Lights and Shadows

huskyshiveringInternet and Web Development

Dec 11, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)

78 views















1




























Lights and Shadows




















The smell of treated canvas b
rought to mind the comfort of bivouacs at old campsites as he
began to
focus. He

watched the sunlight creeping with a yellow finger between a break at the
bottom of the white dusty blind, following its line across the floor. It
trapped

shapeless dust mites in
warm,

motionless,

yellow streams as it inched its way up the calf of his leg
, ending on the sleeping
cat’s shoulder. He watched gray tendrils of sage
smoke floating on breezes circulating around the
spinning blades of the overhead fan, scattering the slow fragrance

of

dew covered ferns, mixed with
the sweet smell of cedar. It was
the natural odor

of the North Woods dispensing the calming

effect

of a canyon sunrise waking in the Eastern horizon with bright warm light. A soothingly faint sound
floated through the house from small stereo speakers. The musical mix of an Indian flute mi
ngle
with a Spanish Guitar resonating off walls embellished with a black bear hide, deer, elk, and bison
skulls. The animal trophies and totems thread through the various paintings and effigies hanging in
tasteful
disarray
.












Through his interacti
on with groups at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, mingled
with practice at a local college campus Jeremy’s experimentation with meditation
became
a
morning discipline.
He has found comfort through monthly Sweat Lodge Ceremonies, a semblance of
peace
through morning meditation
.I
t is respite and recovery from a past of military service,
debaucheries,

and a redemption that is methodical in

its

transformative nature. It is a slow process

from soldier, to

a warrior’s peace.


























2

As he raised himself from the down sleeping
bag,

his eyes traced the finger of warm
sunlight

peeking

through the drawn blind covering the
West

window. He followed its trail across the small
coffee table, over the half cup of early morning coffee, drawing a white light along the floor to the
gray and white cat that quietly made its way between his legs

on the sleeping bag. He felt
overwhelming pl
easure at the silent solitude of the room. He questioned the sleeping cat while
pushing himself up into a
cross
-
legged

sitting position, remembering the imperceptive tiny
footfalls

walking on him as he lay on his back slowly succumbing to a state of airy c
onsciousness while
concentrating on his breath, “when did you get into the picture?” He felt deeply relaxed as he
placed his two palms together and muttered a low “
Namaste
”,

to

the Great Mystery. The cat flicked
a non
-
chalant ear as he stood, stretched whi
le stepping off the sleeping bag. A quick chill raced
through his foot as he touched the hardwood floor; reminding him that summer’s warmth was
nearing the time when the corn is to be taken in. He decided not to roll the sleeping bag for quick
storage.
The

cat was to content to be disturbed; Jeremy was relishing his own contentment.



He ran his hand through his hair as he looked to the Navaho clock mounted on the wall,
slow
ly

passing a deep breath as he

felt
relief
at the small needle

pointing at a turquoi
se stone that
represents the number nine, and the longer needle at the number twelve.



Realizing

the day was still early

while

peeling off his sweatshirt, ste
pping out of his long
underwear while walking to the bathroom

in one seamless, practiced step.
J
eremy pulled

back the
colorful

shower
curtain, and
then turned

on the showerhead
,

rapidly adjusting the two water knobs
to a degree of temperature warm enough to redden the skin,

but

not enough to scald. He
involuntarily shuddered from the chilly air reali
zing that if it is this chilly in the house its thirty
degrees or slightly warmer outside.










Stepp
ing into the bathtub
, he let

the warm water run

over him, from
th
e top of his head

feeling his skin being stabbed into a stimulating warmth
as
the hot
water cascad
ed

down his front,
back, rear.

He ti
pped his head back observing the foggy steam roll over the curtain rod, through the
open bathroom door, into the darkened living room. Grabbing a bar of soap from the dish he lathers
his thick

shoulder length

hair, working his way to his feet, thinking to himself “too cold for a paddle
on the lake, getting too late for a hike, but I sure am hungry!”

Hi
s mind wanders to a bar and grill on
the other side of the lake.
He has observed it from his canoe when he pad
dled over to that side on
one of his many fishing forays. He has caught nice bass over on that side, but never felt the
inclination to visit the establishment, until now. He never

felt a need to visit any place

while inside

his

canoe, with

a fishing pole i
n
hand, watching

ducks and geese
swim, or

flap or dive while their

pin
tails s
tick
straight up
. Gaggles of young Geese follow their elders in amusing lines, while gulls fly,
swoop,

and dive.
There is a tall dead elm
tree

near

the

bar and grill
, where loons

perch, while B
lue
Herons wade

keep
ing

a wary

watch.











However, today is a cold sunny day
,

he is hungry and a steak, baked potato with beans or
steamed vegetables sound good and a warm café latte’ afterwards
. His
bills are pai
d
he muses,

the
old jeep has

enough gasoline to last all week
.

