The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Fourteen

The Stage Is Set

Five-hundred miles to go, on a Greyhound, chasing the setting sun . . . Katie and Max are safe, somewhat-sound, and heading for Seattle and a reunion with Max’s family.

There are a lot of miles behind them, a lot of living and suffering, a lot of regrets and fears, and only five-hundred miles to go.

Will the ghosts of the past finally be laid to rest? Can these two move forward and begin a new life together? Will Max’s family welcome them with open arms after being ignored for ten years?

Let’s find out!

Source

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

The thing about the Rocky Mountains is that they’re so damned big, it’s like they never end, like they’re the one last obstacle between us and happiness and Jesus, man, they just keep rising up in front of us, taunting us, laughing at us, telling us how insignificant we really are. They tease you into thinking the end is behind you, but then you turn a bend in the road and another wall of rock stands before you.

That’s how it is as the bus heads northwest out of Yellowstone country, the mountains part and a grand valley opens up, welcoming us with open arms, windswept, barren in winter, snow swirling but still, flat and nowhere near as daunting as the ranges fading from view, and Katie lets out a sigh against my chest, a sigh of relief, but just as quickly a gasp as we take a bend in the road and see what awaits us to the west, snowcapped guardians by different names, rising above the valley floor, laughing at our futile efforts to put it all behind us.

“Good God, Max, do these mountains ever end?” Katie asked me three hours into our ride. “It’s like God has decided you and I will never see the sun again.”

“Kate, if there is a God, I’m pretty sure he’s got better things to do than continue some petty feud with us. You and me, we’ve seen worse than those mountains up ahead, and here we are, standing proud, spitting at it all. We’ll make it, Kate. We’ll make it.”

A road sign promised conveniences up ahead in Butte, Montana. Antelopes bounded across the frozen land, oblivious to the force of Mother Nature, while cattle turned their backs to the wind, facing leeward in a grove of skeletal trees.

“Tell me more about your family, Max.”

.The Seattle waterfront
.The Seattle waterfront | Source

My Family

“You got to remember, Kate, I haven’t seen them in over ten years now, so my memory might not be accurate.”

“Tell me, Max!”

“Well, my old man, he must be right around fifty-four now, if my math is correct. Mom must be fifty-one, and sister Jeannie is twenty-five. I saw them once after basics were over, but then I did my first tour of the Sandbox and, well, I just couldn’t go home after that.

“Anyway, they’re good people. Mom and Dad, Dale and Josephine, they had me when they were young, Dad right around twenty-one, Ma about eighteen, and it was a struggle for sure, them being young and at the time not much work available, but Dad worked several jobs, and Mom picked up spare work when she could, and they made it. Dad’s a longshoreman, works the docks in the SoDo area of Seattle, or at least he used to, drives one of those big-assed forklifts and moves shipping containers around the lot all day long. He’s shorter than me, about five-ten, and bulky, wide-shoulders, sandy hair he’s always worn long, a face that looks chiseled, like the Mount Rushmore faces, but his smile is kind and warm. Funny, but the thing I remember most about him is how big his hands were, how strong he was, and how much I loved it when he hugged me. It felt like nothing bad would ever happen.”

The outskirts of Butte came into view, not much really, deserted cars in the yards of ranch houses, silos rising like sentinels, the hills scoured with flat tops from the mining, ugly country spoiling the romantic notion of the Rockies.

Tell Me More, Max

“Don’t stop, Max. What about your Mom?”

Pawn shops, the Golden Arches, and Jesus Saves were now our companions.

“Mom was . . . is . . . the kindest person I’ve ever met, bar none. I’ve never met a person who didn’t instantly like her. She has this smile that just feels like being smothered in love, like creamy butter on a warm scone, you know? Dad worked hard at his job, but he’d come home, visit for awhile, maybe read the newspaper and then fall asleep in the recliner. Mom, her day would just continue, sewing, washing clothes, preparing lunches for the next day, making sure Jeannie and I had all the love we could handle in twenty-four hours.

“She’s a beauty, my Mom, long blond hair, going gray slowly, wore it in a long braid when there was work to do, wore it loose on her shoulders when it was family time. Didn’t believe in makeup, hated spoiling her face, over the years her smooth skin taking on laugh lines, a few worry lines, but remaining beautiful, a face I first saw over three decades ago, smiling down on me, telling me everything is all right, telling me she loved me.

“She didn’t want me going into the military, afraid, she was, that she’d lose her little boy, saying war changes a man, and she didn’t want her baby ever changed.”

The bus driver took the second Butte exit and navigated white streets to the depot. People got off, me and Katie included, visited the rest rooms, grabbed snacks, stretched our muscles as best we could, before re-boarding. There were only ten others on the bus, ten pilgrims trying to find their way through the maze of life.

Sister Jeannie
Sister Jeannie | Source

JEANNIE

“And what about your sister, Max? What about Jeannie?”

I saw here in my mind’s eye, the projector playing home movies, me and Jeannie, me watching out for little sister, helping her grow up, guarding her against the older kids, making sure guys had proper intentions around the little beauty with the same last name as me.

