Thornbush was indeed happy with the shot of the Huey as it descended from less than 600 feet. She used a wide-angle telephoto lens on her Leica. In her mind she had programmed the sequence of scenes which would be a part of her masterpiece report on “A Wounded Christmas”. Her title had changed. It could change again before Christmas was over. But for now, she envisioned her journalistic achievement would be both an historical document and a Pulitzer candidate. She readied her Leica. The throbbing pulsations of the Huey got closer and then it dropped directly toward the landing circle with its blinking red lights. Except that now you couldn’t see the light anymore. In fact you couldn’t see anything but white. There was snow blowing up everywhere with gale force.
“Shit. Goddamn it to hell.” Thornbush was caught in the midst of the Huey’s rotor-wash. Snow was blown upward like a reverse tornado snowstorm. She had framed her Leica directly on the landing platform when the white stuff hit the fan. The lens and Thornbush herself were completely coated in soot-covered snow. It was soot-covered because that was what happened to snow in New York City and its immediate environs like the borough of Queens. She also should have kept her mouth shut. Thornbush received a mouthful of the unclean precipitation and because the blast of snow had timed itself to occur at the end of her last statement, her next oral effort was one of inhalation. She inhaled the unclean snow.
Good, Potska thought. Perhaps it was punishment for her blaspheming God. In his mind it was his mother coughing and sputtering. He felt good as he watched Thornbush scraping the gray snowy crust from her face, around her neck and her entire front. She had worn appropriate winter clothing of a dark color. Now her front was entirely white like off-white wedding cake icing. That was another thing. His mother didn’t want him to ever get married. Except for her, her boy Charlie should not go out with any women. Except for her, women were evil of mind and body. Potska had not found that to be true–just the opposite. He had experienced several girls in college and two in the Navy that were very nice and one he had developed a definite affection for. A relationship was indeed possible except her orders sent her to California and his orders were cut for New York. Any woman who reminded him of mother was a target for indifference, scorn and humiliation. His thoughts were brought back to the present as the Huey’s rotors stopped turning. The Duty Crew dismounted their vehicles.
“Santa goes to the ambulance.” LT Potska ordered. He motioned the ambulance corpsman to get to the chopper. He went over to Thornbush.
“I tried to warn you.” Potska had no regrets and no remorse.
“I missed…” She coughed out words and snow. “… my shots. It would have…” more wracking cough and iced sputum. “… been great copy.” She was almost in tears but her snowy facial crust obscured any facial emotion. Thornbush was still coughing up lung snow and looked at her Leica through a veil of eyelash icicles. “My other camera… is in the… bag that I left… at the Security Office. Will you… take me… there?” Her speech was getting clearer but the coughing was uncontrollable and persistent.
“First things first Ms. Thornbush. Santa Claus has to get to the mess hall.” He smiled inwardly at the woman in obvious respiratory difficulty from the aspirated dirty snow. “You can ride with Santa in the ambulance. I have to take the Huey Pilots. You might better see the JMOOD about your coughing. Inhaling that snow can’t be a healthy thing.”
“All right.” Thornbush coughed out the reply. “Damn…” She hacked out more soot-tinged sputum. “… a … missed… opportunity. This…sucks.” She watched as the corpsmen helped the corpulent Santa from the chopper. They practically held him up and lifted him into the ambulance. Her thoughts immediately went back to her respiratory distress.
Thule Thornbush stared at the others who were not falling down into the snow like Santa. The slush underfoot was not the reason for Santa’s need for assistance. He’s drunk. In spite of her current breathing problem Thornbush did not have a thinking problem. She could add this tidbit of juicy “anti-war” data to her Queens Naval profile.
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