Turning

the water knobs down to
coolness

just above
freezing, he rinses off
,

stamping his bare feet on the bottom

of the ceramic bathtub
,

while
simultaneously turning

the water off.
With one hand, he reac
hes around the wall of the bath faucet














3



fumbling for a clean, dry towel that hangs from a cabinet door.
Toweling as best he can, then

w
rapping the damp towel around his waist, he once again feels the co
olness sending shudders
through his body as he walks rapidly through the long living room, over the cold wooden flooring to
his carpeted bedroom. Pulling open drawers on his pine dressers, he removes a pair of thick cotton
socks, a pair of
well
-
washed, sti
ff

jeans, brown cotton shirt; feeling he is in a race to chase the chill
from his naked body he dresses as rapidly as possible.







Opening the closet
door,

he grabs a khaki wool sweater
, balling it up to push his arms
through
,

pulling it over his head w
hile looking for keys, wallet and a worn buckskin jacket with tribal
pins
and an old set of jump wings

attached to it. Striding into the long living
room,

he brushes a
spider hanging from a barely perceptible web dangling from the nose of

a

deer skull wit
h horns.

When he opened the
window blinds, a blast of explosive

sunshine indecently brightened the
twilight of the
room, marveling at how fast a sleeping cat can leap from the comfort of a warm
sleeping bag, to the cold glass of a sun
-
drenched windowsill.







Slipping on a pair of hiking boots, tightening then tying the laces, he step
s

out onto the
sunny wooden porch, turned to lock the door,
and then

in ten easy
strides, he was beside the jeep,
opened the door, jumped inside, out of the cold,

turning th
e key in the ignition. Driving along the
north shore of the lake he tried to look at the
lake,

finding it difficult to concentrate on his driving he
pulled over to the side of the road in exasperation
,

parking the jeep

under towering oak and maple
s

leaving no part of the vehicle close to the road. Jeremy opened the door to walk across the road,
c
limbing over a
metal guardrail
, to stand on the slope of
a hill that overlooked the lake. He felt

a
faint br
eeze blowing his damp hair

stra
ight back from

ar
ound his ears, observing little circular pools
of water radiate outward, from the splashing of fish coming to the surface to feed. He watched the
various ducks,
geese,

and gulls swimming,
floating,

or
flying in circular spirals

around the placid
water. His

eyes settled on the tranquil sight of a white,
blue,

and green teal duck with dapples of
light brown and speckled gray
. He became breathless from the

serenity. He will return to fish when
he has eaten.












Returning to his jeep he drives up the cir
cular road to turn south on a highway that circles the
lake and passes the various houses and townhomes, jammed side by side, with little cubicles of
green, surrounded by plank stockade fences with a lone tree or two
,

growing or planted behind the
fencing.

He sees for sale signs in front of some, rental signs by others. Jeremy thought that it would
be nice to have a place, permanence that he could call his. He is tired of renting wherever he
happens to live. Nevertheless, for some reason this is not the tim
e to commit. He feels anchored for
the moment in the middle of a slow moving stream, which will irrevocably move him to an unknown
trail.













Pulling his jeep into the driveway of the
grill,

he

finds the
handicap
-
parking

slot,

places the
handicap p
lacard

next to the Hawk feather hanging from rawhide
strings
.

Opening the truck door,
he stepped
out, stiffening with a wary stillness, making quick

perceptive glance
s

around the parking
l
ot, while closing it behind him. He let his arms hang loose, flexing

his fingers, while he watched

the
other patrons

with a short
,

experienced
,

probing gaze
,

ente
ring or leaving, feeling momentarily
safe. He circled the parking spot in a slow cautious walk
,

until

he was at the entrance door. Once he













4
was in

the
door,

he pa
used in

silent alarm
from the

overwhelming

noise

of packed patrons
,

the
mingling
smell
of warm

food
.
He
gazed in momentary

tension
, noticing a lower level, horseshoe
shaped bar
. Clusters of eating tables and booths lined the walls, tall rou
nd cocktail
tables,

or stools
planted

around them. A pretty server, with blue mascara, black shapeless
slacks,

and

loose fitting
turquoise blouse, splashed with a faint odor of lilac water,

greeted him. She grabbed a couple
menus and asked “where would you

like to sit, is a boot
h

okay or a table?” Looking over her
shoulder Jeremy looked at a round booth set

on a slightly elevated dais,

in the

southwest

corner
,

with large pi
c
ture windows on both sides,

an open view of the lower level bar

and all exits
.

“I

like
that booth in the
corner,” he

responded. She turned to look at what he liked

then

turned back to
hi
m with a frown
,

responding

“that will be fine
”.

He followed her down a worn red
-
carpeted
walkway, between empty tables to the corner booth. It was oval
shaped, thick cushioned in red faux
leather. Jeremy felt that it could easily fit six people. When they stood at the booth she asked him
“what would you like to
drink
”,

while

placing two menus on the table

before

he sat

down
.
“Water
will be fine for now.”
After laying the two menus on the
table,

she curtly told him “I’ll be back with
your
water
”,

turned

on her heel and strode away.








When
he stepped up on the dais, he slipped his
arms
out

of his
buckskin coat,

noticing that
the booth
,

though n
estled in

the corner, was
spotless, sunny,
and well lighted.

There was a faint

liquid

film, smelling of

pine

disinfectant on the table.

