The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Twenty

And Happy New Year to You All

Here we go, 2017, ready or not!

Thanks for joining me again today. More importantly, thanks for joining my main characters. Max and Katie appreciate it any old time someone stops by and shares some love with them . . . love and hope . . . that’s what this ongoing story is all about . . . love and hope!

Where would we be without it?

Home | Source

War Is Hell

He was just laying there, man, not moving. His right arm was bent in a way not intended. There was blood on his forehead. He looked like maybe he just decided to take a nap, right there in the road, to hell with the consequences, sweet little boy, not much older than five or six, just taking a nap as the midday sun hit its zenith and bullets buzzed overhead.

But it wasn’t a nap, you know, unless you’re talking permanence, that little boy hit by a brick, believe it or not, a brick blown a good hundred feet from the explosion, soldiers running by him, me included, such a surreal sensation, killing going on everywhere and that little boy, taking a nap.

I shook my head, shook myself back to the here and now, another damned daydream/nightmare/flashback, whatever the shrinks want to call it, shook my head and there was Katie, looking at me, concern carving worry lines on her beautiful face.

“Did you hear me, Max? I said when we get married, maybe we should think about having children. What do you say to that, soldier?”

What do I say to that?

Ten years ago I would have said “hell yes” and been so damned excited, a little Max to play catch with, as my father had with me, but that was ten years ago and this was now, and now had me ducking for cover when a garbage can lid was slammed down, and what right did I have to bring a kid into this world where his father couldn’t tell the difference between peace and war?

“Can we talk about it later, Katie?” and she nodded her head, kissed me softly, and told me any old time I was ready.

Doing Double Duty

The past two weeks have been busy, what with me doing chores around the home, filling in for my old man, who was still recuperating from the heart attack that damned near claimed him, damned near put him on the ferry for the ride across the River Styx, so it was time for me to step up and be everything my old man once was. The question was, could I do that? Money was running short, too, seems like it always is, right? Katie helps out, as does my sister Jeannie, chipping in parts of their salaries, but they’re only baristas, not Bill Gates, so we’re always robbing Peter to pay Chase Manhattan, and asking Paul to wait his turn. I needed to find work, that was obvious, but what could an ex-grunt afraid of shadows do in the civilian world? The Zoloft was keeping the banshees at bay, but I have enough demons playing tag inside of me to keep me confused on the best of days.

So my mind was a blizzard of thoughts on that sunny afternoon, me sitting at the table, drinking down some coffee Mom had just made, helping myself to a second apple fritter, Katie stroking my hair, and out of nowhere my Mom says, “I forgive you, Maxey,” no preamble, no warm-up, just a simple statement of fact, a mother loving her son.

“I can’t pretend to understand what you saw in that damned war, Max, and no matter how badly it hurt to have you disappear, I know you were only doing what needed to be done. You’re my baby boy and that’s that.”

Are there words that say what needs saying in response to something like that?

“I did things over there, Mom, and I can’t get them out of my head. I didn’t want you to see the man I had become.”

She was quiet for a time, putting away silverware, cleaning the countertop, keeping her hands busy while her mind worked on my words. Finally, she put the sponge down, turned, and looked at me.

“You’re my baby boy and always will be, Max. Tuck that away somewhere and grab hold of it whenever you have doubts. You’re right where you belong, surrounded by love, and don’t you ever forget it. Now I need you and Katie to go to the store for me, pick up a roast for dinner. I’ve just been craving a good roast lately. And stop by the church, please, and remind Father Patrick that he said he’d stop in and pay a visit to your father.”

Going to church
Going to church | Source

Going to Church

We found him hauling out the trash in the back of the rectory, Father Patrick O’Brien, seventy-eight years of barely-restrained energy, white-haired, a slight stoop, a slight hitch to his walk, broad at the shoulders, and a smile that would light up the darkest of hearts. Father Patrick O’Brien, the pastor of Sacred Heart Church for the past forty years, the man who baptized me, the man who presided over every important event in my family’s life, smiled when he saw us.

“Max, my son, what a wonderful surprise, and you brought the lovely Kate with you, frosting on a delicious German Chocolate cake, a red-headed burst of beauty you are, Kate. So good to see you both and yes, before you say a word, Max, this old man has not forgotten, I’ll be seeing your father this afternoon, the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. Is that old rascal following the doctor’s orders?”

“He has no choice, Father, with my Mom watching over him,” and the old priest nodded his head in complete understanding.

“And tell me, Max, what about you? I’ll be honest with you, son, no secrets between us, your mother is worried about you. She tells me there are still battles being fought.”

“Some days are better than others, Father. This morning the air was thick with lead. This afternoon I’m in the DMZ. It comes and goes.”

The old man nodded his head. “If there’s any sense to it I have yet to figure out what it could be. Man killing man, and for what? Usually some decision made by men who have never fought in a war, men safely tucked away in some office thousands of miles from the shattered limbs. My brother died in Vietnam, did you know that, and it plumb killed my mother, her son dying in a jungle in a country she couldn’t even find on the map. He was my older brother, and six weeks after he died, I signed up for the Army of Jesus. I figured maybe some good could come of his death, you know, if I did my job?