“If I were ever a parent, Katie, I wouldn’t want a daughter like Jeannie. She’s too damned pretty, you ask me, and I have these memories of guys drooling, fighting off the hard-ons, trying to get her to notice them, all through grade school and middle school. She was fifteen when I left for home and already breaking hearts and taking names, so I can only imagine what degree of beauty she carries with her now.

“She was a great sister, truth be told. She loved her older brother, idolized him, thought I walked on water and cried, oh how that girl cried, when I saw her the last time, made me promise I’d come home safe.

“Anyway, you’ll be meeting them soon, sometime tomorrow, and you can see for yourself, Katie.”

Darkness falls
Darkness falls | Source

Darkness Falls

It gets dark fast in the mountains, by five o’clock the white landscape a ghostly gray, and Katie snuggles into my shoulder, holding on tight, trusting in me.

“Are you afraid, soldier?” she asks me.

“I guess I am, Katie. Don’t make much sense to be so, but there you have it.”

“It will be all right, Max.”

A few more miles passed by.

“The last mission I was on, Katie, we were clearing a village, making sure the Taliban had moved on, taking fire from an occasional sniper or rear guard, nothing serious but enough to make us edgy, our nerves jumping at every sound.

“I was clearing a house, making sure no hostiles were in it, and I pushed open a bedroom door and saw movement flash on my right side. I fired off three rounds, waited, fired off another burst, the sweat stinging my eyes, my blood pumping so damned fast, heart threatening to climb right out of my throat, the smell of cordite thick in the air.

“It was a six-year old boy, Katie. My rounds tore him apart, his lifeless body shattered there on the dirt floor, his blood mixing with the dirt, a red mud forming.

“I don’t think it will ever be all right, Katie.”

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK?

I figure two or three more chapters and we’ll be all done with this story . . . for now.

I hope you’re enjoying the journey. Thanks so much for riding along with Max and Katie.

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

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Comments 54 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 3 months ago from New York, New York

Bill, I can't wait to meet Max's family now after his descriptions here. Thanks for sharing these two with us and wishing you and your family, a very, Happy Thanksgiving, too! :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Janine, Max and Katie wish you and your family the most wonderful Thanksgiving ever!


norlawrence profile image

norlawrence 3 months ago from California

Great article. The pictures were also very good. Thanks for share.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 months ago from Southern Illinois

Another great episode of Max and Katie traveling a hopeful journey home. I bet they will find love, maybe not? I have a friend, Willy who fought in the Vietnam war and he won't talk about it, but he mentions seeing children in his nightmares. No wonder so many suffer with PTSD. Have a great turkey day...


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you very much, Norlawrence. You are appreciated, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 3 months ago

I am enjoying the journey. I did from the very beginning and I will to the very end. You are a great writer, billy.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

Wonderful read!


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 3 months ago from Northern California, USA

I am enjoying this journey with Max and Katie. I'm not sure, but I thought I saw a hint of Max's heart softening when he told Katie they'll make it. I feel like he truly believes it. I love the way you write, Bill.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you, Ruby, and Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. Max and Katie send their regards.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I really appreciate that, Pop! Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks so much, Larry, and Happy Thanksgiving, from Olympia to Oklahoma!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Marlene. The journey is almost over for Max and Katie, but hopefully they will be remember long past the last words written. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 3 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

Such details shared in this bus trip - making me anxious to officially meet Max's family...

This is turning into a beautiful Thanksgiving story - with loads of love and hope.

Wishing you and Bev a peaceful, blessed Thanksgiving. Love, Maria


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 months ago

Bill, I love the series, and I hate the thought of it ending. It is so sad to think of the child in war zone that Max shot. My brothers will not talk about their time in Vietnam, both injured one at the DMZ ad the other at Kamran Bay.

I can't wait to meet Max's family.

Blessings my friend and Happy Thanksgiving.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

Your opening photo is beautiful, Bill. As others have said, I'm looking forward to meeting Max's family.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 3 months ago from Washington State, USA

Bill, you know how much I am loving this story. It makes sense that once Max and Katie arrive in Seattle we will be nearing the end. I'll miss them; but I so look forward to meeting Max's family. This is a beautiful tale, especially for this time of year. Thank you for sharing.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Aw, thanks, Maria, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

love,

bill


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Shyron! Max, Katie, and I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Linda, thank you very much. It should be quite a homecoming! :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Linda, thank you my friend! It's got kind of a Waltons feel to it, an unashamed look at the power of love and hope.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.


DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 3 months ago from Northern Ireland

Loved that description of driving through the Rockies, the bus drivers on that route must really love their job. Max is lucky to have family memories like he described, his family and Katie will help him overcome those memories of war. Looking forward to the next section of the journey.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

Sometimes it's hardest to forgive yourself.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 3 months ago from london

Nice one, Bill. Preparing for the home-coming, yeh? Not always easy and war, even more so. Katie's support is admirable. Until,

Manatita


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Meg, you are appreciated. Thank you very much.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

It is indeed, Flourish! Thank you and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

It should be interesting, Manatita, and I thank you for riding along with them.

blessings always

bill


Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis Rix 3 months ago from UK

Oh! How does anyone come to terms with shooting a child? I anticipate that Max is not going to have a happy life. Will come back to find out what happens next.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Glenis, I appreciate you stopping by. Thank you and I don't have an answer to your question. I know I never would get over it.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 months ago from The Caribbean

No wonder that Max is so loving to Katie. He got his love tank full from his family. More power to family love and loyalty!


