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Kristine Kathryn Rusch

We were on the Pacific, a long stretch of nowhere, gray upon gray, going on forever.

This was early in the war, our backsides still blistering from the pounding the Japs were giving us. I was a newly minted lieutenant with a job I hated: I was the one who read all the outgoing mail and censored it even before it left the battleship.

I’m sure our boys knew someone read the mail. I’m sure all of them knew it was me. But we didn’t discuss jobs much. I was just one of a handful of ranking paper pushers on a vessel where most guys got their hands dirty. I like to think I was more uncomfortable than they were; after all, I knew more about any of them than they would rightly tell me.

Judy, hon: dreamed about you three nights running. Finally Sanders, my bunkmate, told me to think purer thoughts—guess I was moaning suggestively in my sleep…

Martha, remember that night down on Wisconsin Point? Sometimes I think I still got sand in my drawers…

And, Ma, don’t say nothing to Carl about when I’m coming home. No sense in disappointing the kid. I just have a hunch things ain’t gonna go the way we planned…

Hopes, dreams, and fears, all hand-scrawled, all personal. Sure, the guys knew someone would read them, but even on this, their first mission—maybe especially on this, their first mission—they were scared and homesick, that rush of emotion that led ’em to join up forgotten back at the first day of camp.

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