04 Kaneohe Bay Hawaii - Monday

Captured: Dreaming of home

© Copyright 2008 – 2009

Written by Banzai Ben



Chapter 4 – Sniper School Monday 03 September 2007


Khudabah, Pakistan - Night five


Ohhhh, Shit. What's that?


It's the damn rats biting me again; they woke me out of a great dream. Ah. I smashed that fucker. Maybe they’ll eat on him for awhile and not on me. Damned cannibalistic bastards. Every time I fall asleep, my feet slip down and the damned rats are just waiting.


Today, my captors continued with the torture and the questions. They realized that beating and water boarding didn't work, so they brought in some sort of electrical machine, and would shock the hell out of me when I wouldn't answer. When they cranked it up the last time, I passed out and woke up hanging from the ceiling again.


No food or water tonight, but I can lose myself in my mind, and maybe get some sleep . . .


Kaneohe Bay Hawaii – Monday Day Two


It' was a good thing that we were in Hawaii, because the nights are mild. Otherwise we would have gotten cold that night. I woke up just as it was thinking about becoming dawn. I really needed to get up and take a leak, but it felt so nice having Jens on my lap and holding her close, I decided the leak could wait.


After about thirty minutes of holding my lovely Jens, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon, she started stirring and woke up. She blinked her eyes a couple of times. At first she wasn't sure where she was.


Then she looked at me with those twinkling violet eyes and said, “Wow, I guess you did hold me for just a little while longer. I could get used to waking up like this.” She kissed my cheek. “Good morning, Honey. Are you ready to be my big, strong Marine today?”


“Yes, my love, but first I have some things to take care of in the bathroom that can't wait much longer,” I groaned.


She jumped up off my lap and held out her hands and helped me up. Ohh, I was stiff. I promised myself I’d stretch later, after the toilet. We went off to our separate bedrooms, and thirty minutes later, I was done with my morning routine. I heard Jens in the kitchen already when I came out of my bedroom into the living room.


She was ready for the day and was already making breakfast, I walked up behind her, wrapped my arms around her, and gave her a big hug.


“Good morning again, my love. Are you ready to be my big strong Marine today?”


She started laughing, turned and returned the hug. “Get the coffee, my dear, and set the table. Breakfast in three minutes.”


Breakfast was the same as the day before, which was fine by me. I love oatmeal for breakfast. Since I spent the time with the Tarahumara Indians, I’ve found that I did better if I ate more grains and less meat, I just wished that I could get some of their corn Pinole for my meals.


Again, Jens started the meal with a prayer. I’d have to ask her about that someday.


I looked over at Jens and said, “Jens, I have to tell you that last night was wonderful, but that I’m really confused. Things are moving so fast.” She started to look a little angry, but I continued. “Now, don't get upset. I meant every word that I said to you last night and even more. I don't understand it, but somehow I have fallen in love with you. I think that it started at the Leadville race and it has just been getting stronger for the last two days.


“But it's not like me, other than my parents I don't think I've ever loved anyone before – I certainly didn't love my ex-girlfriend like I love you – so I'm not sure how to act or what to do. But here’s one thing that I know, we can't have PDA (Public Display of Affection) at least when we’re on a base together. Even though I want to tell the whole world about us, we can't do that just yet. But I would like our relationship to be just like last night when we're alone together. It’ll be this way until we're no longer enlisted, but when that happens; I plan on making you Mrs. Blaine.”


She jumped up out of her chair, came over to me and pushed my chair back, straddled my lap, and sat down, looking me in the eyes. “Then I’ll resign right now so that I can be your 'whole' wife!”


“Jens, that would be a big mistake for both of us, and you know it. First, you have worked too long and too hard to give it up; second, you’re too damn good to quit; and third – and the most important – if you quit, I'll still be going away on missions and you won't be able to come with me. If you’re my spotter, we can travel together and be together.” Sometimes I do come up with good ideas.


She searched my eyes. “The first two, I’d give up in a moment for you . . . but you’re right on the last one. It would drive me crazy if you were gone and I wasn't there to take care of you. It does make sense for me to stay in, but it's going to be hard as hell not to touch you when we are in public.”


