By Denis Chericone
She just appeared. The four of us were playing poker on one of the stretchers in a corner of the bunker when I had gotten up to get some more smokes from my field jacket. As I walked towards my stash, I looked up, and there she was, held framed within the rough two-by-four molding of the entryway. She was simply standing there with a big smile on her face, a face full of mischief and grace. There was a glow to her, and I immediately thought I was imagining things. I kind of sleepwalked towards her with my arm outstretched so I could touch her and prove to myself she wasn’t a ghost. Then she spoke, with an accent straight out of a French movie, “Allo, my name is Catherine, and I am here to get your stories and take your pictures.”
When the others heard her voice, they were quickly by my side, all of us gaping in blazing stupefaction. Her smile was like a warm spring day with a cool breeze spreading itself over, in, and around every living thing, especially us. When we finally recovered enough to speak, we welcomed her with all the cordiality we were able to muster. She knew she was delivering a very special moment for all of us, and she was gracious and very indulgent of our stumbling attempts to make her feel welcome. She fielded our barrage of questions, you know, “Where did you come from?” “How did you get here?” “Can we run away together?” the usual stuff, with the warm patience and aplomb of a woman dealing with a hopelessly smitten suitor alone with his inamorata for the first time. We made her as comfortable as possible, and it helped that she was dressed in the same manner as we were — baggy and stained fatigues, flak vest, and helmet, which, when she removed it, allowed her subdued long golden hair to come tumbling down around her shoulders. Yeah, definitely from the gods. She was inquisitive, and we tried to fill her in without breaking any top-secret restrictions concerning our duties. Of course, by that time we only had one duty: stay alive.