#1 In Cat’s Eyes 

“What do you think? Can you hear it?” he asked me as I listened for the special sound. Seth had told me that he needed my keen sense of hearing to help him find his way home. Seth was a human, but he was different from the others. He could talk to me, and I could understand. He had long yellow hair like a girl human, but I could smell that he was a man human. 

          He picked me up in his arms and rubbed my fur. I looked up at him and licked his hand. We walked on down the dirty, litter-filled streets of Baltimore watching the people around us. 

          “What do you hear?” he asked, noticing my ears perk up. I jumped from his arms and started running down the street. I stopped and turned around. He was close behind. 

          “I hear it too, my furry friend. Yes, I think it is this way.” As I rounded the corner, I could see men dressed in blue uniforms and wearing hard hats. They were workers for the gas company. The high-pitched noise came from the sound of high-pressure gas leaking from a pipe. A policeman told us to clear the area. 

          “Cat, this is not it! We’ve got to look some more.” Seth said. The day was still hot and humid. Young boys rode on their bicycles, taunting each other. Some young men, in their early 20s played basketball at the park. A few cars went by, but none stopped, for this was a bad part of town or so I heard people say at the park. We walked through the park quickly. Seth picked up a frisbee and threw it back to some boys. 

          “Cat, I think I hear it now,” Seth remarked. But then the frisbee hit the grass and the high-pitched sound stopped. 

          “I have one hour now to find the entry point, or I will die. I’ve been here in this world for six hours and I am dying and decaying like the city slums around me. I can’t last much longer. If only I can find it, I can return to my lovely wife Jaim and my daughter Fothe. I miss them so much. If only I can get back, I can give the Prefect his books from this era and then re-join my family once again.” Seth looked at me with small tears in his eyes. 

          “Cat, I need your help. Do you hear anything?” 

          Anxiety and grief showed on his aging face. His blond hair was quickly turning gray right before my eyes. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this human. I met him walking out of the city library just this morning. I really didn’t notice him at first; after all he was just another human and not good for anything except maybe some food. So, I followed him and the strange scent that he carried. I had never smelled that scent before, but I hoped that it would lead me to some new kind of food.  That’s when he spoke to me. I never really understood human talk, but this one I could understand perfectly well. 

          “If only I could remember where I was. I know I was near a place that sold drugs and sundries,” he said. He walked some more, and I followed. Just then, I heard it. It was higher and louder that anything I had ever heard before. As I came around the corner I saw dogs, lots of them, all running around in circles, yelping, and howling and doing all those other disgusting things that dogs do.  People were running around too, trying to catch and calm the dogs, but to no avail. 

          As we neared the drug store, a pack of dogs went zipping by, not even noticing me. The sound was very loud now. Seth stopped and looked at me. 

          “Here it is my friend, the entry point.” Seth smiled at me and shook my paw. 

          “You know cat, I wish that I could take you to my era, but I don’t think that you would be safe there. Our cats are much larger.” He picked me up, rubbed my back and set me down. 

          “Good-bye my friend.” He turned and walked through the brick wall. After he was gone, the sound stopped. All around me, the dogs stopped too. Then they all looked at me!

#2 Compton Mines 

          The sun came up over the small encampment. The two hikers awoke to the rushing sound of the river near them. It had rained the day before and the river was swollen with water. Overhead, about thirty crows flew noisily through the treetops. The smell of smoke from the campfire still lingered in the air.  Paul climbed out of the tent, rubbed his eyes, and glanced at the sun. He had left the mountains of Oregon to come up to the Canadian Rockies with his friend, Chuck.  They were looking for Compton Lake and the Compton Mines next to it and expected to reach them by the afternoon. 

          “Chuck, are you awake?” Paul asked as he bent down to tie his muddy boots. 

          “Yeah, I’m awake,” Chuck replied. “How is it out there?” 

          “Oh, It’s a beautiful day.  The rain has stop and it looks like the sun will come out.  Come on out and see for yourself.” 

