The rain was positively pelting the car’s windshield. Wipers swished at full blast, but that didn’t make it any easier for the young mom at the driver’s seat to see the road in front of her. Driving across the South into Texas, on the way to their next assignment seemed interminable, especially with her hungry infant tucked in his carseat behind her. Shoulders rounded over the wheel, she leaned forward, tired, worn out, and slightly jealous of her husband, who was an hour behind her with their happy and willing dog. She was thirty minutes from her destination, catching glimpses of the ranches she sped past, and begging her baby to hang on for just a bit longer.
And then finally, finally, she entered Killeen, home of Fort Hood, and saw the sign for her hotel standing over the buildings ahead. Taking a deep breath, she slowed the Corolla and stopped at a light, at last able to take in the surroundings. But her eyebrows furrowed and her stomach dropped when she saw the town that was supposed to be her new home. Old buildings were crammed along the road, with fast food joints and discount car dealerships standing just about anywhere there was a corner of space. The street was cracked and potholed. A few men in ragged clothing huddled under a bus stop. “What… is… this?” she wondered out loud.
The light changed, and she turned into the hotel parking lot. People loitered under overhangs, smoking cigarettes and looking around at seemingly nothing. The pavement was crumbling, and as she drove the car around the back of the hotel, she winced at the peeling paint, dingy railings, and outside-facing room doors. She pulled the car to a stop and thought with a feeling of dread, What have we gotten ourselves into? Continue reading