Tree shadowed sunlight shone through the
two large picture windows, laying a bright streak of dappled
sunlight in the booth
,
spilling

onto the
table
.
Tossing his jacket to the far side of the oval shaped seat, he sat down pushing and sliding
himself to the middle, overlooking the
table, the

sunlight, black iron railing
,

onto the bar.

This made
it difficult for

others to see

him
,

allowing him to see the door, the back of the establishment, down
onto the bar, kitchen,
and the

waiters on their rounds from booth to table. Jeremy looked down
from his upstairs booth to the horseshoe bar observing the genial patrons with their tall glas
ses of
beer,
brightly
colored drinks wondering at the am
bience, perturbed at the overhead television
roaring the piercing drone of a sports program. His gaze lingered shortly on a young man with close
-
cropped hair, a silver earring in his left ear, goatee
and
desert tan, sage
colored military field jacket.
Sitting straight backed and broad shouldered on his stool next to the bar. He seemed to be nursing
a
tall glass of beer, alone and out of place amongst the loud boisterous crowd arrayed around the bar.
“H
e’s military, Army or Marine,” Jeremy surmised.









Reading
the
menu,

he settled on a rib eye
steak, thick in the picture,

with baked sweet
potato, steamed veg
etables. Glancing at the drink menu he settled on a red chardonnay to help
wash down the meal
. The server returned with his water, he ordered and she left. He liked looking
at the four or five servers’,

long hair swept back, tied, cascading down their backs,

the orderly
uniforms of dark slacks, red or turquoise blouses. There were other women at t
he bar. All seemed
well dressed, older,
or

younger
, in animated conversation while

busily eating a meal. He would have
liked to talk to one, but did not want to work to get her. He was not ready for long drawn out
conversations, or taking one out for a drink,
date, movies
.

He did not want shallow conversation. If
one came to him and did

not want to talk that would be different. He would not have to think of
vague answers to pointed questions. He did not want to go through all of that again. It made things













5
complicated
. He did not feel the courage o
r energy to complicate things any more than had to be.
He did not feel the need for more rejection or pain.

He was part of the

world

of that lone soldier,
with a now empty beer glass, in the process of ordering another.






The server returned with a smal
l plate of wheat bread and glass of red wine. He sliced the
bread into a thick slice and spooned a
copious

amount of the white butter; he took a bite and
gl
anced around, his eyes taking in his surroundings. Pictures of pretty cheerleaders dated from the
19
40s until recent, football and hockey jerseys, a Beatles poster, Elvis and Marilyn, Bogie and Bacall,
Rhett clutching a voluptuous Scarlett and the happy Wizard of Oz gang. The walls not covered by
sports memorabilia, or music and movie posters, showed thr
ough in decorously covered, tasteful
red wallpaper with dark wood trim. Aluminum heat ducts hang from the ceiling.
The server
approached with a large platter balanced on her right hand. He watched in awed approval as she sat
the platter down on the table w
ith a practiced demeanor

removing his plate all in one seemingly
fluid motion

asking “and is there anything else?” without looking at him. “Yes how about a carafe of
this chardonnay, please” Jeremy responds.
“Of

course right
up,” she

snidely replied
. Picki
ng up the
platter she hurriedly moved away in practiced steps towards the stairs leading down to the noisy
bar.
















The plate consisted of steamed vegetables, baked sweet potato half wrapped in tin foil with a
rib eye steak covered in saut
éed mushrooms.

He swore and whistled under his breath
,

pulling his
fingers back at the heat from the tin
foil, still

managing to peel it from the potato, making long
perpendicular cuts with his k
nife, then four horizontal ones. P
acking the slices with butt
er and sour
c
ream,

he watched

it blend into a melted

lather of yellow white liquid, mixing in with the dark


orange hue of the potato. Jeremy then spooned butter on the steamy vegetables, forking a
mouthful, feeling delighted at the crisp
ness
, steamed to

the taste he desired. As he c
ut into his
steak, he felt great

satisfactions

as red juice leaked between the cut he made with his knife, running
onto his plat
e.
He added no condiments feeli
ng delighted at the smell

of the charbroiled sensation
that seemed to emanate through his senses, taking
a drink of cold water after he swallowed the first
bite
of the steak, then chasing the water with a sip of wine to add a stout, robust
,

fruity taste to
chase the meat.

A sip fr
om the second glass seemed to soar up through his sinuses with the faint
taste of sour fruity alcohol settling with a warm glow in his stomach.

He took his time while eating;
noticing the smile the server gave him as she brought his carafe. He was slowly p
utting away his
desire for eating and drinking.












