top of page

A Little Too Late

By Cassandra Fonseca

“On the count of three, okay.” He didn’t phrase it like a question, more like a statement. I look at Roberts before looking back up at the sky. The sky that was filled with a smoky haze, that changed the color of the sky into an orange that never seemed to leave. Even at night you still had the orange sky as a constant reminder of where we were, only a bit darker and deeper in color. “1... 2... 3” Roberts and I hopped up and over the trench and got low on our bellies as quickly as we could. We start crawling forward and the dirt around us shifts. Distant sounds of booms could be heard, some more close than others. Too close. We made our way around any bodies that were lying on the ground. Smells of different stages of decomposure and wounds that had begun rotting swarmed the air as we passed by. I kept my nose low to the dirt as bullets flew past in different directions, some whizzing by in their proximity. Others are making their way into the dirt with soft muffled pfft pfft pfft pfft as they miss their marks and go into the ground. Dust is up in the air creating a hazy layer over the field. The smell of pungent sulfur makes its way across the field from the shots that are cracking from their gun chambers. A groaning fills my ears, driving me forward toward the sound. Together we finally scrambled to Kallens’ groaning body. A wave of relief washes over me as I hear his body react to the pain he was in. I should be feeling bad. I should be feeling remorseful, but instead, I am feeling relieved. Relief that the man who went through boot camp training with both Robert and

I, is feeling pain. Feeling pain meant you were alive. I’m relieved because it meant that he was alive and not dead like the others. “Grab him by the arm, right under his armpit” “Got it” And again, “1... 2... 3” We pull Kallens’ body towards us and we scoot backwards, getting closer to the trench we’ve been in for the last few days. We kept counting off and pulling his body closer trying to get there as quickly as we could while staying as flush to the ground as we could get to it. The pfft of bullets hitting the ground started firing closer towards us, and beads of sweat that were forming under my helmet rode down the side of my face. Just as our feet lost the feeling of the ground underneath them we knew we had finally dragged Kallens’ body back to our trench. All we had to do was get in there and pull his body in after us. Thunks started to sound as bullets made their path into the wood and sandbags that lined the top of the trench on the other side. I looked up as I slid my body into the trench and reached for one of Kallens’ arms, but he had swung it over to the side of his body, not giving me any leverage to haul him back into the trench. I curse under my breath. Roberts still had a grip on Kallen's forearm and he started pulling while I reached even further over the trench on my stomach now, locking my hand into the bend of his elbow. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something hit the ground and rolled closer to where we were before stopping, only just a few feet away. I tilt my head and see the baseball-shaped green thing in my line of vision. The realization of a missing pin hit me like a cold wave of ice water hitting my body. I yell and pull Kallens as quickly as I can. The loud and explosive force makes both Kallens' body and mine fly back into the trenches. The sound of my head hitting the wooden boards on the inside makes a loud crunch, with some of the wood splintering from the impact. Kallens’ body slams into mine and we both slide against the boards and onto the ground. Roberts, who was already in the trenches pulling from the inside, rubbed his eyes. He was probably clearing dirt from his eyes after the explosion. He then rushed to our side hauling Kallens off my lap into a sitting position to the left of me. His mouth is moving but all I'm hearing is the ringing in my head, loud and persistent. I sit there trying to hear his words as he’s looking at me, speaking. I stare at his lips and finally, I can read the movements of his lips. “Are you hurt? Did you get hit?” I look down at my body, running my hands over my arms and chest that were over the trench wall when the grenade went off. Not feeling any pain or seeing any blood, I shake my head at Roberts. He nods and looks back at Kallens, doing a secondary check over his body. I hold my hands over my ears to quiet the sound that seems to only be in my head. I lick my dry cracked lips and the taste of metallic on my tongue can confirm that my mouth is bleeding somewhere. I open my eyes looking up at the clouds overhead, the same view I have been seeing for the last few weeks. The sun was hiding somewhere behind the clouds and the smoke that was over the battlefield. It seemed to be in the middle of the sky. Which means it was sometime in the middle of the day. The sky would have been a bright blue if it hadn't been for the smoke that gave the sky an orange haze. God, I miss seeing a clear blue sky. Finally, all at once, the sound came to me solid, clear, and loud. Booms could be heard overhead and noisy plane turbines passed overhead out of sight until the sound faded and they were gone. Bullets were fired out of gun chambers and the yelling of orders trying to project over it all was fighting to get heard. I lean forward on my hands and knees and get into a crouching position. A ringing again starts up in my head as I go over to Kallens, whose mumbling words I cannot make out. I see both Roberts and Wattson dressing his wounds as best as they could. Wattson pulled shards that were from the blast and cleaned up any cuts his face had. Roberts applied pressure to the side of his abdomen from where he got shot. “Martinez.” I shift my eyes over to Wattson’s grimy face. She had dirt and dried blood on her face and it really made her eyes pop, her blue eyes almost seemed to be glowing brightly. Any loose hair that left her tight bun, was plastered to the side of her face from the sweat. Despite it only being the end of spring, it was hot, and probably why she kept her helmet off. “Martinez, can you hear me?” I nod my head, “Yea, I can hear now.” “Good, I need you to get more gauze until we wait for help.” “You already radioed for more help.” She nodded grimly, looking at the spot where Roberts' hands, slick with shiny red blood, were still putting pressure on the wound at Kallen's side. “There’s no way he continues after this, the bullets lodged in too deep for us to remove in the field without making it worse.” “So he’s getting out of here then?” She pauses, staying quiet for a bit, thinking. “Yea, most likely is.” She responds back. A shaky sigh escapes me and I nod, “Good. That's another one of us that has a shot of making it out here.” She purses her lips but doesn’t say anything more than “ The gauze.” I moved slowly over to the supplies we had in our first aid field kit. Supplies growing more and more sparse each day as we move on through this war battle. It feels like it has been years down here. We start off with a squad of ten people. We lost Hanes from a bullet to his thigh and stomach. Johns threw his body on top of a grenade that made its way into our trench. Boy, that one was messy. Messy and one of the hardest ones we had to deal with. The selflessness of that man is what saved a lot of us. We lost Rodriguez to a bullet to the head when he and McCloud tried to get Samuels out from on top of the trenches but a raid of bombing planes flew down the space between our trench and the enemy's trench, which ended up taking both McCloud's and Samuels’ life. That night was probably one of the first nights when it felt like it was never going to end. The bombs that were dropping, lasted for hours and hours into the night. When it finally stopped, the other side started their assault quickly after taking Little Johns and Matthews. All who were left were Roberts, Wattson, Kallens, and Myself. I grab Wattsons helmet and place it on the crook of my elbow and I grab the gauze, fumbling with the wrapping to get it open as I make my way back. I heard all three of them making conversation. I crouched by Wattson and when I finally got it unwrapped and open, I handed the gauze over to her and I place the helmet by her thigh. “What do you think should be the first thing I do when I get out of the hospital, Martinez?” I look over at Kallens, thinking for a moment before I respond. “Well, I’d go to the nearest breakfast spot and get me some nutella waffles with fresh strawberries and bananas,” I nod my head confirming my choice. “Oh, and some whipped cream on top of it all.” Kallens smiles, “You can’t forget the whipped cream. Roberts said I should have a cold beer.” A slight grin splays across my face. “Roberts would say that.”

