The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Seventeen

A Note from the Author

I never intended to leave Max and Katie. I like them too much. I did intend, however, to take a break from them, a break longer than a week . . . but I was working out in the yard, in-between rainstorms, and Max and Katie started talking to me. I know, I know, it’s frightening sometimes, hearing voices, having imaginary characters talking to me. Welcome to my world!

So anyway, this is all Max and Katie’s fault that I’m back with another chapter so soon. Blame them, not me.

On the docks
On the docks | Source

ACCLIMATION

I couldn’t do it!

I tried.

There was just too much noise down on the docks. Forklifts moving merchandise, container doors clanging, horns blaring, the docks are twenty-four hours of noise, constant, subtle noises and loud, jarring noises, and by the time I finished my second week down there on Dock Twenty-Eight, I was jumpy as all hell, man, and thinking the enemy was preparing to attack.

I quit right there and then. Had to do it. I felt like my skin was peeling off, you know?

Well of course you don’t. Most people have no idea.

I’m not making excuses, folks. I’m just telling you the real of it.

War changes a man! War will turn you inside out, and outside in, and have you jumping at shadows that aren’t even there, and memories explode like tracers across your mind, starbursts, threatening, frightening, a call to arms and take no prisoners scary-as-shit.

So I had to quit. I went home and told Katie.

“I couldn’t do it, Katie. The loud noises, I was getting all nervous, and I was afraid I’d snap, and shit, that’s not fair to the guys working around me. I need to get some help, Katie, sooner rather than later.”

She did what she does best, she held me, not telling lies, not telling me everything will be all right. We’ve both been through too much to do that to each other. No, she just holds me, strokes my hair, rocks me back and forth, big soldier boy clinging to her warm comfort.

“So we head to the VA, Max. We’ll find you help.”

The VA Hospital
The VA Hospital | Source

The Family Rallies

Eleven in the morning, Katie rallied the troops. She called my mother, who was doing her volunteer work at the church, who called my father, who was working his day shift. My sister Jeannie was home, not scheduled to work until three. By eleven-forty we were all poured into Dad’s SUV, heading for Fort Lawton, home of the VA Hospital, and by twelve-twelve we were parking that same SUV and walking through the hospital’s front door.

I explained to a young woman at the In-take station what I needed. Pretty little thing, probably twenty-five, hair braided, tired smile, maybe a bit too much makeup for the natural beauty she possessed.

“I’m sorry, soldier. We’re all backed up today. We can schedule you for an appointment to see Doctor Cummings next, let me see, next Wednesday at thirteen-hundred hours. How does that sound?”

I looked at Katie. She shook her head.

“It will only take ten minutes,” I said. “I just need, uh, I need something to stop the noise, you know?”

“I’m terribly sorry. We are so behind here, short-staffed, too many in need. I can try to…”

My mother stepped up the counter. Pulled something out of her pocket and slammed it on the counter.

“For your information,” she said, “that’s what’s known as a Purple Heart. It belongs to my son, here, Max, and it’s for a bullet wound during action near Kabul. Would you like to see his Bronze Star?” She slammed that on the counter. “That Bronze Star was awarded for bravery under fire, to be precise for saving his platoon in an ambush near some other dust-blown village you and I will never visit, and do you know why we’ll never visit it? Because soldiers like Max do the shit-work for you and I, and then they come home broken, and by God someone in this building is going to take care of my baby boy right this goddamned minute.”

It got pretty quiet around the In-take station at that point. The young woman just kept looking at the items on the desk, like she couldn’t quite fathom how she had gotten in that situation, her mind not helping her out with the right words. Finally, from a room behind the young woman, a door opened and a doctor stepped out, military bearing, six-two, in shape, steely-gray eyes surveying the situation.

“It’s all right, Dahlia. I’ll handle this,” he said, then reached out his hand to me. “I’m Doctor Perkins, Captain, United States Army, and you, soldier, had better follow me. I suppose your family should come with us to avoid any further scenes out front.”

The road to recovery?
The road to recovery? | Source

Cures Are in Short Supply

I’m not sure what I was expecting Captain Perkins to say, but telling me there might not be a simple cure to what ailed me was not it. Seems there are some soldiers who feel the effects of PTSD all their lives.

We were back home in two hours. I was back on Zoloft and scheduled for another meeting with Doctor Perkins in five days. Mom was clucking around like a mother hen, all “can I get this for you” and “here, Max, let me take care of that for you,” and finally Katie had to pull my mom aside and explain to her that what I really needed was some peace and quiet.