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wonderful chapter here. I just kind of felt the warmth of the bus while I felt the warmth of the love.


Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 3 months ago

Living with past can be extreme burden. I wish to see Max and Katie disengaged, leaving old behind, then enthusiastically enter into a new and fresh amusing future.

Wish you blessed and a successful week my friend.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Love of family, Dora, is a beautiful thing and the strongest bond we will ever know. I know you know this.

Thank you!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

It's always all about love, Eric! Thank you for riding along.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I wish that too, Michael my friend. Hopefully that will happen for them soon.

Happy and blessed Monday, Michael!


phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 3 months ago from United Kingdom

Oh, Bill, you are a devil. Here I was getting into the story and you cut it off right after Max's reveal. You are frus-tra-ting.

As you can tell, I'm really enjoying this story and I can't wait for the next installment.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Two more installments, Zulma, so it will be over with soon enough. I'm glad I've captured your attention. I don't know what I'm going to do without Max and Katie to write about. :)


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

It's too exciting to know how close Max & Katy are to Seattle and Max's family. By the time she meets them all, Katy will feel she already knows them. Max has been generous in sharing his memories with her. This will prove to be a really good thing because I believe Katy will soon be one of them.

Through all the struggles and bumps in the road, this couple we've come to love, as we traveled alongside, have grown and changed in so many ways. This was all meant to be. Max & Katy's journey of discovery.

We've watched it all miraculously unfold.....lessons in humility, kindness, friendship & the generosity of strangers. Needless to point out what we've all discovered about the strength and stamina of human nature. The connections of the common thread that runs through each and every one of us, is as authentic and glaring as possible in this wonderful tale of 2 ordinary human beings discovering they're anything but "ordinary!"


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 months ago from Dubai

Waiting to meet Max's family and wonder how the reunion is going to be. Great read.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Sis, I should have you write the jacket summary when this becomes a book. That was perfect. Thanks....you said it all perfectly, Sis!

hugs and love heading your way


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

You don't have long to wait now, Vellur. Thanks for being so faithful.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

I've been known to do pretty much anything for hugs and love.....(legal & acceptable of course!) Oh my!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Of course, Sis! LOL


phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 3 months ago from United Kingdom

Bill, Bill, Bill...you don't fool anyone. You'll carry one writing about Max and Katie. They may have different names and different guises and back stories, but their essence will be there.

Don't misunderstand me. Although I'm anxious to see how the reunion will go, I'm in no hurry to see this series end. :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I simply can't fool you, Zulma, and I think that is very cool. :) Thanks for making me smile on this rainy Tuesday.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 2 months ago from Florida

I loved getting a glimpse of the family Max left behind, and who I'm sure will welcome him with open arms of understanding and love when he walks back through the door.

The mountains look lovely. I can understand how they feel climbing up them though. I have ridden many of miles up along the Georgia mountains in my life. I remember when it was snowing my dad stopping and breaking big icicles off the side of a mountain for us. I don't think times like that exist anymore. At least, they haven't in my life for quite a while now.

It's always a pleasure to take these journeys with your characters, Bill. I look forward to reading the next installment.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Missy, I have similar memories growing up. I've tried to replicate them with my son, but I think I fell short. Still, he knows he's loved, so I couldn't have messed it up too badly. Thank you sweet lady.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 months ago from Central Florida

Max's family has already come to life for me. I can't wait to meet them! I almost expect to see a video of the homecoming in the next chapter.

No matter how much love Max is surrounded by, he'll never get the vision of that little boy out of his mind. I wonder if that day so long ago will affect his and Katie's decision to have kids of their own


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Interesting question, Sha. I'll be going back to them from time to time, so I'll have to make sure I answer that question in a future chapter. Thank you!


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 2 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Bill

A chapter filled with both hope and fear, hope for the future, but fear the past will rear its ugly head.

Loved it.

Lawrence


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you very much, Lawrence. Always hope, my friend.

bill


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 2 months ago from Texas

Must you play with my emotions so? First it's hopeful and then...WHAM!. . ..you had to end it with that war memory. I'm convinced that your novels could turn into hit films. Are you ready for the big screen? LOL


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Some people play with toys, Shannon. I play with emotions. LOL Bring on the hit films. I'm ready for fame. LOL


simplehappylife profile image

simplehappylife 7 weeks ago from United States

Very Well written Bill :) I love your style. I'm looking forward to reading on...

:) Thanks for sharing with us (you'll have to combine it all and sell the book).


billybuc profile image

billybuc 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you SA! I'm sure I will put it in a book eventually. I have two others waiting to be written before that happens. There's always something, isn't there?

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