Call it the end of the trilogy; call it a continuation, whatever. I started Al-Hadith Hilton because I wanted to explain the scene in 'Embedded' where Sgt. Scream gives away his phone card when he can't quite find the intestinal fortitude to make a call. Who didn't he call? Why? Why the face? He'll walk the length of a frigging town being shot at by people who'll carve a notch in their lipstick case when they off him to get Smoke out of trouble but a five minute phone call is too much? Below you'll find my take, also known as the loose end tier that I didn't dare title Scream Goes to America because I have better sense than that.
North Bellmore, NY - 4:00 A.M.
The air smelled like coffee and leather conditioner. His skin wasn't coated in thin layer of chalky sand. The interior temperature of the car he was riding was just right in fact, barring the NPR broadcast on food shortages in Nigeria, the inside of the pimped out '78 Continental was actually bearable. So this was home.
Staff Sergeant Silas had arrived at La Guardia via Baltimore only minutes earlier surprisingly relaxed for a man who'd spent the past twenty hours aboard three different planes. An auspicious computer glitch had bumped him to first class just out of Kuwait and a sympathetic stewardess with a son in the British Army's Special Forces kept him on milk and cookies on the London-Baltimore leg of his flight where he'd also been introduced to the wonders of a fully flat sleeper seat, noise canceling headphones standard to each station and a practically endless DVD library including seasons three and four of the Sopranos which he had skimmed back to back.
At 4:41 A.M. New York time, Dean Brody, friend and current tenant turned into the driveway of Silas' house. His greeting at the airport had been something of a low-key puppy-made-a-mess-in-the-sofa and Brody, retired infantryman and current truckie for ladder 35 waited until Silas was out of the car before letting on why.
"I kinda let it slip to Vivian you might be in town this week. I'm sorry man, you know this place; news was like a brush fire."
"She'll be working till five," Chris said trying optimism on for size.
"Yeah, about that," Dean added shifting to first, "Lula gave her the week."
"It's a warm body man," he offered revving the engine. "Breakfast at Marybill after my shift? Moran's covering; I got another couple hours left."
"Sure." Silas tapped the roof of the car and watched the Bellmore Fire Department sticker on the bumper get smaller as Dean sped out of the driveway.
Silas turned around, duffel in hand to admire his house. How many landlords out there could count on a comfortable bed in their tenant's basement on no more than a day's notice and free of charge? The place was typical North Bellmore meaning birdhouse-like construction of PVC siding, narrow porch, a detached one car garage, and unless one of Dean's many live-in girlfriends had had her way, a very large, garish hot tub facing the wood deck in the back yard.
Curtains rustled in the window and the front door flew open signaling the end of quiet reflection. Silas found himself halfway to the porch when 117 pounds of blonde latched on to his neck. It was a photo-op like no other: soldier in a pressed Class A uniform assaulted by fluffy blonde welcoming him home. It was weird, he thought, tagging a high school sweetheart with a term like 'fluffy blonde.'
"Oh baby, I was so happy when Dean said you called him to get a ride from the airport! I know you probably wanted to surprise me at work but I couldn't wait so long to see you. Are you mad at me for ruining your surprise baby? Oh I've missed you so much!" It was a barrage of high pitched joy. Silas waited until an appropriate length of time had passed before he began the process of unlatching the blonde.
"Why don't we go inside?"
"I am making your favorite for dinner baby, baked ziti! I have the whole week off to wait on you hand and foot. We are going to have so much fun baby." Vivian closed the door.
The unjustly demonized thirties had been treating her with kid gloves. Vivian remained trim, pretty, perky, mostly bright and still, he couldn't get over how all it had managed to grate in two minutes flat. Silas had stopped reading her letters long before Sophie, before Jamila. He had most of a year's worth of her chatter unread in a shoebox in Iraq and no way to end the verbal downpour at hand. He heard the word 'ziti' for the third time and wondered how pasta could be so relevant. It was the same when he called her; Vivian's incessant natter, struggling to fill dead air exacerbated by the satellite phone's transmission delays when silence would have sufficed; ziti, ziti, ziti hammering his temple then her hands on his belt. Silas held both her wrists at an arm's length.
"I think you should go home."
"I just got here."
"Baby," she cooed attempting to resume her ministrations, "I know it's been a long time. I don't care about me okay? I want to make you feel good. It's okay if…"
"I want to be alone Vivian." His tone was harsher than he would have liked but it got the point across. The screen door slammed into its frame.
Outside Vivian Moretti lit her last Parliament and tried to disappear in her tiny knit cardigan wondering what she was doing cold and by herself on this particular side of the wall. She had spent the whole night washing, waxing, curling and exfoliating her anatomy in preparation for Chris' impeding arrival and now he was inside and she was outside, smoking, trying not cry and way behind schedule if she was to send him back to Iraq in two weeks with his grandmother's diamond solitaire safely around the ring finger of her left hand. She heard the clickety clack of dress shoes on the basement stairs and decided to go home to recoup. No man who spent two years around hairy, smelly women in a glorified sandbox could ignore Miss Triborough First Runner-up forever.
I couldn't resist a shout out to my pimpmobile. It's not quite as gorgeous as I imagined it for this little write up coz it still needs a lot of cosmetic work but I just love my gas guzzler and I needed to share that. I'm one of those people who name their cars you see.