So Katie and I sat in lawn chairs in the backyard, the early January sun giving the illusion of warmth. Dad took Mom shopping, and Jeannie was working her shift as a barista.

Katie put her hand in mine.

“I don’t want to live my life on drugs, Katie.”

“Nobody said it was forever, soldier, but right now you need help and there’s no shame in that.”

Somewhere nearby two birds carried on a conversation. A trash lid clanked down. A siren sang its urban song, doors closed, cars honked, televisions played, normal life continuing as my little drama struggled for a foothold.

“It was like being smothered, Katie, like I was struggling for breath, and I started to panic, just flat-out panic, when some guy knocked over an iron drum with a forklift, and sweat was pouring by that point, and I knew I had to get out before something bad happened. Shit, Katie, you didn’t sign on for this.”

She leaned over and kissed me, soft-like, the tenderness of that hard heart finding its way to my soul.

“You and I were making love the other night and I kept seeing the face of my pimp, Max. I wanted to rip your eyes out, just for a moment, lost it all there, and then it was gone, and your gentleness washed over me again.

“I’m not afraid of you, Max. We’re two broken people who need help, but I can’t imagine not being with you.”

“But Katie, you aren’t…”

She put a finger against my lips.

“Max, I swear, you can be so obtuse. Will you marry me? I know the man is supposed to ask the woman, but I think you can agree, this isn’t a normal situation with Ward and June in Beaver Land, so damn it, Max, will you…”

I finished the sentence for her by kissing her, softly at first, then harder, the wounds of the past pouring into that kiss, and hunger won the day, and on that January day we made love on the ground, colder than all get out, the bare limbs of a maple our canopy, the sounds of the city playing sweet music for us, and somehow, in the depths of my primitive brain, I knew, with certainty, that things would be all right.”

And They Will, You Know

Because I’m the author of this story, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to Max and Katie because, well, they’re my friends, so things will be all right!

Thanks for joining me for another chapter…see you down the road!

2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

More by this Author


Comments 53 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 2 months ago from New York, New York

Love that you had the inspiration to write more about Katie and Max here. Looks like your instinct was right on the omen as this latest installation was just (literally and figuratively) what the doctor ordered for these two. Thanks for sharing more of them with us today and Happy Wednesday now!! :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

And I thank you, Janine, for following along from the very beginning. You are so incredibly loyal and I appreciate you.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 2 months ago from Rural Arizona

Somehow or other I knew that you were not finished with Katie and Max even though you told us you were. They are now old friends whom will be with you for the rest of your life.

Thanks for exposing what terrible service many of our vets experience when dealing with the VA. Perhaps a change in leadership will change that, but that of course remains to be seen. Some things are just too broken to be fixed and they have to be discarded and replaced.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I tend to agree with you about the Vet Admin, Mike. I hope we're both wrong, and it can be fixed and fixed properly. Time will tell. Anyway, thanks for being here, my friend, and Happy Holidays to you and yours.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

Bill, I don't want to get into a political back-and-forth with your readers, but it has been a VERY long time since anyone who sits in the Oval Office has served in COMBAT. It's a whole different world, one that I don't think is truly understood by those who have not had the honor of serving our Nation in that way. I don't think any significant changes will come to the VA and that is a very sad reality.

Now, as for Katie and Max--there are not two people who are better suited for each other. Both hear and sea ghosts from previous battles, they each bear invisible scars, but scars nonetheless. And they GET each other. I am so happy that they have reached this milestone. I hope they both find some peace--not today, and probably not tomorrow, but soon.


DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 2 months ago from Northern Ireland

Great to hear from them again. I hope they continue to reach out to you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 months ago from The Caribbean

So much reality in Max's post-war trauma, in Katie's past ghosts, in the provocation as the nurses' station--in the entire story. You make me feel the situation. But my favorite part in this episode? Max's mother's speech. Still more reality.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Linda, it's an interesting point you make about Presidents not serving in the Armed Forces, and I do think that lack of perspective hurts the VA. My goodness, it has been quite awhile, hasn't it? I hadn't thought of that.

