In honor of Armed Forces Day (May 21), I hope you enjoy this flash fiction story.
I Didn’t Know You Were…
By Sarah Elisabeth
My fingers raced over the keyboard, drumming out my Facebook login info. I only had a few minutes to check notifications…
Bleep. A chat box with Darren Henderson popped up.
Darren: hey candace! what’s up?
Wow, hadn’t heard anything on that kid since our good ol’ days in 4-H. I didn’t have time to chat, but how rude was it to ignore? I should’ve put my chat offline first.
Candace: Just getting ready for a meeting. What are you up to these days?
Darren: i’m in iraq
His words were like pressing the shutter button of a camera. I was the picture for five seconds.
Darren: i’m a police officer in the air force
Candace: Okay, seriously, I didn’t even know you were in the military!
Candace: Wow, how long have you been over there?
Darren: almost a year. i come home in january
What could I say to someone who was protecting the freedom of our country? My freedom?
Candace: What’s it like? Is anything the news media says true?
Darren: lol, i don’t know, we don’t watch it much. what are they saying?
Candace: Nothing important. What made you decide to join?
Darren: idk, to do something different. an adventure. it’s a little more than i thought. man, it’s hot!
Candace: haha, I’ll bet. Texas summers had to prepare you some though 😉
Darren: yeh, but not really. The sand gets in everything!
Candace: So what exactly do you do?
Darren: i patrol the base and keep everyone in line
Candace: lol, who keeps you in line?
Darren: i keep myself in line
Candace: true. My mom says she remembers you were always responsible. She said to tell you hi!
Darren: hi to her!
Darren: i’ve lost like 20 pounds since i joined. have you seen my pics on here?
Candace: not yet. Hang on, my computer’s freezing up
Candace: okay, it’s going now
Candace: dude! What’s with the tattoo?
Candace: So, do you need anything?
Darren: well, i could always use some snacks, magazines. stuff like that.
Candace: what address do I send them to?
It took a few seconds before Darren posted the address which I copied into a Word doc and saved. Magazine titles began rolling around in my head. He was always into hunting and fishing…
Darren: how is everyone there? any small town excitement?
Candace: haha, you know us, a regular party town, lol. County Fair just ended, made me think of all the good times we had as kids
Darren: yeah that seems like a lifetime ago
Candace: man, I just can’t believe you’re in Iraq! Must be tough – I couldn’t imagine
Darren: yeah, it’s kinda hard sometimes. A friend of mine was killed by a roadside bomb a few weeks ago. You just learn to move on
Candace: I’m so sorry to hear that. You take care of yourself!
Darren: i do
I swallowed down the lump that came with my tears. I was glad this wasn’t a phone conversation.
Darren. A few years my junior, but he still seemed like a kid to me. And good kid he was. I couldn’t be prouder.
Darren: well, i gotta go. time to eat and stuff
Candace: Okay, it was awesome chatting with you! Hey Darren?
Candace: thanks for your service. I’m proud of you. We all are
Candace: We’ll be praying for you!
Darren: thanks! can’t wait to see you guys when i get home!
Candace: us too! Take care of yourself
Darren: thanks for chatting with me. bye!
Candace: see ya soon
Darren is offline.
A minute passed before I took a breath. I was thankful I hadn’t missed this opportunity by putting my chat offline. Even if it made me a few minutes late to the meeting.
I clicked on the document with Darren’s address and made a list:
Magazines (hunting, fishing)
Thank you card
Only a few days had passed when I took Darren’s box to the post office. They sent me home with an extra form to fill out. With everything in order, it shipped. I wondered how long it would take to reach him. I hoped it made it safely. I hoped he was safe.
A month later the notification from Facebook I’d been waiting for appeared.
Darren Henderson wrote on your wall:
hey guys! thanks so much for the box!!! so awesome!!!!! can’t wait to see y’all!!!!!!!!
Author Note: This story is based on an actual Facebook chat with a US soldier serving in Iraq