“Jens, just remember how you were the last two days – you did touch me and you did hug me, and no one thought anything about it. And remember how you flirted and acted even during the Leadville race? I’d really miss it if those things changed.” I made my point and she liked it.


“Well, my love, it's time to get moving today. You’re in Ben's boot camp.” As she got up off me, I swatted her tight butt. “Get moving, Marine!”


“If I don't, will you spank me more?” she asked mischievously. That’s the Jens that I know and love.


She cleaned up the dishes this time, and we went to our rooms to brush our teeth and to get our sidearms. I always like to spend about an hour and a half doing 'my' PT first thing in the morning, and it was about time that Jens was indoctrinated into the routine.


You see, you don't need to spend hours in the gym and become a 'gym rat' to get and be in shape, but it does take some time each day. If I wasn't active in the Marines, I could probably have pared my workout down to half an hour a day, but to keep this lean, mean fighting machine tuned took me an ninety minutes each day.


We jogged over to the gym at an easy pace to warm up our muscles. I break down the muscles into three groups; that way I can work out each day and each set of muscles gets worked twice a week. The seventh day, I don't rest like God did. I use that day to crank out some serious aerobics.


Today was shoulders, chest, and triceps (the back of the arms). We started out doing military presses with dumbbells. We picked a weight that was comfortable and did presses for one minute using proper form and technique; I’m a stickler on this. We pressed the dumbbells up in a slow and controlled motion. Then, at the top of each press – when most people quit – we clenched our trapezius muscles (the big muscles on the side of the neck that goes from the neck to the top of the shoulders), forcing the dumbbells up and even higher. Then we slowly lowered them back to the start. We did as many reps as we could in one minute.


After that, we dropped the weights and did single leg squats for one minute to keep our heart rates up. It took just a little bit of work and teasing to get Jens doing them right by the end of the 5th set.


Next on the agenda was shoulder flies, with the same routine – lift slow, hold when the arms are at 90 degrees to the body (any higher can damage the shoulders), then clench the traps and slowly lower to the start.


This time, we did step ups on the bench for our one minute rest.


Shoulders were done, so it was time for the chest, and the first exercise was the dumbbell press. However, as usual, we added a few twists to it. We found a weight that was comfortable, lay back on the bench, then pressed our arms slowly up to a forty-five-degree angle to the floor. When we reached the top, we clenched the pectorals (chest muscles), forcing the weights up even higher, and lowered them slowly back to the start position.


Jens had some problems with this because she started out too heavy, but once we got the right weight she said, “I like this exercise; maybe it will make my breasts bigger.”


I leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Anything more than a mouthful is wasted.” She started laughing and dropped the weights. We did five sets.


In between the sets, we did jumping jacks.


The second chest exercise was chest flies, with the pec clench at the top. Five sets of those.


Squat thrusts in between.


We were done with the weights for the shoulders and the chest, so it was time to do some functional exercises. The first one was hand stand shoulder presses, again watching the form. Jens couldn't balance that well, so she did them against the wall, and I actually helped her up and down by grabbing her ankles.


Five sets with duck walks in between.


The second functional exercise was the dive bomb. You start out in the yoga position of downward facing dog, then you bend your elbows and let your body come forward about an inch off the floor. As your breasts pass your arms, you push your arms up, locking your elbows, and bending your back in a reverse arch; sort of like cobra position, but your body is off the ground. You then reverse it, and that is one rep. It's great for working the shoulders, chest, and arms, and is also a good stretch.


In between, we did squat jumps to keep our heart rates up.


The last functional exercise was the normal push up. Sometimes, I would change and do wide or diamond pushups, but that day, it was just normal pushups for five sets.


And of course, no rest in between. We ran in place.


Two more exercises and then we would be done. It was time to work the triceps. First off was the standing tricep press, and to keep from cheating, we kept our triceps locked to the side of our heads.


Five sets, and in between the sets, we went over and punched the heavy bag.


The last exercise was skull crushers. We lay on a bench and slowly lower the dumbbells until they are right over our forehead, if we slipped we’d crush our skull.


Five sets and more bag work in between.


