At night, the searching dry cold bore into bones like termites or bees into graying outhouses. She started wearing the next day’s uniform to bed. The daytime heat sagged tents and melted the bottoms of boots sticky and warped anything plastic left on a dashboard or near reflective metal. Sand hid in cracks, snuck in sheets, in shoes, gritty clung to hair and scratched cheeks. Last week the Second Corporal’s gun backfired and he lost two fingers. This morning there was an electrical fire in the munitions tent. From the barracks it sounded like a trash can full of bottle rockets.
She would have been home before November, but the Sergeant got himself half-run-over, and she was the only other person on base who knew Linux. Lieutenant Himar said he was willing to learn, but the Captain thought otherwise. Her mother wrote a letter to the President, but he didn’t respond.
Since she arrived there have been thirteen bodies returned, mostly burned or mangled, missing pieces, flesh hard and melted smelling, eyes wide surprised faces, if there at all. Also missing are nine legs, five whole hands, eleven arms, thirty-six fingers, and a an ear. The ear disappeared during a training exercise. The grounds were searched for hours, but it was never found.
She collects maps and had heard there was a mapmaker at a local bazaar outside the wire. The cab pulled up angled rear-heavy like a proud old mangy bear, coughing dust and sand that eventually settled, covering its foot prints. The rust pimpled roof swayed coughing a cloud southeast for eight miles then turned into a large parking lot. He waited while she went under the tall open-faced blue tarp stretched uneven across long angled steel poles. Rows of tables ran the length, people standing, sitting, talking, yelling selling shirts, trinkets, produce, weapons, televisions.
The mapmaker had a table near the back with handwritten labels marking stacks of regions. In a stack marked in English, ‘Obsolete’, she found a yellowish brown and blue partially topographical map with 1861 ornately scripted in the bottom right hand corner. She inquired about the price, paid, and holding it thumb covering the Eastern half of Turkey walked out through wide isles of people talking and children running, singing.