          Chuck clumsily climbed out of the tent.  He looked rather comical hoping on one foot while he tried to put his other boot on. He stopped for a moment and looked at Paul, who was doing all he could not to burst out laughing. 

          “What’s so funny, uh?” He asked, glaring at Paul. 

          “Well, you big clown; you are.  Who ever heard of a thirty-three year old man who couldn’t even get his own shoes on right.  I’d love to see the look on some of your students.  If they could see you now.” 

          Chuck looked down at his muddy boots and laughed. “I guess it would be easier if I put the right boot on the right foot, uh?” 

          After getting his boots on, Chuck walked behind the tent for a minute and returned with some small branches. “Let’s get the fire started back,” he said, throwing the branches onto the smoldering ashes.  He reached into his backpack and unrolled a few sheets of tissue paper and threw it onto the cinders.  Meanwhile, Paul was rolling up the sleeping bags and packing away a few things. 

          “How’s that knee of yours?” Paul asked. 

          “It’s doing better but it’s still a little swollen.” 

          “Yeah. The swelling has gone down a lot.” 

          “I think we’ll be there around 3 o’clock this afternoon if we can get an early enough start,” Paul said, pulling a map out of a side pocket in his camo pants. He studied the map intently, occasionally looking up at the mountain around him.  These were rugged Rockies of British Columbia. They couldn’t afford to get lost here. There was no one around for at least thirty miles. Their only link with civilization was downriver on the Finley River.  He watched the water rush by, somewhat muddy from the day before.  He walked to a tree near the bank and spotted Mt. Churchill.  This had been a good landmark for them throughout the whole trip. This snowcapped mountain could be seen for miles, all 10,000 feet of it.  

          Chuck had got the fire started, so he went over and sat by Paul. 

          “Want some breakfast?” Paul inquired as he pulled out two small bowls and spoons from his pack.” 

          “Yeah, I’d like a stack of blueberry pancakes, covered with hot butter and syrup and some real milk, please.” He laughed. 

          “Well, I’m sorry but we are all out of that.  Will Frosted Flakes do?” 

          “Yeah, I guess,” Chuck replied as he pulled out a small empty pitcher from his pack.  Paul handed him a small plastic bag of dried milk and he poured it into the pitcher. Next, he brought out a small container of river water, boiled the night before and mixed the milk.  Then they poured it on their cereal and began to eat breakfast. 

          Paul sat there in deep thought as he ate his cereal.  He remembered his friends back home.  Some were probably doing the same thing he was, back in the Cascades. 

          “I wonder if Bill, Ann and Sue had made it to the Grand Canyon by now?” he remarked. 

          “Oh, if I know my wife and her mother, they probably have poor old Bill lost in New Jersey by now,” Chuck replied. “I just wonder how your guys are doing in baseball.” 

          “Ted’s a good assistant coach.  They’re probably doing all right.  They’re a good bunch of guys, you know.  I really hated having to miss the rest of the season.” 

          “Well, you’ll be back soon.  Don’t worry about them.” 

          “Yeah, you’re probably right.” Paul murmured. 

          Their hike had taken three days already but today they were both anxious. Chuck was enjoying himself in these woods. During the other months, he taught Science at Wilson High School. Paul taught Physical Education and was the baseball coach at Wilson, too.  This was something they had been preparing and planning for all year. The mines’ tailings still held ore in them. This summer, they planned to spend it together, panning for gold, just the two of them, alone in the quiet forests of Canada. 

          Chuck finished the cereal and walked down to the river. He gently splashed the river water onto his face. He brushed his beard and mustache with his wet fingers. He scooped up some more water and splashed it on his curly brown hair. Paul finished washing the bowls in the water set them by his pack. He scooped his hands into the water and brought it up to his face. He wiped his hands onto his dark black hair and lightly slapped his cheeks. Quickly, he scooped up another handful of water and washed his arms and hands. Chuck was noisily brushing his teeth while trying to hum a song he had heard the week before. After packing up the rest of their things, they broke camp, put out the fire and got under way. 