In ninety minutes we did a kick-butt workout that worked part upper body and got a good aerobic pump going. What to do with the other fifteen minutes?


We spent five minutes of that time beating the crap out of the heavy bag with punches, slaps, elbows, knees, shoulders, feet, head, and whatever else we felt like hitting it with, all the time moving as fast as we could. Then five minutes on the punching bag to improve speed and eye- hand coordination. Then the last five minutes were full-fledged sit ups with weights behind our heads.


Jens looked over at me. “Are we done yet?”


“Can you lift your arms?” I replied.


“Just barely. I think I’ll be sore tomorrow,” she whined.


“Not if I give you a massage tonight,” I quipped.


“I think I’d like a 'Thai' massage tonight,” she said with a wink.


“Keep your pants on, Marine, you know better than that.” I acted upset.


She pretended to pout. “Gee, you're no fun. I’ve spent all my life keeping guys out of my pants. Now that I want one in them, he won't listen to me.”


“Okay, let's go. It's time to see if those rifles we have are worth a damn or if I'm going to have to send them back to the armory,” I said as I hopped up. I’m getting better at ignoring her comments.


We needed to go to the long-distance range, and that wasn't on base. So I sent Jens home to start packing and I ran to the motor pool to check out a Humvee. When I pulled up to our house thirty minutes later, Jens was waiting,


“Welcome home, Honey. Everything is ready to go, and I even called our escort. They’ll be here in ten minutes.” We started humping the gear into the Humvee and had just finished as the escort pulled up. “Hi, boys,” Jens greeted them. “It's good to see you.”


I just grumbled. It’s damn embarrassing having an escort, it's not like I can't take care of myself.


We jumped into the Humvee. I wanted to get her door, but the damn escort beat me to it. She reached across the seat, squeezed my hand, and said, “I know you wanted to get my door, but that time will come, Marine.”


Sometimes she is spooky.


The drive out to the range was uneventful, and we didn't lose the escort. We checked in with the Range Safety Officer (RSO). He asked what we were shooting.


Jens replied, “.338 Lapua long-range sniper.”


“I could put you on the thousand-meter range, but my guess is that with that round you might want to try some longer shots. So let's put you on the three thousand-meter range,” He answered, and gave us our spots and directions. We didn't need the directions; we’d both been here before. We drove over and unassed the equipment.


It was a lovely day in Hawaii, with just a few high clouds and, of course, a breeze, but that wasn't too bad, and shouldn't bother the shooting much at all. I took my rifle out of the case and set it up on the table. Jens took out her spotting scope and set up beside me.


I looked over at her and said, “A bad day shooting . . .”


She replied, “. . . is better than a good day at work!” and then we both laughed.


“Well, these are sighted in at six hundred meters. Let's see how accurate they are,” I said. “Jens, please run the first target out to six hundred meters.”


She complied. “Target one at six hundred meters.”


“Range me,” I said. Even though we both knew the range was six hundred meters, we still had to get used to working with each other. The keys to shooting accurately are: first, to avoid learning any bad habits; and second, to do the exact same thing each time.


The change that came over Jens was almost scary. The joking was gone, and she was all business. In a soft but audible whisper: “Range six hundred meters, elevation zero, wind thirty-six, at three gusting to five.”


Damn, the wind was going to make my first shot interesting. We did the calculations, and I made the scope adjustments, lined up the center cross hairs on the bullseye, took one deep breath and let it half out, and gently squeezed the trigger. The gun barked, and I lost sight of the target because of the recoil.


“Good shot, Banzai – center of bulls eye,” Jens squealed.


“Let's do it again,” I said. Four more shots later, I said, “Jens, please bring in the target.” She ran in the target and brought it over to the bench next to us. She took a quarter out of her pocket and put it over the five shots. It easily covered them, so she tried a nickel. It also covered them. Finally, she tried a dime, and even it covered them.


She looked at me with awe in her eyes, “That was incredible for your first time with this rifle.”


“This is one fine shooting rifle. Shit, it's even better than the one that I had when I left the Corps. And I don't know who sighted it in but they did a damn fine job,” I answered.


