Foxhound. The sleek, black and red jet screamed power and control from its two massive engines. Later I found out that the MiG I saw belonged to Dominic 'Vulture' Zubov, the leader of the famous Schwarze Squadron. I was hooked from that point on,"
"After that air show, I became hugely attracted to the dream of fl ight," Larry said. "I wanted to fl y more than anything. I didn't have much care for school, games, movies, and everything else you would expect from a normal teenager. The only things I still clang to were my family and Jessica. As most people went to get a driving permit when they turned fifteen, I was taking flying lesions. I remember when I first flew in a Piper Cub, and in that same plane I flew solo about a year later. By my junior year in high school I had my own plane to fly."
"What did you do with your plane?" Stefan asked. He started to make hand gestures. "Like, would you just fly around the airport or would you travel?"
Albert shouted from the kitchen when he caught wind of their conversation, "I'll tell you I wasn't exactly proud of what he did." Albert produced a slight grin. "But it was pretty damn good."
The group turned their attention from Albert and back to Larry as he began to speak, "I would take my sport plane in the air and fl y around the airport until another private plane took off. I would buzz the plane a few times and then I would climb as high as I could go. Then I would storm down nearly vertical and pass just in front of the plane! Like a fighter!"
Jessica and Stefan laughed; Albert didn't. He looked up and said, "Those stunts cost him a month in jail ... Community Service, and he wasn't allowed to fly for a year unless he paid two thousand dollars in fines."
"I remember that day in court. Larry was almost emotionally destroyed if it wasn't for his dad. He wanted his son to fly and paid the fine for him, but on one condition: Larry had to join the Belkan Air Force when he finished high school and would have to fight in at least one war. Once 1990 had passed, his dad signed him up,"
Larry interrupted, "The proudest day in my life was July 17, 1993 when I became a pilot for the Belkan Air Force as an Airman First Class in the 521st Fighter Squadron of the 4th Air Division. Those days I flew a MiG-29 in a squadron of four MiGs. Even though I was low in rank, I was invited to be our squadron leader's wingman and number two in the squadron, and of course I accepted the honor. Even though I had to leave my novia behind in Hoffnung, I was nevertheless happier than I had been in a long time now that my life dream was realized."
Chapter FourPRIMERA SANGRE
"What happened afterwards was what I consider today to be horrible," Larry said. His face showed sorrow as he looked at his right arm again. The dreary scar on the underside of his arm was only a small part of his first combat mission and the memories from it.
"As soon as I became a part of the 521st Fighter Squadron, or the Ruttenberg Squadron for short, we were sent off to battle. Belka committed seven thousand soldiers and a number of fighter squadrons to the Sapin Civil War. We all thought it would be a short conflict, which in the end it was ..."
Larry was interrupted by his cell phone when it started ringing and he excused himself to a separate room. A few minutes passed and then Jessica and Stefan looked at Larry as he sat back down into the armchair and took another sip from his Coke.
"Who was it?" Jessica asked.
"Vladimir Trotsky," Larry answered.
"Who's that? I've never heard of him,"
"He's an old friend. Stefan knows him well enough. Ask him,"
Jessica did as Larry said and turned to Stefan. Meanwhile, Larry continued with his story. "We were given a week to say our good-byes and all before we went to Sapin. As you know already, Jessica ..." Larry turned his focus away from her and started to talk to Stefan since he didn't know. "I had to get her grandparents and uncle from the Sapin countryside near the Futuro Canal. I already knew where to go since they lived in the same house that Jessica used to live in when I first met her on the construction trips. I myself couldn't get her family out since the fighter pilots couldn't go across the border yet, but the transport pilots could. They were already supplying the Sapin Fascists with military aid, so I contacted our squadron's transport pilot to help me out."
Larry looked around as if he was trying to think. He had his head resting on his left hand and was also tapping the side of his neck, "I can't remember his name at the moment. He was the transport pilot before he found his true calling as a fighter pilot. The last time I saw him was when he was talking about defecting to Osea before he disappeared."
Larry's face lit up as he finally found what he was looking for. His eyebrows shot upwards and his eyes suggested that he was in joy about the memories of that pilot and him in the past, "He goes by the name of 'Pops' now. He was a kind fellow, and I sure miss him right about now ..." His tone of voice slightly dropped as the joy disappeared.
Jessica was a bit annoyed. She wanted to hear the rest of the story. "Anyways ..." Larry continued. "... once we finally went to Sapin, we were stationed at the Air Force base that pilots called 'The Devil's Crosshairs'. The base was attacked frequently by the Communist air forces. There were five squadrons stationed there: Ruttenberg, a Su-27 squadron called Rot Vultures, and three MiG-21 squadrons. For about a week, we also had Dietrieh 'Boss' Kellerman and his squadron over and I learned a lot from them."
"So what was your first mission? You've never talked much of the Sapin Civil War when you came home," Jessica said.
"Normally, I never talk about it because that war was hell for most of us and the memories haunt me as it is. It was even worse than the Belkan War,"
"How bad was it?" Jessica asked, confused by her husband's instant weakness in voice.
"Well, both the Fascists and Communists called the war El Matadero,"
"Oh my God!" Jessica shrieked. "It was really that bad?"
"No lie," Larry said. "El Matadero; The Slaughter House."
Larry slightly bowed his head down into his lap. He had remorse for those on both sides.
"My first mission was to bomb a Communist camp not far from Gran Rugido. The mission was simple enough, so we proceeded like it was a walk in the park. Bomb the place, cover the Fascists. Simple enough ..." Larry swallowed. "Once we reached the target area, our warning alarms went off like mad. My cockpit was nothing but shades of red. None of us could see who was tracking us, let alone if they had fired on us yet. Then I saw my squadron leader's plane get hit with a telephone-pole-sized SAM missile right under the nose of the MiG and I knew he was dead. I broke out of formation to try to escape the hell composed of SAMs coming towards our flight, but no one found the mark under my right wing and most of my plane instantly broke apart ... except my cockpit. The plane broke apart into a million pieces, or at least that was only what I saw from the cockpit. By luck, I was able to eject about five seconds before the MiG crashed into the barren desert below. I couldn't remember what happened after that."
Larry took a sip from his Coke again; the can was almost empty. "When I woke up, I saw that I was on top of my right wing and my right arm was sliced open by a fragment of metal. Most of the wing surface was a deep red from my blood. I was in complete shock and after half an hour I heard bombs going off around me and I could see bodies flying all around me. I realized that my fellow Belkans were trying to save me as a helicopter touched down a few hundred feet away from me. At the base's medical station, they fixed all of the functions in my arm, but the horrible memories and this scar remind me of that day for the rest of my life. When I discovered that two of the MiG-21 squadrons as well as my flight lead were gone, I didn't know whether or not I could really take war after seeing what it was really like."
Excerpted from TIGER WORKS Copyright © 2009 by Wilson High School Literary Club. Excerpted by permission.
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