“Hey, look here, bear tracks!” Chuck exclaimed. 

          Paul stopped and turned around. “They are pretty old. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.” 

          The path that they were taking was an old Native American trail along the Finley River.  Besides Native Americans, fur trappers, hunters, and even fishermen had used this trail for over one-hundred years or so they were told at the RCMP station at Moosepoint. The river was too rough to canoe so they had to hike the whole distance by foot. Pieces of pine trees floated past them.  The storm from the night before had been strong, especially for them, since they had to brave it out in a small tent. 

          They walked rapidly and quietly along the winding path.  A few crows, quiet now after their morning meal, studied them as they moved farther away from the campsite. 

          The morning passed rapidly as they walked farther into the lush forest.  They passed a large pine which had carvings on it from past hikers. Up high on the tree were the Native American names Ionkik, Angong, and others that had faded.  Below them were more recent names like John Swift, Michelle Roches, and some carved out symbols like arrows, hearts, and other slashes into the trunk. 

          They walked on past the large tree and around some boulders that had sheared off the tall cliffs above them. The sun rose gently into the sky, bringing a renewed warmth to the hikers. 

          The river became narrower and rougher.  The boulders poked through the water creating a series of rapids. The water swirled around, carrying bits of debris downstream. As they passed out of the small gorge, the land gradually turned into gently rolling hills.  On a hill nearby, a small buck walked quietly among the rocks. 

          “He must be a pretty young deer from the looks of him,” Chuck remarked, pointing upward at the hillside. 

          “Oh yeah, I see him. He’s probably about a year old, wouldn’t you say Chuck?” 

          “About that.” Chuck replied. 

          The wildlife was abundant in these hills. A hawk circled overhead, quietly soaring above the trees. A racoon cautiously watched them from a rock while he gathered water from the river and washed his face and paws. As they got closer, he scampered back into the dark forest and disappeared. 

          “How far do you think it is now?’ Chuck asked, tapping Paul on the shoulder. 

          “Oh, I’d say about eight more miles.  We’ll get lunch in an hour and should be there, a couple of hours after that. Are you getting tired?” 

          “No, I’m okay.” Chuck replied. 

          Paul was little concerned about him. Chuck had fallen off a boulder, the first day out and really banged up his knee. Paul knew that he was tough though and would probably be all right. They had hiked all last summer near Mt. Hood and had acquired some injuries worse than this. Last year, he remembered, Chuck had sprained his ankle when he slid down a rocky hillside. But they had been near enough to home then to take care of it properly. Here, they were four days from their car in Moosepoint. If anyone got hurt seriously here, it could be a really bad situation. 

          They hiked on past small waterfalls that cascaded down the hillside. A few more clouds moved in, occasionally casting a shadow on the mountainside. The temperature was warming up rapidly as they day wore on. Finally at noon, Paul stopped and pointed to his watch. 

          “Twelve o’clock. What do you say we break for lunch here?” 

          “Yeah, okay,” Chuck replied. “I’m hungry!” 

          He stopped and with a jerk, yanked his backpack off. Paul did the same, leaning his pack up against a tree. 

          They sat down together on a log. Paul pulled out his map again. While he studied it, Chuck fixed up their three-course meal, peanut butter, and homemade jelly on crackers. 

          “I think the mines are over there by those hills,” Paul remarked, pointing North. He pulled out a compass and got his bearings and returned it to his shirt pocket.” 

Chuck passed him a cracker and took a sip of water from his canteen. 

“Over there, uh? Well as soon as we’re done here, let’s get going.” He paused for a moment, staring at the tree covered hills around them. “Do you really think there still may be some gold there?” He asked turning and looking at Paul. 