“Thank you,” she piped up. “I’m the one who sighted it in. I tried my best, but I sure couldn't shoot a group like that; mine was the size of a quarter.”


“Let's see you shoot five rounds, and perhaps we can figure out why,” I replied.


We stored the old target and ran a new one out to six hundred meters and switched places.


“Range me,” Jens said.


“Range, six hundred meters; elevation, zero; wind, thirty-eight, at three gusting to five,” I reported. Good. The conditions were about the same, so this will be an accurate test. We did the calculations, and Jens made the scope adjustments and settled in to try her first shot. She took in a deep breath, let it half out . . .


“Stop! Your position is just a little off. Try moving the butt of the rifle about a quarter of an inch to the left on your shoulder.” I showed her where I wanted it. She complied and started again – the deep breath, half out, and the gentle squeeze on the trigger. The .338 Lapua barked.


“Where did I hit?” she asked.


“One minute. I was watching your form not the target.” I checked in the spotting scope, looked at her, and smiled. “Dead center bulls eye. Do it four more times.”


We brought in the target after five shots, took it over to the bench. It was pretty small. The quarter easily covered it, the nickel just barely covered it, but the dime didn't.


She was jumping up and down and gave me a big hug. “That's the best group I’ve ever shot!”


I smiled. “You can do better; your follow through on the trigger isn't quite right. The shoulder position and the trigger were the only problems that I saw. Correct those, and you’ll shoot as well as I do.”


“Well, we know that you did a hell of a job sighting this in, let’s see what this will really do. Jens please run a new target out to one thousand meters,” I asked.


It's generally accepted that the maximum effective range for the .338 Lapua is 1800 meters at a warm sea level day like today and with the low drag bullets we’re using, but I've made kill shots at a great distance with my old rifle and it didn't shoot this well.


We took our places. “Range me.”


“Range one thousand meters, elevation zero, wind thirty-four, at three gusting to five.” She was all business again. I settled in and tickled the trigger, and the 98 Bravo spoke. After four more shots, Jens brought the target in.


“Son of a bitch,” she said as she covered the group with a dime, “A dime group at one thousand meters. I didn't think it could be done. Watching you shoot has made me so hot and wet; I want to take you here right now!”


My mouth dropped open; I didn't really know what to say. She saved me by saying, “Just kidding, honey. Now it's my turn.”


She took her turn, and I could tell she had listened to my advice, because when we pulled in her target, the quarter covered it, but the nickel didn't quite cover it. Again she started dancing and hopping around, “My best group, my best group!”


Damn. She sure got excited about shooting. I mean, I love shooting, but Jens might even be crazier about it than I am. We had put twenty rounds through this 98 Bravo and I didn't want to push it on the first day out. It was the best rifle I’ve ever shot and seemed to be getting even better as it was getting broken in. So I put Juliet, as I decided to call this one, in her case and pulled out the other 98 Bravo.


“I assume that you sighted this one in too?” I asked Jens


“You betcha,” was the snappy reply.


“Then let's not waste time trying it at six hundred meters. Jens, please run a new target out to one thousand meters.”


She ranged me and we went through the exact same steps, and I fired the first shot. I looked over at her and smiled. “This is even better than the first rifle.”


After four more shots, she pulled the target in, brought it over to the table, and whistled, saying, “Oh my God! Is that all one hole?” She took a bullet and put it through. It went through easily, but it stopped at the case. “Damn. I better not ever get you pissed off enough to shoot at me,” she said, walking over to me and giving me a big hug. “I guess you are my big, strong Marine!”


Holding her close, I said, “Let's see what this rifle will really do. Please run a target out to one thousand two hundred meters and bring me all the ammo. I want to look at it.” I could tell that someone really did a good job with this ammo, but there are always some minor differences, and I wanted to pick out five or ten of the best rounds that I could find. After about fifteen minutes, I found ten rounds that just “felt” better to me than the rest.


We went through the steps. Each time we did this, we became closer and were functioning more like one person rather than two. At the end of five shots, she brought in the target, her smile stretched from ear to ear.


“I can't believe it. A dime-sized group at one thousand two hundred meters. I don't know what to say.”


Finally, I’d found a way to shut her up.