A small grunt could be heard coming from Robert as he and Wattson were packing the gauze at his wound and trying to get it to stay in place by wrapping self-adhesive around his torso. “You’d go see your family,” Wattson said matter-of-factly. Kallens’ smile gets bigger and for a long while he’s quiet. “That’s exactly right.” More silence stretched out before he spoke again. “You know Eva is 4 now; Krissy was thinking about putting her in pre-school you know. I told her to wait another year, wait until I come home; when she’s 5 she can go to school. My baby’s still... well, my baby. She only just learned how to pee on the toilet, we don’t need any accidents at school.” He laughs softly, “Yea, I’d see my girls right away. And you know what, I'd get me a nice home-cooked meal from Martinez’s Puerto Rican mom too. You’d always rave about her beans back at boot camp training, saying they were the best.” “Swear he’d talk about them in his sleep too. Even Rodriguez said he heard it and he was your bunkmate.” Roberts said. Just as I was about to deny it, Kallens looks up, and his whole face changed. His eyes get wide, his mouth is slightly parted and it seems like his face pales. “You guys... do you see it.” I frown looking up and then back down at Kallens, his eyes starting to water slightly. Wattson and Roberts match my movements and give each other a questioning look. I say, “What” “It's blue.” I look up at the same orange sky it’s been and back down at him. “What are you talking about Kallens” “The sky it’s finally blue, can’t you see it? It looks...”

I stare back up at the sky but as his words trail off and I look back to Kallens. He blinks for a few moments, his breathing is quick and fast until it stops. His eyes go still and he doesn’t blink anymore and a ragged breath racks through me as I look up at Roberts and Wattsons faces. Through blurry eyes, I watched the color further drain from his already pale face, with his tear-filled eyes that just started falling down the side of his face. His eyes stayed unmoving, staring up at the sky, and left me feeling eerie. Because he was supposed to make it. He was gonna get out but he didn’t. He stared up at that stupid orange sky thinking it was blue, thinking he was finally out. But he wasn’t. He died out here in the trenches just like everyone else in our squad did. Just like we probably will sometime soon. Fighting in a war with another country for land. Gaining a few inches and losing a few inches. Dying under the same damn orange smoke-filled sky. It’s only inevitable. Will we see a blue sky? Is that how we’ll know it’s our time, when we see a blue sky so clear we think we’ve made it out? Maybe that’s not a bad thing, to think we’ve made it out. At least that could be the one peace we’d get or Kallens one peace of mind that he’d get. Wattson moved her hand over his face and shut his eyes. She let out a tired sigh and Roberts’ shoulders shook with soft sobs that made his frame hunch over. We stayed silent and didn’t say a thing. We stayed this way until the help we called for arrived a little too late.


bottom of page