Paul nodded yes, his mouth full of peanut butter. Paul felt this pulse race, just thinking about it. He reached into his left shirt pocket and pulled out the Canadian mining permit that he had acquired a month ago. He looked it over, studying the various Canadian officials’ signatures. He neatly folded it back up and tucked it back into his pocket. A big smile raced across his face. He clapped his hands and jumped up. 

“Well, I’m full. Let’s go,” Paul exclaimed, quickly putting his supplies back into his pack. Chuck, imitating his eagerness, quickly did the same. They yanked their packs onto their backs and swiftly headed up the path. 

The path brought them closely along side the river. The water moved swiftly among the boulders causing water to spray into the air. A few trees had fallen, some possibly from last night’s storm. Other larger trees laid quietly in the moss like fallen sentinels guarding the forest from outside strangers. 

Quickly, they moved down the path, jumping small streams and over fallen trees. They got farther away from the river. 

“Hey, wait up Paul. My knee is killing me.” Chuck shouted. 

Paul stopped half-way across a very large tree that had fallen across a rushing stream. 

“What’s the matter?” Paul questioned. 

“My knee,” Chuck answered, pointing to his leg. 

“What?” Paul asked as the stream roared under him. “I can’t hear you,” he said, point to his ears. Paul gingerly walked on. He jumped off the tree trunk to the other bank. Chuck walked onto the tree trunk that Paul had just crossed. 

“Oh no…” Chuck screamed as he splashed into the icy water. His face quickly sank below the rushing water. Paul quickly threw off his pack and ran down to the bank. Chuck came back up, gasping for air. He struggled to get his pack off as he was washed downstream. He hit a boulder and it knocked the breath out of him. He gasped and struggled but the torrent swept him towards the river. Paul ran back up the bank to his pack and pulled out a rope. Quickly, he ran back along the bank, tying knots in the rope as he ran. 

Chuck had gotten his wind back and was now desperately trying to swim to the bank. He reached out his arms and grabbed onto a boulder which swung him around violently. He gasped for air as water rushed into his face. 

“Hey Chuck, hold on buddy,” Paul shouted as he got closer. 

“Catch!” Paul threw the rope, but it was quickly swept downstream. 

“I’ll try again.” Paul wrapped the rope around his hand and tossed it out again. This time Chuck grabbed it and held on. Paul pulled Chuck in. Chuck let go of the rope and pulled himself up onto the bank. He coughed and spitted. 

“Are you alright?” Paul asked. 

“Yeah.” Chuck coughed some more. Thanks…thanks for saving my life.” 

Paul smiled. “What are friends for? Hey, at least we’re on the other side of the stream.” 

“Yeah, I’m okay.” Chuck stood up and shook his hair. “How close are we, Paul?” 

Paul looked around. “I would say we’re only about three and a half miles away.” 

“Yeah, we’re getting close.” 

“Well, let’s go. I can walk a few miles in wet clothes.” 

“Hey, there’s your backpack.” Paul carefully jumped onto a boulder and then onto another. He grabbed the pack and jumped back to the bank. 

“Okay, so I can walk in wet clothes and with a seven-ton wet backpack.” 

They both started laughing as they proceeded down the path towards the mines. 

By 2:30 that afternoon, they had arrived at the lake and could see the entrance to the mines. But they could also see something else. A small pontoon airplane hovered overhead and on the hillside were the sundry colors and shapes of other tents. They weren’t alone in the wood anymore.

 

 

               

              

The Box 

            What a long trip it had been.  Six hours from the West Coast to New York, another six hours to Paris, four fours to Athens and then almost two full days to get here.  But my boss wanted a story and here is where the action is, right on the front lines. 

            In the three hours since we had been here, we had heard about five 155 mm-howitzer rounds fly overhead. What a scary sound they make as they crackle through the sky above, I thought. Joel, my cameraman, was setting up his equipment when we heard another explosion. It was about a half-kilometer away. It was probably an Iranian round that had landed there. 

