Author : Petter Skult

“How was the game?” Ann asked as Jeremy crawled through the hatch. She had to wait with the answer until he had pushed it close, metal screaming.

“It was awesome!” He replied breathlessly, as he threw his bag off his shoulders and went directly for his cot to change clothes. “Jenny and Ahmed’s characters planned on having a garden party for Jia – that’s Mark’s character – on account of her getting that promotion.”

Ann chuckled lightly, continuing to fry that morning’s catch, the smell of meat permeating the whole container.

“Hey mom, what’s a ‘water cooler’? My character is supposed to go there to meet all of his new workmates, but I have some trouble imagining it.”

Ann explained what a water cooler was, and for good measure what it meant to ‘shoot the breeze around the water cooler’. Jeremy listened intently while gathering his .22 rifle, clearly making mental notes. She tried to keep the ruefulness out of her voice. By the time she was finished he was ready to go. He was already looking a bit glummer. Ann felt sorry for him, having to go out there again. When she had been his age…no use thinking of it.

“When’s the next game?”

Jeremy lit up.

“We talked shifts; I’ll be on night for the next week, Ahmed, Jenny and Mark are all crazy as well, but we thought Wednesday the week after that.”

“That sounds wonderful, dear. Be careful up there now.”

“Of course mom. See you tomorrow!”

Jeremy crawled back topside for his evening guard shift. Ann continued frying the ever-grey little pieces of rodent, stirring them in the sudden silence with her wooden fork. She was thinking absently of water-coolers and garden parties and promotions and regular jobs. Things that her children might only know through make-believe, role-playing games they play when they get together for those brief moments when there was no alert, no danger, no attack.

Still, she was happy they were allowed those moments of escapism into a world so completely foreign to their own.

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