Home visits can be fun, informative, and usually nothing more than a little unsettling when you’re reaching out to help those in need. I’d just signed on as a mental health worker for a company that had everything I could dream of – a road to advancement, a steady paycheck, and fellow employee/contractors who were willing to answer questions or go with if I thought I needed help with a client. I was still building my regular group, and so the office was also helping me get in touch with others who qualified for the type of work I did, and made sure I had someone with me to go over the legal paperwork no one likes to wade through.
This was my third contact visit, and I was looking forward to meeting with this one. They were an army veteran who’d served several tours in the Middle East and had recently retired. He wasn’t that old, from the notes I’d been given, so I hoped we could “graduate” him quickly from needing our services. Those are always the best, the graduates.
Because this was a first visit, I was dressed a little nicer than usual – standard personal procedure until I know what the clients are comfortable with. So, when I pulled up and first got out of the car, I took a few moments to straighten out my sweater vest, make sure my shirt was tucked in, and my one piece of jewelry was sitting properly before I nodded to my supervisor waiting for me. He’d arrived in his own car about the time I turned down the road.
He nodded back, and we started toward the front door single file. When we stepped off the concrete slab that served as the driveway, I noticed the soil felt a little soft, but didn’t pay much attention to it. The grass was cut short, which could have also accounted for the extra give. I carefully worked my way across the lawn, having to dodge rusty cans, old car parts, and other large chunks of debris. There was a safe path – but it was not one I wanted to take after dark.
I wobbled a little, trying to make one of the last odd corners before the disaster ended, and the real yard began. About to the corner of the house, and the path shifted unexpectedly to the right. How do I know? Because I went straight, and found out the hard way. Thank heavens I was wearing moccasins, I think that is what saved my foot and leg that day.
When I stepped down, I felt something poke me in the ball of the foot, then click. I haven’t been in combat, so almost missed the implications. I stepped forward, grateful to be out of the maze and almost took the weight off that foot before I realized just what had happened. I’d stepped on a mine. Needless to say, I froze.
“D-. Back up. Don’t turn around, but get back to the car.” I said softly, quelling the rising panic and want to just make a wild jump.
“What’s up?” D- said, not quite understanding why I’d stopped.
“Just back up carefully, and get back to the cars. Let me know when you are there, too.”
I don’t know exactly what my boss did, or how he got back to the cars. While I was waiting on him to let me know he’d made it, I took off my vest and worked on stretching it out of shape to make it as long as I could. I also shifted my feet, so that when I moved, the foot on the mine was the last thing to come off the ground. I just hoped my vest made a long enough rope. The last thing I did was to give the entire place a close look. I wanted to make sure there were no other bodies nearby who could be injured when this thing went off. Thankfully, I didn’t see anybody moving. Not even in the window to the house.
“Ok, K-. I’m by the cars. Now, will you please explain what’s going on?” D- finally called.
With a wave of relief, I craned my head around enough to see him.
“I’m standing on something that shouldn’t be off post. Grab the end of my vest, and when I say so – pull with all your might.”
I tossed one corner of the sweater vest his direction, but he missed it the first time. I think he was beginning to understand just how dire things were now, since he did not come barging up to me. On the third try, he managed to finally catch the material, and I watched him to make sure he had a good grip. He gave me a nod after a few gentle tugs, and I nodded back.
“OK, on three. One… Two…” I lunged his direction, pushing off as hard as my adrenaline fueled muscles would let me. “Three!”
D- jerked on the vest, adding speed to my fast departure from where I’d been standing. The explosion behind me also added momentum to my leap, though at least it didn’t do more than shred the sole of my moc. I can live with replacing footwear, so long as I don’t have to replace the foot that goes inside as well.
When my leap came to an end, it wasn’t because I landed neatly on the ground. I plowed into D-, which knocked him down with me on top. Before we could draw breath to cough from the impact, a hubcap whizzed over us, about chest high if we’d been standing, and bedded itself into the windshield of my car.
Shaken, nervous, and definitely respectful of just how close I’d come to being severely injured, if not killed, I rolled off D- and tentatively poked my head up to see just how bad the damage was. D- just started coughing, trying to get his breath back. Between the impact of my slamming into his chest, and then knocking him to the ground, he was having trouble with that.
I first looked at my car – just slightly to the right of D-‘s with a translucent windshield now that the hubcap had shattered the thing, and the metal disc itself sticking out like a child throwing a tantrum with their tongue hanging out. D-‘s car had taken a few pieces of debris, but it had only scratched the pain, and knocked one of his mirrors flat to the body. When I turned around, I had to grin. Most of the maze was gone, though in its place was a shallow crater from the mine going off. The house appeared to have come through unscathed – even the window facing the yard was still intact. And, standing at the foot of the stairs was my new client – old fatigues and all.
“Why didn’t you just ring the bell?” He asked, pointing to a post next to the right side of the driveway.