Why the Sun Shines

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Peace. It’s a funny word. Not ha-ha funny, but because it seems to be so unattainable. But many people forget that in order to have a peaceful world, we must first be at peace with ourselves. Only at unexpected moments do I find myself at peace. That fine day, with the sun staring right into my closed eyes, I was in a peaceful high; my body numb with joy and truly grateful for the beautiful life I was born into.

The seaweed that grew on the side of the boulder squished between my toes. My feet slid off, back into the cool water. My sweaty legs were relieved with a soothing and peaceful chill up my body. The mist of the waterfall lightly sprinkled on my face; I felt refreshed. The mud above my eyes washed down. It stung, as I couldn’t see for a few seconds. Cupping my hands together, I scooped up the clear, blue water that I was standing in, and splashed it on my face. I hadn’t felt so relaxed in three years.

I took off my jacket, and laid my .22 caliber rifle down next to me; safety off. I laid back, letting the water push my back up, into an arch. I floated for a couple minutes, looking above at a tree sagging over the body of water I was lying in. The leaves were noticeably fresh; I had never seen a green like that before. I wanted to stay there forever. I was tired of running.

Standing back up, I looked down into that water. I hadn’t seen myself for so long, I forgot what I looked like. My receding hairline was a conspicuous feature on my repulsive appearance. My full, bushy beard covered up my bloody acne, which hurt my cheeks every time I tried to smile. Good thing I hadn’t been smiling much. My eyes had bags the size of eggs underneath them; I looked like I was 50. I was 23. I looked around to ask someone how old I really looked, but nobody was there.

I paddled my way directly under the waterfall. The water smacked against my head and back like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t hear anything—other than the “pshhhh” of the water around me. No gunfire, or people screaming, “help me” when there was nothing I could do. Just water. Just me. I tilted my head up and opened my mouth. I gulped in that fresh, cold water and swished it around in my mouth, before swallowing it—feeling a cold rush down my esophagus into my stomach. Then, I peed. It got warm and felt kinda nice. More that I was just peeing—not that it was warm, because I hadn’t had enough liquid to make me pee in four days.

I started being more pragmatic, thought about setting up for the night. I swam over to the side of the spring and cleared out a pasture. I took off my soaking wet pants; they must have weighed nine pounds, not including the ammunition. I slid off my underwear, and hung them up on a tree to let them dry. My inner thigh was bleeding from the chronic chafing my underwear had caused; I hadn’t changed my clothes in seven months. I wandered around the camp, looking for a makeshift blanket I could use. My feet dragged, and I gathered a pile of small sticks that could prove to be utilitarian. I turned, as a small piece of metal caught my eye. I bent down, and dug it up from underneath the mud. A 1947 U.S. penny lay before me. I had never been so happy to see Mr. Washington in my entire life.
    I picked up the rusty piece of copper and used my thumb to push off the dirt. I stared at the penny, wondering how it got there. I hadn’t had any money in my possession for years…I forgot what it felt like to own something.
 
I cried for several more minutes as my seclusion haunted me. I flipped over the penny once more, reading “United States of America, ONE CENT”. America, I remembered. That is my home. That was my home. I punched the ground in front of me, making my knuckles bleed, adding to the collection of wounds on my body. Yet my emotional wounds greatly outnumbered my physical ones. My eyes met the penny once more.
 
I clenched the penny in my left hand, as I formed a fist. Closing my eyes, I turned my back to the spring that was a few feet away. I thought about the men I could have saved, the faces of all those I let down. Taking a deep breathe of air, filling my lungs, I said to myself “In God I trust” and flipped the penny over my shoulder. It was my own little wishing well. I picked up my rifle and ran, swerving in-between trees and out of sight. The penny slowly sunk down to the bottom of the spring, throwing itself in all directions, reflecting the light as it tumbled to the bottom of the spring. Meanwhile, I ran. I ran for my life, for my family, and for America. I ran for God, wherever he was.






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I was in a hole, and I couldn’t get out. I raised my arms up in the air like I was in a concert, but the only music was the sounds of the explosions and cries of death. I sat down in my hole, trying to come to terms with imminent death. For the first time in my life my body was in shock, I physically couldn’t move my legs. At first I thought I was paralyzed, but I realized that I had been struck with a bullet of fear, and it had severely punctured my heart. I stood up again, and peered out of the hole I had become accustomed to. I finally managed my way out of the hole, rolling onto a pile of dead bodies. I ripped off the dog tags of the fallen men. One of the tags had an engraving of the words: “Life is short, work hard, play harder, pray hardest.” I began to pray, but I knew that I was the only person who could help myself.

I was my own assassin. I told myself to pull the trigger, but I couldn’t. My temple started to hurt, as I was pressing the gun against my head so hard. Is there a reason to live, when nobody knows you are alive? What would I be remembered for, and by whom? My thoughts went round and round for as long as I remember.

Finally I came across a dead body. At last, I had someone to talk to. He was a young kid, probably eighteen or so. He had a notepad in his pocket, so I began to write. I spilled out my story, and my cries for help poured out onto the page. I am a soldier, a man who has lost his home, his family and his life. My duty has become survival, and the code I live by is my own. I have no friends, no commander, and I lead myself. My sadness cannot be expressed on this sheet of paper. If someone ever finds this…my tears began to smudge the ink on the page.

My frail body began to control my daily activities. I was too weak to hunt, too tired to think. I stumbled along, and every now and then I would hear voices in the distance. I ran the other way. But one day…one magnificent day, I came across a dirt road. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, besides the face of my daughter when her eyes met mine for the first time. I walked along that road for what seemed like an eternity. There came a point where I could walk no longer, and collapsed. My head hit the dirt, and I tasted the dust in my mouth. I came in and out of consciousness, but then I saw his truck.
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My name is Thomas, and I found Rich Harper sixty miles east of Culiacan, Mexico on April 5, 1998. If I were to guess, he weighed around 105 lbs when I found him. He hadn’t eaten in four days, and was unconscious when I came across his body. I put him in my truck, and gave him the two liters of water I had, along with an apple and some rice I was carrying. He woke up three hours after I picked him up, and told me his story. Rich died six hours later.

Lieutenant Rich Harper was the most honorable man I have ever met. I only knew him for a short time, but his story moved me so much, I had to write it down. As his head rested against the window of my truck, he smiled. He was saved, finally free of the demons that had haunted his journey through the jungle. From the time that I met him until his death, there was one thing certainly knew about Mr. Harper: He knew how to love. Throughout all of his struggles, there were no words of vengeance or hate. Rich was simply happy that he wouldn’t be forgotten. Rich died in a hospital just outside of Culiacan. I looked at his calm body and remembered that fine day when he found that penny near the spring. I knew with all my heart that Rich was once again at peace. I grabbed his rifle leaning against his bed. Looking down upon it, I read the inscription on the butt, “Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.” I looked up. The sun had never shined any brighter.





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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Corgi Lover said...
Dec. 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm
This story is amazing. It's hard to believe it was written by such a young person, who has not personally experienced this kind of hardship. The imagery is spectacular. Mr. Cutter definitely has a career as a journalist or novelist. Very moving, extremely well written.
 
Strike_Eagle said...
Dec. 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm
That is a good story.  It really moved me.
 
Dcutter replied...
Dec. 7, 2010 at 5:52 pm
Thanks, I really appreciate it.
 
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