“I do. I think I have five more good rounds and five more good shots in me. Please run the target out to one thousand eight hundred meters,” I said. I hoped I wasn't just showing off and wouldn’t regret this later, but it really felt like this rifle could do it.


“Range me, Sweetheart,” I said.


Her soft voice whispered back at me. “You say the nicest things. Range one thousand eight hundred meters, elevation zero, wind one eighty-two, at three steady.”


This time we got a little lucky. The wind had switched, was almost straight behind us, and wasn't gusting. I took the five shots and Jens brought the target in. It measured a quarter-sized group at one thousand eight hundred meters. Damn, this rifle could shoot.


Jens was elated. She was dancing and whirling around like a ballerina. She came over again and hugged me tightly – damn, I thought she was going to break my ribs – and said, “You’re not only the best damned sniper in the world, you’re also the best damned man in the world.”


I looked in her eyes and replied, “Jens, I couldn't have done this without you. You sighted in the rifles perfectly, and you’re the best spotter I’ve ever worked with. Your ranging was spot-on.”


She squeezed me even harder. “What's next?”


“Well, let's put Bravo in the case and head over and do some pistol practice,” I answered.


“Bravo?” she questioned.


“Yeah. I named the first rifle Juliet, because that’s what she felt like. This one is better and I felt like shouting, ‘Bravo,’ when I fired it.” I smiled at her.


“Do you name everything?” she asked, and winked at me.


"Of course. Doesn’t everyone?” I quipped back.


This time she blushed. We loaded up the Humvee, stopped by and told the RSO that we were leaving, and headed back to the base. We stopped by home and dropped off Juliet and Bravo in the safes – those two rifles were too good to lose – and had a quick sandwich and bowl of soup for lunch. Then we loaded up the Humvee and headed over to the pistol range.


Truth be told, I actually like shooting pistol better than rifle, and I like shooting revolvers better than pistols. I can remember when I was a little boy; the first gun my dad gave me was an old WWII Mauser in .22 long rifle. It was a training rifle for the Hitler youth that Grandpa brought back from WWII.


It had a nameplate on the butt. I always wondered who Otto Bruger was, but dad never told me. He had put a JC Higgens 4 power scope on it, and I must have shot millions of rounds through it. But when dad gave me an old Colt Frontier Scout single-action revolver in .22 long rifle, I was in love.


I carried that gun with me everywhere and shot it so much that we had to have the trigger assembly rebuilt three times. I spent my afternoons wandering the woods of our Leadville property playing Cowboys and Indians, but when I played the Indians always won.


Naturally, Jens was an excellent shot with a pistol, but I noticed that she only used her right hand. I walked over to her and said, “Please tell me you can shoot with the left hand.”


She looked at me, switched hands, and said, “Some, but I’m not as good as with my right.” So we worked on this for awhile.


“I want you to practice every day until you can shoot as well with your left as your right. You never know when your right hand will become injured you might be on an assignment.”


I went to the Humvee, opened the back, and got out my dad's old Colt revolvers and my quick- draw setup and brought them over to the table as Jens watched. I loaded one, skipped one, loaded four into the six chambers of the .45 Long Colt revolver; and repeated it on the second one. Jens looked at me sort of funny.


I explained, “These old revolvers have a poor excuse for a safety. If you load all six and accidentally drop it, it'll go off. By loading it this way, you always have the hammer on an empty chamber. Now, it's time to have some fun. I'm going to turn around. Throw your empty soda can out there, and then yell ‘go’.”


She did as told and I waited. “Go,” she shouted.


I spun around, saw the can, drew my right revolver just up to waist level, and nailed the can with the first shot. It went flying. I adjusted and fanned the revolver four more times, chasing the can down the range. Then I twirled the right Colt and holstered it, and drew the left Colt, fanned it five times, chasing the can with each shot, did a fancy twirl, and holstered the left revolver.


Jens stared at me. “Damn. I didn't know my big strong Marine was also a cowboy.”


“Indian,” I corrected.


“Sorry,” she said. “That looked fun. Can I try it?”