He
finished, poured another glass of dark wine, settling back,
and absorbed

in a fa
int

veil of

warm
c
ontentment
. The speckled sunlight seemed to waver as the wind blew the tree leaves that
cast sh
adowed sunlight on his
table. Jeremy looked up at the silver air ducts, remembering

his first
true love. A youthful, passionate love that seemed at the time of those many winters and bright
optimistic summers, to be the tranquil essence of what Jeremy cons
ider
s

his

small town bliss.
He
reported to the army still loving her
, exchanging letters through the hot, sweaty summer of hard
training, the first pain when learning that she shared her affections with the other boys of the town
in his absence, how she ha
d warmed their beds while still writing letters to him. Jeremy learned pain
and humiliation early at a very young age.







































6

The sunlight moved from the floor slowly, almost methodically. It climbed his legs, wa
rming
his jeans, while
white

rays of

slanting

sunlight passed through the other window
,

falling onto his
head, slowly
melting the hardness in
his shoulders
. He felt

listless while pulling the wool sleeves
over his elbows
,

leaning
forward

into the table
.
He

remembered

a story told around the howitzer
,

in
the

hot sun of the

Sinai
, eating

cold
c
-
rations after a long day of shoveling dirt and gravel into
sandbags
. A young paratrooper attached to a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol received a letter
from his fian

.
Another

young man at her campus had convinced her that our country was
embroiled in undemocratic war on a poor third world country of primitive people
. Considering the
fact that soldiers from this country were willingly bearing arms in this evil confli
ct
, we

were a part of
the atrocious war. She was no longer in love with him
,

had moved out of the campus
dormitory, into

the man’
s apartment. The engagement ring was in the letter.






His friends were sy
mpathetic with a compassion

known

only

among soldie
rs.

Nevertheless,

t
here was an
important mission in the works;

they recommended a very influential Catholic
Chaplain. His friends understood that he needed time to compose
himself. However, he commented
that there were other women, could physic
ally or ment
ally function, can keep

prayers to himself. He
felt replacing him with a new
,

inexperienced man
,

could jeopardize the
mission
.
The mission was to
locate a well
-
disciplined, battle hardened infantry regiment on the border, report its location then
radio for

air strikes, artillery to cripple or destroy it.

At dawn, they drew rations, a long distance
radio, and ammunition forming into an eight
-
man team. They loaded onto a helicopter for the airlift
to their area of operation. When they found their objective, t
hey would wait for twilight

to pinpoint
the area, at dawn they would radio for the air strikes, artillery
b
arrage that would follow. They
found the regiment bivouacked on low ground in a saddle between two ridgelines
.
There seemed to
be no outward sign of
distress

from the trooper that received the

dispassionate, poisoned

letter.

A
t first
light,

the team leader radioed the bombers
,

circling in a

waiting
, pre
-
arranged
location,

with their loads of Napalm bombs
, coordinates

to the target. At the fi
rst faint s
ound of the
aircraft engines, the trooper took a hand

grenade from his equipment suspenders, pulled the
pin,

and ran down the ridge towards the enemy encampment screaming a blood
-
curdling yell. Their last
view of him
,

before the area erupted into a dazzlin
g display of orange and red flame mixed with the
wind and noise of the napalm explosions
, was throwing his hand grenade into a shelter, and then
firing his rifle into a cluster of tents. His demented charge into the enemy regiment had
comprom
ised their pos
ition forcing them

to make an early rendezvous with the escape helicopters.
His remains were not
retrieved

his status is M
issing in Action, as opposed to Killed in Action.


J
eremy lifted the amber wine glass to his nose breathing in the spicy fragrance of
the wine
before sipping at the thought of the w
omen of the Equatorial America


from the bright refreshing
tropical sun with their long blue/black hair, light olive skin of the cities
,

smelling of perfume
from
various
botanicas

or
bodegas
.
The darker hues o
f the
India’

with the coquettish smiles, silent
dispositions imbued with the spirits of their lush green surroundings, enchanted mountains,
and
wind
-
swept
mesas. Their

blissful companionship,

mix
ed

with the salt waters of the Pacific or
Caribbean
,

combined

to cleanse the superficial wounds and scabs of torturous jungle operations.














7

Perhaps the two worlds do not mix as Jeremy detected upon arriving
home unanticipated
from a three
-
week military obligation as a member of the Na
tional Guard. As he dropped his

backpack down on the kitchen floor, he found his seven
-
year
-
old daughter alone at the kitchen table
with crayon, coloring books, quickly running to his outstretched arms as he crouched to receive her

with te
ars spilling from

her blue eyes “Daddy I’m so glad you’re home, I’m so hungry.” With an
inflection of shock mixed with disbelief, he asked in a whisper “Where’s your Mom?” The little girl
replied in a teary, quivering voice “She left last night with a man named Henley.”



Jeremy fixed them both something to eat whereupon at his wife’s return she accused him of
making a surprise visit home to spy. He returned to camp feeling deeply betrayed, spending the
remainder of the training period drinking heavily, becoming something h
e did not like, a bad soldier.

Jeremy filed for divorce, took care of his daughter whil
e the court added ridicule to the
fracture by ordering him to pay support on Henley, the name of the male child conceived.



He smiled still thinking wistfully of the
women from the Central or Southern Hemisphere.
His mistake was not differentiating between the carefree func
tionality of Equatorial America
compared to

the ordered, societal demands of Northern America.
He should have realized the
attributes of both, meldi
ng them into one.










Jeremy became involved with a blonde, deeply blue
-
eyed German girl from Ludington
. She


was a manager of a large grocery chain who at first used him to get back at her husband, who had
left her for another
woman. On a

cold snowy January day, her husband returned. He stayed in the
garage, with a twelve
-
gauge Remington pump shotgun. He threatened to shoot himself. Jeremy
walked to the garage with a racing heart, his stomach felt hard, alert in the clean, crisp, cold air.

