(Last Sunday: Chartan is upended by Brazil’s decision to go to Ukraine to fight the Russians.)
Chartan gripped the limo’s steering wheel hard while trying to block out the conversation of the four young people he was driving. They were talking to each other at once and although he had the glass window up, he was drowning in their muffled voices undulating like ocean waves crashing against boulders. He assumed they were buzzed and devoid of intelligent thought. But he had to keep driving to earn money now that Gina was on her last day of work, three months away from her due date. He considered the requirement that he had no choice but to deal with the mounting traffic on Interstate 80 on a late Friday morning.
“Driver, could you make a pit stop at the next Starbucks?” The shrill intercom voice was like a nail going through his head.
“Yes” was all he could manage to say at this pivotal economic moment in his life.
He eventually eased into the Starbuck’s parking lot where he usually stopped when driving Minerva to her San Francisco therapy session with Dr. Kodor. His passengers piled out of the limo—clowns tumbling out of a tiny car, thought Chartan. When they were out of eyesight, he grabbed the thermos filled with his 72-bean coffee. The first sip cleared his mind, even to the point of forgiving his passengers in pursuit of a good time.
He wondered where Brazil was at this moment. Perhaps, bullets were zinging over his head, or more likely he was in a building shaking from the onslaught of nearby bombing. He hoped his friend was safe.
In fact, Brazil and eight other American vets who fought in Afghanistan, were riding in a van that had just left Poland for Kyiv.
“Where did you serve?” asked the man next to Brazil.
“I’m your old timer from ‘Nam.”
“You still look like a warrior.”
“That never leaves you.”
(Continued next Sunday)