I took off my rig and it wouldn't really fit on Jens; she was too small. So I took the holsters off the belt and put them on her web belt, tying the bottoms of the holsters to her leg.


“MMMmm,” she purred, “You can do that all you want.”


I ignored the comment and said, “Before we load these, you need to practice without ammo. I don't want you to shoot yourself in the leg. When you first draw, don't try to do it fast; just do it smooth. The speed will come with practice.”


I spent about ten minutes working with her on her draw. She really listened and was a great student. She wasn't fast yet, but she was really smooth, and I knew that with some practice, she could draw like lightning.


“Okay, it's time to load up and let you shoot a few slow shots without drawing,” I said. She loaded them just like she had seen me do earlier.


She took the right gun slowly out of the holster, aimed, and fired. “Wow. This is much nicer to shoot than my M1911.”


Now she knew why I liked my revolvers.


“Don't try aiming this time,” I said, “Try shooting offhand and see how you do. Just pretend there is a line from the front of your barrel to the target.” She hit pretty close to the target's heart. She emptied out both revolvers and I reloaded them for her. “Let's try the can like I did earlier, but please don't draw the gun until you are fully turned around and facing downrange, and take your time. I don't want you to get shot.”


I threw the can, waited a couple of seconds, and shouted, “GO!”


Jens spun, saw the can, drew the right revolver, and hit it on the first shot, then missed one, then hit the last three. She holstered the right revolver drew the left and missed the first shot, hit the second, missed the third and the fourth, but hit the last one.


She looked over at me and pouted. “Damn it, damn it damn it, I missed four times.” She stamped her foot in anger.


I went over and hugged her. “I’m really impressed with your shooting. I’ve seen people who have done this for years not do that well. You made me proud.”


She hugged me back. It felt really good. I looked at my watch and knew we had to call an end to the shooting fun for the day. “Time to load up, my sweetie. I’m going to drop you at the Base Commander’s Office with our targets so you can give him a status report for our first day. I’ll make dinner tonight. You need to be home at seventeen-hundred sharp.”


“You’ll make me dinner? No one has ever done that for me before,” she replied.


“You’ve done so much for me that you deserve a rest tonight. I know that you’re a little sore from all the exercises earlier and the shooting. I want you to take it easy and recover for tomorrow.”


Tears were forming in the corner of her violet eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. So instead she hugged me.


We loaded up the gear and I dropped her at the Base Commander’s Office, “Remember, seventeen-hundred sharp. Don’t be early or late,” I said.


I had plans for the night, and I had to hurry to the BX and pick up all the surprises that I had planned for Jens. I was lucky, because it wasn't very busy this time of day. I grabbed everything and headed over to the cashier. Damn. It was the same girl as before, and she looked at what I was buying and just sort of smiled.


I looked at her and stammered, “I – have a girlfriend.” She just nodded her head.


I got home and dropped the gear in the extra bedroom. I'd clean the guns later that night. I fired up the charcoal grill and then I hopped in the shower and took a quick one. I threw on a different polo shirt and a new pair of shorts and started making the salad. It was a nice romaine lettuce salad with sunflower seeds, fresh strawberries, fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, cranraisins, and sliced almonds, with a nice raspberry vinaigrette for the dressing. I cleaned out the jalapeños and stuffed them with cheese and bacon, and whipped up some bourbon and honey glaze for the sirloins I’d bought at the BX. Lastly, I threw the ranch-style beans into a pan.


Fifteen minutes until Jens was due to arrive. Perfect. Time to start her bath. I went through her bedroom and into her bathroom, threw a bunch of bath salts and bubble bath into the tub, and started the water running. Then I lit the ten candles that I bought at the BX and arranged the roses that I’d picked up in a nice vase I found in the kitchen. I turned on some nice relaxing classical music on her boom box and turned out the light. It looked awesome.


I had just run back to the kitchen and made a quick batch of Ben's famous margaritas in the blender when I heard Jens open the front door and come in saying, “Honey, I'm home.”


“Stop,” I said. “Don't move. I have a surprise for you.” I came out of the kitchen. “Dinner will be in forty-five minutes, but first you need to get cleaned up. Close your eyes and keep them closed.” She did, and I lead her through her room and into her bathroom.