He
could see the white outline of Lake Michigan through the boughs of the pine trees that fronted the
hillside house. The
wind
was silent, as he gulped the cold air into his chest, expelling it in long
fluorescent st
r
eams of

steamy

breath.

Jeremy stood si
lent
,

as he

wordlessly handed him the
shotgun. Jeremy watched cautiously as he walked to his Ford truck and slowly drove away. He
emptied the shotgun, placing the shells in his pocket as he walked through the snow to the house.
With clammy hands, he handed

her the shotgun, then began to help his daughter with her coat.
“This is it isn’t it”? “
Yes”, Jeremy

replied, “I’m afraid so”. “But I love you, he’ll be gone after today or
drink himself to death, or
overdose

with his girlfriend”, she remark
ed. “Well, that may be”,
Jeremy

replied nodding to his little girl, “I love her more”.








He poured the last of the carafe into his wine glass wiping his plate with bread from the


w
heat loaf brought earlier while the b
us boy cleared his table. Jeremy extended a couple dollars
answering “de nada” to the teenager’s “Gracias
”.

He swallowed down the last of the fiery, fruity
wine feeling admiration for the strangeness of sitting at this well lighted table, comfortable at th
e
animation of the other patrons, annoyance at the loud television, coupled with the derision he felt
which overwhelmed any bitterness.
Deciding to stroll down to the bar to pay the cashier, he left
three dollars on the table for the
blue
-
mascaraed

se
rver
with the flippant attitude. He

grabbed his
jacket, stood

stretching out the cramped muscles while striding down the worn carpeting, to the
stairway leading down to the bar
,

remembering a vague saying from his past, “A man who has been
through bitter experi
ences and travelled far enjoys even his sufferings after a time
”.

Jeremy smiled














8
at the remembrance thinking “t’was the warrior they had to tie to the mast, to keep from chasing
seductress sirens
”.












Jeremy walked down the nar
row corridor of booth or cocktail tables to the crowded bar.
Seeing an open, thickly padded red stool, without a backrest or side arms, unlike the other seating
around the bar, near the beginning of the horseshoe, between the lone soldier and the cash
regi
ster. He noticed just two servers behind the bar, similarly dressed in red
short
-
sleeved

shirts,
dark

navy trousers with black pocketed aprons tied around
their wastes. The girl is pretty,

her


long red hair tied back with a black ribbon, slender
wais
t, with

a few freckles, her ears decorated
with large silver circular
earrings that hang just above her shou
lders. The lighting is much more
intense from the bright incandescent light bulbs that cast a yellowish pallor onto the bar. The sound
of the busy k
itchen behind batwing doors to the immediate
left, the deep smell
of stale

beer and
fresh whiskey

is much more pleasing than
the blaring overhead television.





The choreography of servers bringing orders to the kitchen window or receiving platters of
ord
ered food, picking up trays of drinks then dispersing to waiting tabled patrons, temporarily
mesmerizes Jeremy as he waits for one of the two bartenders to notice
him. He

muses on the
lethargic feeling that the food combined with wine has on him. He feels
that a cup of coffee would
be nice before returning home. Another glass of wine would possibly lead to another carafe. Such
drinking needs to wait, home alone, with the cats for company.







Jeremy

sat u
p straight on the stool rolling

his shoulders forward
,

while raising his right arm,
waving it in small vertical movements to get the attention of the young bartender with short
,

slick
blonde hair, a diamond stud in his left ear. “Hello, what can I get you?” “Do you have a Café mocha
lat
te’?” Jeremy asked. “Why yes, would you like a medium or a large?” answered the bartender in
a

d
istinctly effeminate voice that
quietly
disturbed him.

“Large
”,

Jeremy answered. “Coming right up
”,

was his answer. “Not drinking?” asked the soldier with the c
lose cropped hair, sitting to his right.
“Naw, came in here for a steak, ordered some wine with it, figure I’ll fish a little bit when I leave
here, my

na
me
s Jeremy.” “Bill,” he replied in

a friendly deferential monotone. Bill had short cut
yellow hair
,

wi
th light gray eyes that took in Jeremy through narrow slits, evidencing long exposure
to sun and wind. “Did you serve in the Army or Marines?”
“Marines,” Bill

replied
“, second

battalion,
fifth Marines, you?
“Well
, 82
nd

Airborne Division, 75th Rangers, 193
r
d

Light Infantry Brigade.” “Well
,

welcome home,

Bill,

replied thrusting out his right hand.

“I feel
I have

been home longer than
you
have
. So welcome home to you
Bro’”. “Well

thanks, if you can call this home,” Bill replied

nodding
his head in a circular motion, through narrowed eyelids
.








The bartender set the steaming mug of café latte in front of Jeremy on the
bar,

asked

if
there was anything else, Jeremy replied,”yea, could you turn down the
TV
., it’s loud and I do
n’t see
anyone noticing or paying attention to it.” “Your right,” responded the bartender, “maybe I’ll just
turn it off
”.

