(Last Sunday: A contrast in heroism: Chartan gets credit for saving people from a forest fire while Brazil patrols the streets of war-torn Kyiv.)
“We bleed like everyone else—the same goes for dying,” said Brazil to a crowded room of international fighters. “I’m ready.”
Fifty years ago Brazil had said these same words to men in his unit as they were minutes away from crawling through a Vietnam jungle. This time he wasn’t certain the men he was facing were listening to him. He had an old body that ached all over. They didn’t have to listen, all that counted were his actions and he had no hesitation about storming a building occupied by Russian troops. There were a few more soliloquies issued before the only sound was breathing. Suddenly, without a word the group of 20 men moved like a python slithering through the rubble of war. This was why he had come—this was a time to live or die.
The combat lasted less than 15 minutes. The handful of Russians who weren’t killed surrendered. Brazil looked into the prisoners’ eyes for reasons why they were fighting. He saw the faces of men who had given up.
Chartan’s knuckles were red—he’d been gripping the limo’s steering wheel too tightly. His fare of six teens on prom night did not anger him as he had expected. They appeared to be good kids, still he was prepared to absorb some inane comment from someone in the backseat. Instead, at the evening’s conclusion one of the girls look intently into his eyes when she asked him for his autograph.
“Why do you want it? “ he asked.
“You’re a hero Mr. Chartan and I don’t know any,” she replied.
He signed the napkin from the hotel where the prom had been held. The young girl took the napkin gently from his hand as if she thought it might rip at the slightest tug, then she ran to a car on the street outside of Sloan’s parking lot. He watched her hug her date before getting in on the passenger side of the car. It was a soft moment in a day where Chartan had thrown up self-imposed obstacles as he fought off images Gina straining to give birth and Brazil dying in a hail of bullets. Now a teenage girl had restored his faith in the simplicity of goodness.
(Continued next Sunday)