As for Katie and Max, these two characters deserve each other, and I mean that in a good way. Thank you for your thoughts, and Katie and Max are happy you are with them in spirit.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I suspect they will, Meg. I really like these two people. Thank you!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you so much, Dora! These are people I can relate to, good people who deal with enormous problems, and do so with dignity and love.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 months ago from Northern California, USA

I like how Max's mother got all "mama bear" on the attendant. A lot of times the gate keeper just doesn't get it. When PTSD strikes, waiting for an appointment is not an option. Sometimes you have to shake people up - give them a minor dose of PTSD so they get it the next time. You know Dahlia is going to relive that mama bear experience every time someone comes in and slams something down on the counter again. Of course, it's your story, soooo... :)


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 2 months ago

A perfectly good feeling about two good people who, I know, will be just fine. Merry Christmas Max and Katie.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Marlene, never mess with a mother bear. That's a lesson we can all benefit from. :) Thanks so much for being here. Happy Holidays to you and your husband.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma

All writers hear voices:-) Great read!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 months ago from Southern Illinois

I was thrilled to see you had written another chapter for Katie and Max. I loved the scene in the VA where the mom came unglued. Sometimes people working in a hospital can't seem to see the real picture, they see only numbers too many times. I'm glad Max is on the road to recovery. Take us back when you get the urge...Love this story!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Aw, thanks, Pop! Merry Christmas from Max and Katie.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Yes we do, don't we, Larry? LOL Thanks my friend.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

You bet I will, Ruby! For some reason this story speaks to me, more than others, so I'm sure I'll return shortly with another chapter. Thank you and Happy Holidays, my friend.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 2 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

Wonderful to see that Max is surrounded by loved ones who will stand by him as he slowly heals.

A wise woman once told me that 'we are all broken'. This story relays that message in a vulnerable, yet comforting, manner.

Beautiful, Bill. Thank you and love, Maria


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

It was nice to read another chapter about Max and Katie. It's certainly realistic that their problems couldn't be solved quickly. I wish them the best.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

And the bugle boy plays and the drummer keeps the beat and the drum majorette marches back stiff down the street of America. We tip our cap and place hand over heart and give a big salute. Only a glimpse of appreciation.

But some of us feel the pain and we lend a hand and lives are changed and most for the better. The war was never and never will be on the battlefield of hell and fire. The war is within us until touched by someone outside that war that raises us up from drowning and offers breath.

You do well for my neighbors here in fighter town. I only wish my tour was longer and made a bigger difference.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 months ago

Bill, I am so glad Max got the help he needed and I am so happy for the two of them, thank you for bringing them back, and so happy they talk to you.

Blessings my friend


phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 2 months ago from United Kingdom

Bill, you should seriously consider turning this into a novel and getting it published. People need to know what happens to the boys and girls we send over there. By people I mean civilians, parents, sibling, friends, everyone who thinks all these soldiers need to do is pull themselves together and suck it up. They need to understand that this is a serious mental illness that can wreck lives and can lead to fatalities in the form of suicides.

I think Mom stills sees Max as her little boy and is doing all the things she used to do to make him feel better. She doesn't understand that Max isn't the same anymore and she needs to let Katie take the lead now. This is something else people need to understand. PTSD doesn't just affect the patient it affects all those connected to him. They need to see how they fit into his life now, if at all.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I do believe that, Maria, that we are all broken. Most, if not all, of my characters are.....but in-between the lines in all of my novels and stories, there is love.

And thank you, dear friend!

love,

bill


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

That's one reason I returned, Alicia, because major problems are never quickly resolved.

Thank you, once again, for being here.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Eric, your beautiful comment pretty much sums up this story. Thank you...and I believe your tour was just long enough and made a huge difference.

Thank you for all you have done and all that you do.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Shyron, they are still talking to me, so don't be surprised if they return soon. Thank you, from me, Max, and Katie.

blessings always

bill


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Zulma, thank you for that heartfelt insight. I agree with everything you said, which makes me wise. :) Seriously, thank you! If I can find the time this will end up a novel. Heck, I'm about 1/4 of the way through a novel already. :)


phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 2 months ago from United Kingdom

Your welcome, Bill, anytime.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 2 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

There are ailments, physical, emotional, mental, that most people can't fathom, some don't even try. Often they pass judgment based on their ignorance. I know very little about PTSD, but I've got one of the other misunderstood conditions, so on a very small scale, I can relate. You didn't tell us about the condition, you showed us what it can do, and I thank you for that. I hope you take this story to the next level, Bill. It needs to be "seen" as we have seen it.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Chris! I appreciate your kind words and I appreciate you sharing your experience with us.


annart profile image

annart 2 months ago from SW England

I've missed quite a few of these, which I didn't want to do, but this is still as powerful as ever. Glad he's got to where he is. Love the mother's speech; it's something we wish we could hear on all sorts of occasions when the powers that be just don't seem to understand.

Now I'm going to have to fill in the gaps I've missed but I think my little brain can cope with that!

