That Four-Letter Word

It is love. Perhaps not the kind of love that first springs to your mind, but love, yes. None of you ever met Little Lizzie, so you couldn’t love her. Why risk death to fight for her? I have served with many men whom I would willingly fight and die with, but in truth, I loved only one. When the Memsaab Helena and I first got together, we discussed what I did for a living and how I felt about it; my best and worst times, my motivators and morale busters. I talked about duty and promises. I didn’t know I was shotgunning around the center, fooling myself, until she put one dead in the 10-ring.

Bullshit, Connor,” she said, “It’s about love, ya goof. Admit it; get over it.” She was right.

Unless that gun on your hip or in your nightstand exists only to protect your own hairy hide, and if it extends beyond your own mate and offspring, then it’s about love; another kind of love, but love nonetheless, ya goofs!

It is about a nameless thing — call it “honor” if you will — that is the finest, purest shred of yourself and all humankind. It’s a love you only feel when you face the ultimate self-sacrifice — for the life of another; even a stranger; no, especially a stranger. In a way it is a love of self, even if it is only a love of the smallest, least recognized, most rarely exposed slice of your self.

We talk about it so little its unbidden emergence surprises many of us. That’s because in this weirdly warped “modern society,” its presence strangely embarrasses us, and its absence shames us. So we avoid it altogether. That’s a pity. Only by bringing it out in the open and knowing it can we lean on it; live by it.