“You can open your eyes now,” I said.


She blinked a couple of times, looked at everything, hugged me, and started crying. “This is the nicest and most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me. I love you, Ben.” She hugged me even tighter.


“My dear,” I said, “Your bath is getting cold. Enjoy yourself, and the steaks will be done in about forty-five minutes.” I handed her a margarita. “Don't get too drunk, and wear some comfortable clothes.” She was still crying some when I left, but I had a meal to finish preparing.


I had just finished glazing the steaks for the last time when Jens came out to the patio and found me at the grill. She was wearing a devil dog t-shirt and a pair of short shorts, was barefoot, and looked totally relaxed.


“That was wonderful,” she said as she gave me a big hug. “I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?”


“Refill the margaritas and sit down at the deck table. I’ll serve you,” I answered.


I grabbed the salad from the fridge and brought everything else to the table from the grill. I forgot to mention: when I grill, I really grill, so everything was cooked on the grill – the steaks, the jalapeño poppers, and the beans. I figure if you already have a fire, there’s no sense heating up the kitchen.


I raised my margarita glass in a toast:


“Here's to the prettiest,
Here's to the wittiest;
Here's to the truest of all who are true.
Here's to the neatest one,
Here's to the sweetest one;
Here's to them all in one -- here's to you!”


She started sniffling and raised her glass in a toast,


“Here's to you.
Here's to me.
And here's to the space between us.
One of us has to go.
Not you.
Not me.
But the space between us.”


We clinked our glasses, shared a drink, and continued on with dinner. Most of it was small talk until Jens started telling me how impressed the Base Commanding Officer was with our shooting. At first he didn't believe the distance, but once she started getting mad at him, he figured she was telling the truth.


She also mentioned that the General was going to be here tomorrow and wanted to meet with us. When she said that, I got a little worried. She said, “Don't worry, I won't let Daddy yell at you.” But I did wonder what he was going to think about Jens and me. What would he say about it?


“Ben, tonight was so wonderful, thank you for all your care for me,” Jens sighed contentedly.


“Oh, but it's not over yet,” I said, “I still have one more surprise for you. Go on inside and get comfortable. I’ll be in after I clean up.”


I cleaned up as fast as I could and found her in the living room. She had put on some nice music and was sitting on the couch waiting for me. I went into my room and grabbed the supplies and came back into the living room, where I spread the cushions on the floor, putting two sheets over them, and said, “Come here, my love, it's time for your massage. But it's not going to be a 'Thai' massage.”


She sat beside me. “How do I do this? I’ve never had a massage before.”


“I’ll leave the room. You take off all your clothes and get between the sheets. Make sure you are on your back first,” I said as I walked out of the room.


“Ready,” she called.


I used to get massages all the time so I was pretty experienced on how they should be done. I came in and knelt on the floor at her head, put some massage lotion on my hands, warmed it up, and started working her temples, head, face and neck.


Next, I moved the sheet down a little so I could do the front of her shoulders and her arms. She has a bruise on her right shoulder from shooting earlier. That would be sore tomorrow. I did her arms from the hands to the shoulders taking special care with each finger as she sighed contentedly. I then did each leg, from as high as I dared, to her feet, and paid special attention to each toe so I wouldn't tickle them.


“Roll over; it's time for your back.”


She did, and I continued. She had a wonderful back; very muscular, but not so much that it looked gross. But it was really tight, and I spent a lot of time kneading out the knots in it. Finally, I finished with the back of her legs. She must have shaved, because they sure were smooth. Her steady, deep breathing told me that she had fallen asleep, so I covered her up and went into the third bedroom to readjusted myself. I'm glad that she couldn't see the effect that she had on me. I’m sure that she would never let me live it down.


I spent a couple more hours cleaning and oiling the guns and making sure they were fine. I checked one more time on Jens, put her M1911 and Kabar where she would see them if she woke up, gently rubbed her back one more time, and wished that things could be different.


Then I went off to my bedroom to sleep, but I changed my mind. I grabbed my M1911 and my M1014, went back in the living room, took the cushions and blanket from the couch, and lay down by Jens to sleep.