“That would be better.” Jeremy felt relief. He
could not

have wished for more. The
blonde bartender turned, picked up the remote from
the
counter, and

switch
ed

the television off.

“Want another beer,” Jeremy asked Bill. “Not right no
w, in a little bit.” Bill’s glass was half
-
empty. “Okay,” said the bartender walking over to the other side of the bar. “Think he’s queer
”,

asked Bill. “Pro
bably, does it matter?” “Naw, I guess not,” Bill said. “As long as he keeps his hands to













9
himself and off me,” Jeremy responded. “Fuckin A
”,

Bill laughed “A real FUBAR.” Jeremy lifted the
steaming mug to his lips, taking a
n instant liking to this young Marine, comfortable in the old
language of warriors
, profane, direct
,

with a sprinkling of humor.







He blew on the steam, sipped at the hot liquid, quickly setting it down on the bar with a loud
whisper, “damn that’s hot!
” Nodding at his mug, he said, “The Chippewa call coffee
maka mash
Kiki

waho,
kind of like coffee medicine in English.”

Are You

Indian?”
Bill asked. “I’m still trying to figure
out what I am.
Nevertheless,

hell,
I am

not watching roots grow, so
I am

content. I feel the
tragedy

of life is not death, but what we let die inside us.









They both sipped at their respective drinks, staring straight ahead, in their own

permeable
silence. Jeremy

watched the redheaded barte
nder serving a brightly dressed

blonde woman
,

noticing with a pensive eye the spontaneous laughter that erupted between them. At one
time,

I
had been a part of such entertainment
,

he

remembered
, but

it has

been a long time

since I felt
conte
nt in the company of strangers.

He glanced up
at the corner booth where he took his meal and
wine.
The corner was slowly growing darker as the sun made an arc away from the two picture
windows that allowed so much autumn sunlight. There was only the glare of artificial, incandescent
lighting from the
overhead lamps. He went from sipping his coffee, to taking full warming drinks
with the sweetness of milk and chocolate blended in.







“I

worked as a sniper in Iraq,” Bill mentioned offhandedly while still staring straight
ahead.
“Started

out on sixty m
ike
-
mikes, but I had
attended

sniper school in Quantico when we were called
out for
Fallujah
, well, they needed more snipers than mortars. It was heavy street fighting man
!”

Jeremy remained silent
, remembering Panama’ “We did a damn good job too! Hajis jus
t came
out of the woodwork man! We would work our way as far up onto a building as possible, so we
could look down and ahead of our Marines’ as they worked their way through the streets and alleys.
We would take turns spotting or shooting, re
lieving each o
ther you know. Hey there

is

two of ‘em in
that alley, one with an AK the other with an RPG, three, no five hundred meters, POP, POP
we would

kill both of ‘em. Rumor had it our sniper teams were so good Amnesty International or some other
fucked up group fi
led a Complaint. It seems we had so many head shots on the bastards, they
thought we were executing prisoners!”
Jeremy felt a deep pool of pride at the thought of all the
lives this young Marine had saved with his expertise. “Then I come home and get throw
n in jail for
arguing with my wife!” Jeremy
piqued, his jaw muscles tightening at

this revelation. Bill lifted his tall
glass for a drink of beer still looking straight ahead.








“Bill, are you from around here?

Narrowing

his eyes
Bill

brou
ght the
beer glass to his mouth,
y
ellow light played on his throat as he swallowed.

Slowly lowering his glass he turned to look at
Jeremy, “no, just a little north, in Wisconsin
”.

Taking a drink of coffee Jeremy asked “how long you
been out of the Marines?” “I’m s
till in ‘em,” Bill replied,

turni
ng his head to look straight, as if
interested in something without substance
.
“I stayed in the reserve.”
“How long you been home,
then?” “Nine months,” Bill replied. “About four months ago my wife and I had an argument, th
e
neighbors could hear us, and so they called the police. We
did not

know this, so when they knocked
at the door, my
wife, Cheryl

let ‘em in. By this
time,

the argument played itself
out; we were getting
ready for bed.” He stopped for
another swallow

of be
er, Jeremy noticing that the glass was almost














10














empty. Bill set the glass down
,

still staring straight ahead
,

continuing, “There were two officers, one
of ‘em says, hey we got a complaint of a domestic altercation at this a
ddress and came to check it
out. Cheryl told ‘em well maybe earlier but everything’s fine now. One of the cop’s
says, “Ma’am are
you sure?” Cheryl said yes. “Are you okay, sir?” Sure, I said. “Well, if you don’t mind do you have a
friend or relative you co
uld stay with tonight?” “Well yes I guess so, why?” “Well sir, just a
precaution, is that okay with you ma’am?

Cheryl told them “sure I guess
, but he didn’t do anything
to me, we just had an

argument
”.

She said, “I’m not pressing charges or anything
”.

The

other officer
said, “We understand that ma’am, but we got a call to check this out, and would feel better if your

husband left for a day or two, is that alright sir?” “They sure sound polite,” Jeremy interjected
“, oh

yea, but there’s more,” Bill said
.
Wel
l

we looked at each other
,

and Cheryl shrugged and
said, “I’ll
call my brother,

Bob
lives down

the road,
and I’ll

call him. He’s close
by;

you can sleep on the couch
over there until tomorrow, okay?”