            As a reporter, I wanted to get a first-hand account of how things were going in the Iraqi- Iranian War. Few Western reports were allowed this close to the front, but my boss had pulled some strings. 

            Around me everywhere was metal and mud, lots of mud. Joel was setting up the tripod just behind a trench full of Iraqi soldiers. We were both hot and tired. Sweat poured off Joel’s face. He wiped the sweat off and ran his hands through his black hair. 

            “Hey! Can you give me a hand?” Joel shouted out over the drone of the generators. 

            “Yeah, just a minute!” I replied as I jumped right into a mud puddle. 

            “Take this cord and run it over to that tent there, okay? 

            “Over there?” 

            “Yeah, the middle one. You see that soldier with the black beret? Just give the plug to him. He’ll connect it.” 

            I grabbed the plug from Joel as he balanced his camera on the tripod. I pulled the cord over spent howitzer casings. It got caught on a wooden crate, so I whipped it up and down until it broke free. I handed the plug to the soldier. 

            “Joel said to give this to you. He said you would know where to plug it in.” I said, while showing him the plug. 

            “Yes, I’ll take care of it.” the soldier replied. 

            “Oh, you speak English, huh?” 

            “Yes, I spent two years in United States with my sister and her family.” 

            “Oh yeah, where at?” 

            “In Seattle, Washington, United States.” 

            “Is that right? I’m from Portland, Oregon, not too far from Seattle.” 

            “Yes, I heard of this place.” 

            “Yeah, I have relatives in Seattle, too.” 

            The soldier smiled. He was dressed in standard olive-green army fatigues and big black army boots very much like American soldiers. His uniform was spotlessly clean and pressed but his boots had mud on them, just like everyone else. He pulled the cord inside the tent and then reappeared. 

            He looked up at me. “So, you’re from United States. When will you return?” 

            “Well, I just got here. Why, you in a hurry for me to leave?” I knew I shouldn’t have said that. He was trying to be nice. It was just my usual snappy reply. 

            “No, I don’t mean it that way. There’s much danger here. Maybe another attack soon!” 

            “What makes you think that?” I questioned, looking out past the front lines. 

            “Spies!” he replied 

            “Spies? What do you mean?” 

            “Spies. Look there.” He said, pointing to the marshes. 

            As I stared out past the trenches, I saw three twisted Iranian bodies. They had been shot. One of them I could see plainly. His helmet was off. He was covered in a gray dust and mud. He had his uniform on, but his weapons and boots were gone. Next to him was a gas mask. His face showed agony; it was swollen. He lay in the mud next to small yellow flowers that resembled buttercups. The other two dead soldiers laid behind him, their faces buried in the mud. They too had had their boots and weapons stripped. 

            “They came up on us last night.” He continued. “They came to see our front lines, but we surprised them first.” 

            I turned away. I had seen dead bodies before while covering other news stories. But I had never seen a body that had swollen up in the hot sun like these had. 

            “I wish this war would end,” he continued. “I hate Khomeini, but most of these Iranian soldiers are Shi’ite like me. We are brothers. Allah will judge the Devil Khomeini but now we fight, and thousands die.” 

            I wrote down his words in my small notebook. Just then another soldier came and spoke to him in Arabic. He answered him and then looked at me. 

            “I must go. I’ll be back soon,” he said. I smiled. He smiled back. 

            I glanced again back to the dead Iranian soldiers. What a tragedy this was. What a tragedy all wars are for that matter. I walked back towards Joel. He was done setting up his camera now. Like everyone else, his boots were covered with mud. 

            “You hungry?” he asked, looking up from his muddy boots. 

            “Yeah, but look out there,” I said as I pointed to the dead soldiers. 

            “Oh God!’ he gasped. “That’s horrible!” 

            We stared for a few more seconds and then turned our gaze away from the scene. We walked quietly over to the mess tent. There were some soldiers already eating their dinner. Some looked up at us, but most kept eating. Joel spoke to the cook in Arabic. He had learned the language while working in Saudi Arabia. Now I could see how valuable he would be to us on this assignment. 