Your writing is bounding away to the stars, bill. Did you know that? You should.

Ann


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Ann, thank you so very much. Did I know that? I know I've improved. I know I'm light years away from where I want to be.

And so, the beat goes on!

Happy Holidays, my friend.

bill


annart profile image

annart 2 months ago from SW England

Thanks. You too, bill!

'The beat goes on' sums up writing very well I think - it's something within us that won't stop pounding until we do something about it!

Ann :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

It is for sure, Ann, and at times it is so loud I can't do anything else but write. :) Happy Weekend to you!


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 2 months ago from Riga, Latvia

Well having read this my big, bright smile says it all.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

I don't know about the poor VA treatment. You hear so much on the news but my grandfather, uncles and father have received excellent and low cost care there. Maybe it depends on location. I do know it's not efficient or quick. My dad goes for routine blood work appointments and can be gone hours.

It's interesting that Katie asked Max to marry. My husband's mother was a very forward woman for her time and did the same thing.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

And I can see that smile from here, Rasma. Thank you!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

I think it does matter with location, Flourish. The VA near here is notoriously horrible, so I would say your family has had a great experience. I'm happy for them.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 months ago from Central Florida

Max is surrounded by tenacious women and that's just what he needs to help him through his journey.

Max and Katie, thank you for helping Bill with his yard work. It's great to see you both again! If we don't see you for a while, have a Merry Christmas and don't forget to invite us to the wedding!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Aw, Sha, Max and Katie say thank you, and Merry Christmas to you and your son.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 months ago from Dubai

Another chapter! Max and Katie together happy and onto starting life as a married couple. Good to know that nothing bad is going to happen to them,


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 months ago from Olympia, WA Author

Well, Vellur, I can't promise that, but I'll try to keep them safe. Thanks for always being here.


Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 8 weeks ago

Obviously as it is, Max and Katie needed to come back to show your readers transition from bad to good two wounded hearts by roughness of life, otherwise we wouldn't have slightest idea about. Certainly a chapter like this is full of eye opening epizodes for better acceptance of our neighbors when they are looking for love and understanding. Oh my, would ever civilisation find its original loving-kindness-values ?

Thanks my friend for loving your readers.

peace with us.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Michael my friend, it is my wish that civilization would somehow once again return to its loving roots. We would all benefit.

Merry Christmas and peace to you!


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 6 weeks ago from Texas

Of course the story's good, but you make me smile with your references to your "friends." You've brough them to life for everyone else as well.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I appreciate that, Shannon. There is a lot of my past in these stories, and I'm so happy that people like you appreciate those who walked the walk with me.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 5 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Bill

So glad it didn't end with the last one. Yes it was great news they were home, but Max and Katie's struggle was just beginning. Really enjoyed this, I can identify with them both.

Awesome

Lawrence


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Just beginning for sure, Lawrence. The effects of trauma do not suddenly disappear, as you well know. Thanks my friend, and blessings to you always.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 5 weeks ago from Florida

It's a story that needs to be told. Whether it's fiction or not, it's real to some of the soldiers' living today.

The soldier in your video was great for me to watch. I live here on the First Coast; a little town right out of Jacksonville. I lived in Jacksonville at one time for about five years. I go there often, of course, because you have to when you live in one of the small towns. The big city is where you go for work or doctors, and anything theatrical to do. I always loved to go to the Jaguars game, although I'm not a fan. They suck! lol. I also noticed the reporter who was telling the story. Jeannie Blaylock has been reporting on that station as long as I can remember. My dad even did some work for her at her house several years back. My dad's a sheetrock man, and also a veteran actually.

I'm glad the story continues. I hope some veterans of war come across it; I know they would love it. Thanks for sharing your incredible talent with us, Bill. You draw us in by making us feel like a personal friend by your introductions, and then with your knowledge of real life. :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Missy, thank you so much for your kind words. I cringe when I receive praise like that. I'm not sure why but I do, but that doesn't mean I'm not appreciative. I am. :) Very!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

God, I LOVE Max's Mother!! I stood firmly at her side, silently applauding! Moms get action because their sheer tenacity & force leaves for nothing less.

PTSD is real, nasty & unrelenting but so too should be the fight against it. If ever there were potential victors, Max & Katie are candidates for sure. Wow, that incredible power of love.

(I may be a bit behind the saga here, but someone has to bring up the rear and I have so much practice.....Keep goin, I'm catchin up)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I'm just happy you are here, Sis, catching up or not, and yes, dammit, PTSD is real and nasty!!!!!

Love to you, hugs to you, and thanks to you!

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