I said sure. Then I went into the bedroom to pack a little bag.
When I came back out Cheryl was still talking to them, and then she says, “Sometimes I don’t
understand him, he hasn’t been the same since he came home from Iraq
”.

They kind of looked at
each

other at that, then one of em pulls out a can of spray, sprayed me in the face and the other
took out a Taser, shot me and when I went down he jumped on me , slapped the cuffs on me and
hauled me outside to their car.
” Bill looked at his glass it was empt
y.

“Her

brother Bob bailed me out
the next day. They charged

me

with domestic battery
.
I have a court date in a couple of weeks.


Jeremy stared stra
ight ahead swirling his coffee in circular rhythms
.
“Have to hire a lawyer?”
“Not sure. I’m going to meet Ch
eryl here and we’re going to talk about what to do.”
Jeremy glanced
up at the corner booth where he had sat earlier. It was darkening into long shadows of waning light.
The artificial lighting of the grill had not yet reached the corner
,

properly lighting
it as the dappled
sunlight had.


He straightened himself on the stool as he began “Well, when I leave here I’m going
home, grab my fishing gear to finish the afternoon on the lake
”.

It’ll help me take my mind off of
what I am going to share.”












I
f you can afford a lawyer, hire one. Find one with a military background.
Preferably,

one
that doesn’t work in the same district or county you have to show up. If you have to go as far as
Chicago or

Milwaukee do it.











If you cannot hire any they wi
ll appoint one for you. There

is some good court

appointed
lawyers. I think that
they are

just overworked.
You are

a Marine Bill, and a damn good one in my
book. I

was a soldier.
A large part of
society looks on us with pity, contempt, or wariness. Never
mind what we did for our country.

They say they respect and honor our service. That is just not true.
We look good at Memorial Day or Fourth of July festivities.
The politicians swell themselves up in
their speeches fawning over us. They

honor our dead wit
h nice granite or limestone memorials.
However, you and I know that it isn’t cool or patriotic. Someone has to do it, so we did. Our buddies
don’t die gloriously. Shrapnel

rips them apart. Bodies twisted in wrecked vehicles or twisted aircraft.
However, we

did it. We volunteered, and
we will

have to live with it.

We swore to defend the
Constitution and obey the orders of the President.
Maybe we do
protect
, not our laws, or our way of
life, but each other.
When deployed, we protect and fight those people.
Ju
stice is not part of the













11














oath
.

I went to court with a friend a couple weeks ago. She was an
MP

in
Iraq;

roadside
bomb

got

her

a

Purple Heart I think.
She returned stateside, after
a while

she received
orders

to go to
Afghan
istan; however, she
was hurt at Ft. Bliss, after a few months

she received a medical
discharge.
Service Connected Disabled Veteran.








A couple months ago she lent her car to a friend. The friend smoked dope, leaving some pot
in the backseat. When she
took her car to the store, the Police stopped her. They asked to search

her car. In hin
dsight, she should have said no”.
Jeremy stopped ta
l
king for a minute, taking a drink of
his coffee, feeling sarcasm welling.










Turning back to
Bill,

he
explained,


She

felt she had nothing to hide.

They found some
paraphernalia, rolling papers I think, and a little
marijuana. I

met her

and another Veteran at class,
so we know of one another. Jeremy stopped to glanc
e

across the bar as he collected his thoughts.

He fought the wistful waves of sarcasm that seem to well up from the pit of his stomach.

Looking
back at Bill, he went on. “She asked me to give

her

a ride to her preliminary hearing, so I did
.
You
know the cou
rt complex in this county is impressive
.
This county has one of the highest
unemployment rates in the state. There is no new development on the lakeside so the only time I go
to that town is for the Lake! Nevertheless, there are foreclosures’ all over the
town. As soon as I
parked across from the complex, locked and shut the doors we were panhandled! We stood right
across from the court!”












I have seen it on my way to drill,” replied Bill. “It is impressive to see even while driving on
Sheridan ro
ad. We drill at the Navy base.
Yes, I like the lakeshore myself.”

He lifted his glass and
took a long drink of beer tilting his head towards the ceiling as he swallowed. “It sure is, all four or
five stories of brownstone and glass,” replied Jeremy. “Man i
t was cold to.” The wind was whipping
hard from the west heading right down Washington Street to the Lake. “All I was wearing was a
leather blazer over a wool sweater. I have my old leather flight jacket in the back of the jeep, so I
unlocked the door, ret
rieved it.”










We passed through the metal detector and went right on up to the
courtroom. When

we
walked through the
door,

I whispered something to her about still feeling cold. Then we sat
down

on those cold hard benches
. A big tall son of a buck b
ailiff strutted over, stood in front of
us,

and
told us to shut up! “He said shut up, not don’t talk or be quiet?” Bill asked incredously. “Not only
that but he stared at me and said, “Are you trying to stare me down? I was choking on emotion,
dude.” “Wow,


Bill said. Jeremy reflected on the scene, on the anger that welled up inside him. He
still silently feels it, in the recesses of some part of him he cannot seem to understand
.
“Her lawyer
was there,
a court appointed lawyer, and she didn’t even look up.
He turned his back on us, then
strode over to the Judge’s bench, spoke to her, she smiled then he walked over to the door by us
standing and glaring.”