            “This is lamb and of course some pita bread. Carrots are over there,” Joel said, pointing to the end of the chow line. 

            “This isn’t like the Army chow I used to get,” I remarked with a laugh. 

            We filled our trays and walked among the soldiers. The tent was full of chatter. Of course, it was all in Arabic and I didn’t understand a word at all. An officer, a captain, I think, motioned for us to come sit next to him. Joel motioned with his tray, and I followed. The captain smiled and gestured for us to sit down. Joel and the captain started conversing in Arabic. I didn’t understand what they were saying. 

            “What’s he saying, Joel? I asked. Joel put his hand up to stop my talking. Then he looked at me. 

            “He said that we are welcome to his camp. He says also that he is glad President Hussein has allowed Western journalists to the front.”  The officer continued while Joel interpreted. 

            “He said that we are two of fifteen other journalists who have been allowed up to the front. He hopes that things stay quiet. But he also says that we must be careful. Occasionally, shells do land in this area, but most fly overhead towards Basra.” 

            I looked at the captain and then to Joel. “Please tell the captain thanks. Tell him that we realize that this is a battle zone, and we will be careful.” 

            Joel translated my message, and the captain shook his head in acknowledgement. Joel and the captain spoke some more. Soon another officer joined the conversation and the three of them started laughing. I figured that Joel told them one of his many jokes he is so fond of telling. 

            We finished our dinner and said good-bye to the officers. Most of the other soldiers got up too. We emptied our trays and stepped outside. Most of the troops were heading towards tents about 100 meters away. 

            “What’s going on Joel?” I asked. 

            “Muslim call to prayer,” he replied as he walked over to a wooden box and sat down. I sat down next to Joel. 

“We should sit here until prayer time is over, out of respect, you know,” he said. 

The sun was setting. It was still hot. I looked up at the orange-colored clouds. I heard an explosion far off. It sounded like thunder, but I knew it wasn’t. 

“The captain said that after prayer time, we were to see Major Hassid,’ Joel mentioned as we stared out into the horizon. It was getting towards dusk; I couldn’t see the bodies of the dead Iranians anymore. 

“You know, Joel, I’ve been following this war for some time now. It’s strange, quite different from Vietnam, but very similar to World War I and II. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, after the initial offensive bogged down, it turned into a World War I stalemate – trenches on both sides – artillery bombardments – human waves into deadly machine gun fire. Now, it’s into a World War II phase – rockets launched into cities, airplanes bombing cities – lots of civilian casualties. 

“Yeah, I see what you mean.” 

“Yeah, let’s hope it doesn’t go into a World War III phase, nuclear bombs. After all both Iran and Iraq have nuclear power plants. I’m sure they are both working on an atomic bomb.” 

“You think they have the bomb?” 

“I don’t know. I kind of think they don’t; otherwise, they’d probably have used them on each other by now.” 

“Scary thought, huh?’ Joel replied. 

“Yeah, you bet it is!” 

            We sat there in the quietness, listening to the frogs and crickets in the marsh. We were so far from home. 

            Soon, the prayer service was over. We got up and walked over to Major Hassid’s tent. A guard greeted us in Arabic and Joel answered him as he showed us in. The major was a short man, about 5 foot, 3 inches. His thick black mustache reminded me of their President Hussein, whose picture was on the wall of the tent. 

            “Hello,” the major greeted us in English. 

            “Hello,” we replied. 

            “Please sit down. Tea?” he asked as he pointed to a kettle of hot water. We nodded yes and he pointed to some metal folding chairs next to the wall of the tent. 

            We sat down as he poured the hot water into small cups with tea bags. 

            “I have assigned you to stay tonight in the supply tent,” he said. 

