The Big O. was still awake when we got back. Well almost. Well about to go to sleep by the looks of it.
When he saw us he rubbed his eyes, like he hoped he was seeing things.
"Are these your men?"
Not of chance of that. He just paused for a moment to look at me with his weary hopeless eyes. No, I was damn sure he'd say for a second. And then'd it get real interesting – where things'd go after that, I mean.
Unfortunately. The cold air had done a good job of sobering me up (winter was coming), so I followed their conversation reasonably well.
" – again."
The gist of it, the core of the matter was – that they had our eyes on us. That he (the big O.) should keep his eye on us. So we would not; our eyes should be our eyes and our eyes alone and we should not. An eye for an eye for an eye and if we didn't look out we'd lose one for ourselves (an eye). The usual thing.
Only then did he give the salute (too late).
Fortunately at that point they didn't feel like wasting any more time with us, so they just dumped us on the doorstep. Out in the cold. Which was good because at that point I didn't really feel I had the hand-eye eye-hand (eye) coordination thing down. Completely.
Couldn't blame 'em, he was tired.
And even after their bootsteps faded, Big continued to look at us. With his disappointed grandfather look (although what the hell? He wasn't that much older than me. If at all).
"I expected more from you," he finally said, "Isaac."
The kid finally mumbled something (he hadn't said anything on the march over, not a word, no matter what I said to him. Like it would make any difference. Made me feel like a ghost, at that). Although what the hell? We hadn't even really done anything. Not really.
"Are you going to sit there all night?"
Story of my life. Trust these guys to make a mountain out of nothing; I was tracing patterns on the ground again.
Night was over. After all, what are words?
Our dear leader. He made a real point to meet everyone, greet everyone, talk with everyone, learn their names.
Couldn't understand why I couldn't make the effort, not even after we'd known each other all this time. I'm getting old, I told him. My memory's just not what it used to be.
He came down in front of me, made sure to have eye-contact.
"If you make any more trouble for me." His voice was red. "I'll have you shot." Encased in fury.
He waited for a moment.
"I shit you not."
I hear ya.
He walked away and I let it echo into the night.