Wow, I couldn’t have handled that
”,

Bill said, waving his finger for attention. His beer glas
s
was empty. The red head decked with the dangling silver earrings hurriedly strolled to their side of
the horseshoe. “Can I have another glass?’ Bill asked. “Coming right up, and you?” she asked
Jeremy. He ordered another coffee.

In the lull during
refill
s,

Jeremy glanced again at the isolated















12

booth. It no longer looked bright
, but shadowy in the incandescent lighting.




There were two couples sitting at it now. Two women dressed demurely in brown or

gray
wool sweaters, long brown hair parted in the middle
,

flanked by

two men on each side. The men
dressed drably in bright gray

business suits, clean
-
shaven
,

short sweptback hair. All had drinks in
front of them
,

the men’s were amber colored, the women light green and red. They were silently
perusing
menus. They represent the

society of indifference, Jeremy thought. We have to protect
ourselves from their indifference.

Do not take a number and stand in line. Give nothing but respect,
and accept nothing but respect. That is the least we can do
,

especially for our dead.



The ba
rtender silently placed the fresh glass of beer in front of Bill, and then handed the

coffee over to Jeremy. He paid for both, fished two dollars from his wallet, leaving it on the table for
her. “When the court finished with her we lef
t that building as soon as we could get out.
That is

when Susan pointed out that my patches are still on my flight jacket.
We feel that was what set him
of
f. He was contemptuous, or

nervous
.”










We walked across the street to the County Veterans A
ffairs office. We felt disrespected, and
wanted to report

it
.

Jeremy paused, blew steam from the lip of his coffee mug, sipped
it,

and
then
leaned forward, relaxing his shoulders, letting out a deeply held breath. “Maybe they’re scared of
us”, Bill murmur
ed. Jeremy could feel a slow smile building at the corners of his mouth. “Scared of
what?” Jeremy

s
hifted a sidelong glance up to the corner booth. The people were dark shadows in
the corner, with dim yellow lighting marking their vague outlines. “No, I do
n’t think so,
contemptuous perhaps.
We have followed

bad

and

good orders; our experiences make us
harder to
fool
, making us suspect”.











“So the people at Veterans Affairs said there wasn’t much they could do about our disrespect.
They seemed to apologize for the court’s behavior towards us.”
Jeremy could feel perspiration begin
to form on his forehead. He deftly raised his arm to wipe his
head with his sleeve. He passed his
f
ingers through his hair wishing

he had a bandana to tie around his head, to soak the dampness off
his forehead. Taking a deep breath, he fished through his pocket for a notebook he habitually kept.
He a
sked the redhead
bartender for a p
en. “Bill,
if

you don’t mind I’ll give you my name and
number.
Do not be afraid to call if you need anything, and it is in my power to help. Sometimes the
telephone is the easiest thing to pick up, or the hardest thing to use.” Jeremy reme
mbered the
times the telephone was very hard to use. Jeremy smiled as he handed the piece of paper to Bill.
“Listen, man, I have friends, acquaintances’, mostly Veterans that would be glad to help you two.
Don’t be afraid to ask.” “Well thanks. Hey, stick
around; Cheryl should be here any time. I’d like you
to meet her.
” Jeremy was a little surprised at the invitation.
He looked at B
ill and replied, “Hell, I
thought my little diatribe might have put you off.” “Naw
”,

Bill
laughed,

“You put into words what I
was feeling
”.

“Well, I’ve had a good meal, a little wine, and coffee. Good conversation. I’m going
over to the lake and hook this bass that I know is waitin on me. I’ll fight with him a little; scold ‘im
for being caught then release him. If I catch bluegi
ll though, that is different. Nothing beats the
sweet taste of deep fried bluegill
”,

laughed Jeremy.
“I can’t waste any more sunlight in here.” After
glancing at
Bill’s

nearly full beer glass Jeremy shifted a sly glance to Bill and said, “You and Cheryl
ha
ve fun, be careful
”.

Bill lifted his glass in s
alute and replied “you to Bro.”
















13

Jeremy maneuvered his way towards the door. Smiled at the matron‘d as she said a pleasant
“Thank you, please come again”. He stepped outside, fished in his shi
rt pocket for a pouch of
tobacco. The sun was lowering in the
west
.

A large
Raven
caught an updraft and glided across the
road out of sight.

He felt the clean feel of the brisk air on his face.

The breeze blew wisps of stinging
hair into his eyes, blurring

into a watery haze.
He

blinked away the clear film
feeling
refreshed as the
tears ran small
warm
rivulets down his cheeks.

Jeremy
smelled the

odor of
life, pungent

with the
smell of plant, waterfowl,
muskrat,

and
beaver.
He

watched the far, faint circles of water from fish
slapping the top, in their frenzy to feed. He

shifted

his thinking from crowded agitation,

shaping
into
quiet expectation
of a peaceful afternoon, sharing the magical serenity of the lake, fishing for that

elusive Bass.