            “Thank you major. Now, I have a question,” I said as I pulled my notebook out of my pocket. “Major, how much longer do you think this war will continue?” I asked. 

            The major set down his cup. “Until our victorious army crushes the evil forces of that Devil Khomeini.” 

            “I see. But surely this war can not go on forever. Hundreds of thousands have died already.” 

            “Yes, this is true. But I think that Iran is wearing down. Our superior forces have crushed their last offensive and if they try again, we will do it again. They can’t win.” He pounded his fist on the table and then looked up towards the ceiling. “God is with us. We cannot lose.” 

            Joel set down his teacup. “I want to get some pictures and video in the morning. What do I need to know that is off limits to photograph?” 

            “My aide, Lieutenant Fasil will accompany you in the morning.” 

            “That’s fine,” Joel replied. 

            Our interview lasted about thirty minutes until the major had to attend to some business. We said good-night and left the tent. We walked past the tent towards the generator tent. Just then, the same soldier I had spoken to before, approached us. We stopped and shook hands. 

            “Hello.” 

            “Hello.” I replied 

            “I want to talk to you,” the soldier said but with some hesitation. I sensed that he was uncomfortable. Maybe it was because of Joel. 

            “He’s okay,” I said, patting Joel on the back. He smiled at both of us and then looked around. 

            “When you go back to United States, can you take something back to my sister?” he asked. 

            “Well, it depends. I’ll try.” 

            He pulled out a small gold box about six inches square. It was magnificent. It had three large rubies on the cover. It had some cuneiform writing on the outside and an engraving of some god or something on the back. 

            “If you could take this back to United States and sell it, I would be very happy. I must get some money to my sister. She is having hard time with money. I cannot keep this since all ancient properties belong to the government.” 

            “Where did you get this?’ I asked in total amazement. 

            “Sh--” he put his finger to his lips. 

            “It’s beautiful,” Joel replied. 

            He gave me the object. I held it in my hand and turned it around to look at all sides of it. Then I handed it to Joel to look at it. 

            “I found it while digging a trench near here. Others have been found too,” the soldier answered. 

            “We must be on top of some ancient city or something,” Joel said. 

            “I know that you could keep this without getting it to my sister, but I want to trust you. If I get caught hiding this, I may be shot. It has happened to others. But it’s worth much money, right? You can split the money three ways. But please, one third to my sister, okay?”    

             We looked at the object again. “How are we going to get it past customs?” I asked Joel. 

            He shook his head. “I’ll put it in my camera case for now, until I can think of something,” he answered. 

            “Here is my sister’s address in Seattle,” the soldier said as he gave us a piece of paper. 

            Joel took the paper, folded it up, and placed it in the camera case too. “We promise to get it to your sister, Abdul, isn’t it?” 

            He nodded yes. “My sister’s daughter is very sick. She needs operation. You understand? 

            “Yes, we understand!”           

Just then, Iraqi artillery started up their bombardment of Iranian positions. It was deafening. So that’s where the major went, I thought to myself. 

Joel looked at me and then looked at the soldier. “Yes, we’ll do our best. It’s so beautiful,” he shouted. 

“So is my sister and her daughter,” the soldier said. 

Just then, a flash of light appeared. I remember flying through the air. The next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital. A nurse was looking down at me and smiling. 

“Where am I?” I asked. 

“You’re at Boston General Hospital. You were hit by a shell in Iraq. They flew you directly here. You’ve been in a coma for five days.” 

I looked around. My eyes opened wide. In the closet were my clothes and muddy boots and there next to them was Joel’s camera case, covered in dried mud. I could see that it hadn’t been open for the mud had formed a seal around most of it, much like a king’s seal. I smiled at the nurse. She smiled back. I closed my eyes to dream about the treasure, a treasure worth a king’s ransom. I knew that I would be rich. Now, all I had to do was find out what happened to Joel and book a flight to Seattle.            

                       Short stories I wrote for Creative Writing class at Portland Community College in 1984.