Fireside Chat

“I’ve never told anyone this story…” Benjamin spoke to Jennifer, both of whom were watching the fire flickering in a fireplace, logs neatly formed into a stacked formation. Benjamin and Jennifer enjoyed Christmas break at a hidden away cabin in one of the small mountain towns near Denver, Colorado. Jennifer had just finished her winter term finals of her senior year. Benjamin had been home from the military for only a few months.

“Those 3 years I was in Afghanistan and unable to communicate by phone or by mail.”

“I know, I know. You were being held hostage. Your country is proud of your sacrifice.” Jennifer reaching out to hold Benjamin’s hand.

“I wasn’t ‘hostage’. I was court marshaled while I was out there and had to spend 3 years in custody.” Benjamin confessed. Jennifer took her hand back, startled by her new understanding of this man.

‘Wh-What happened?” She asked, running a million different scenarios through her head.

“One of the first nights we were there, it was my turn to watch the entire American outpost, at our base ‘Camp American Eagle’ on the outskirts of American occupation.” Benjamin paused, reflecting on the fact that this revelation would forever change his relationship with Jennifer. “We had just finished a 15 mile journey to build an alliance with the local tribesmen. I was cooking my dinner a few hours after the rest of the platoon had gone to sleep. I was cooking army-issue sausages, when the grease from the pan caught fire and spilled over onto the wooden platform of the tower I was in.”

Jennifer’s eyes searched over Benjamin’s facial features, eyes, mouth, nose, as if she was viewing each of them for the first time.

Benjamin continued: “The fire spread, I barely escaped with my life as the flames engulfed the watch tower. I pulled the fire-alarm for the barracks, so no one was injured, but approximately 1/3 of the base was burned that night and I was court marshaled the next morning. I was required to serve 36 months hard labor as punishment. I’m sorry I lied.”

Jennifer noticed the reflection of the flicker of the flame on Benjamin’s face, warping his figure and distorting the shadows cast on and by his face. Jennifer searched inside herself for some type of response or reflection. Nothing. Jennifer slowly turned away from Benjamin, and when her face was shielded from his view, began to weep silently.