“So there I go again, an old man babbling on. How’s your curveball, Max? It seems to me you once threw a pretty good bender. And can you still sink a jumper from the top of the key?”

There was nothing wrong with the old man’s mind. He was once my CYO coach, baseball and basketball, and he attended my games when I was in high school. Before I could answer he continued with the new line of thought.

“I need a new CYO coach and administrator, Max my boy, and I think you’d be perfect. What do you say? Can you help out an old man in need? This isn’t a favor, by the way, it’s a paying job. Oh, you won’t get rich, but you’ll make enough to give you a sense of worth, something I figure you might be short of right about now.”

Katie squeezed my hand.

“Are you sure, Father? You’d be getting damaged goods.”

“Hell, son, we’re all damaged goods. My favorite character from the Bible is Peter. Read up on him some day, and I’ll see you tomorrow eight sharp. Tell your mother I’ll be by this afternoon by four at the latest.”

R.I.P. | Source

Back Home

Dad was watching a rerun of an old Husky football game when we got home. He bleeds purple and gold, and he’s excited where Coach Chris is taking his beloved Huskies, “all the way to the top, Max, all the way to the top next year.”

I told him about my new job. He smiled, reached for the remote, and turned off the game.

“Father Patrick is a good man. Did he tell you about his brother dying in Nam?” I nodded. “What he probably didn’t tell you was he went to jail no less than ten times for protesting the war. Even as a priest, back in the early Seventies, he took a lot of grief from the bishop for his anti-war protests, the bishop threatening to kick him out of the priesthood if he didn’t stop, and Father Patrick telling the bishop that the Catholic Church had a moral obligation to fight against all wars, that God didn’t put us on this earth to kill each other.

“Anyway, Max, you’ve got a good man covering your six. I’m happy for you, getting that job. You’ll be perfect, son. Now leave me alone, will ya? I’ve got a game to watch. It’s about the only damned thing your mother allows me to do. God what I wouldn’t give for a cigar and three fingers of Jack right about now.”

I thought back to my time on the streets, ten years of rubbing shoulders with the drifters and grifters, the honorable and the disreputable, seeing the worst mankind could produce, but also the best we could ever hope to see, and I thought back to the times before, in the Army, killing men I never knew, men with hopes, men with dreams, men with families of their own, shattered lives littering the sand far away, shattered lives littering the streets of Seattle, and Portland, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Tuskaloosa.

Shattered lives.

Some make it.

Some don’t.

The jury was still out for me.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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Comments 52 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 6 weeks ago from New York, New York

The jury may still be out at the end of this installment, but I have hope for good, old Max just yet. Thanks for sharing a bit more of him here with us today and Happy Wednesday now, too Bill!! :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Janine, I have hope for all of us. :) Thank you as always and a very Happy Wednesday to you. It's time to get back to normal for all of us.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 6 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Max is awesome. Which one of us is not wounded in some way? Max's in my mind the worst. Maybe with all the love it will push out the grief. Look at you, you have me thinking of the whole family as real. I wonder if they would have made it without that old pickup truck.

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 6 weeks ago from Rural Arizona

Another great chapter in this awesome story. It is sad but many don't and can't understand the problems faced by many of our returning vets. They have seen, and possibly done, things that no human being should ever have to endure.

My own son retired after 24 years in the Army Rangers, and he was a changed person when he returned home. He could relate to what Max is going through far better than most of us. It took a few years, but my son has now been able to put most of this in the past and live a nearly normal life.

Your story about Max tells another story about what we owe these vets who find themselves in this position. It takes time and love to bring them back.

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

Another wonderful chapter. I hope I never see the last one (but I know that's not possible). Sad and sweet and hopeful.

There is no love like that of a mother for her child. Perhaps Max will come to recognize that love heals all, and the love he could give to a child will overcome the ugly of this world.

(By the way, the Husky coach is Chris--Pete takes care of our Hawks).

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I'm not sure how I made that mistake, Linda, but thanks for catching it. I corrected it, and my apologies to Coach Peterson. :)

Thank you my friend.

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cwritesnow 6 weeks ago from Dushore, pa did the priest's anti-war stance sit with the veteran? How did it make him feel? PTSD is strong so I hope nothing was triggered.....

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I suspect, Erik, they would have made it, and there was no way I was denying them their destination. They worked too hard to make it.

Thanks, buddy!

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 6 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

PTSD is real, man. There are some things in life that you can never un-see, un-hear, or un-live. The reel just keeps running - playing the scene in your head over and over. I can't imagine how people endure a traumatic life without supportive people around them all day. Max is fortunate to have people in his life to bring him back to life each time the ugliness of war brings its reality to the forefront of the brain without the courtesy of a moment's notice.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Mike, as long as I'm able to tell a story, there will always be a sympathetic place for a veteran who has fought the fight. We need to do more, as a society, to help these young men and women find a life after they serve. Thank you, my friend. It's colder than an ice box here this morning and I'm having a hard time typing with my hands shaking. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Great question, cwritesnow, one that will be answered when this series of stories makes it into book form. Thanks for being here.

DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 6 weeks ago from Northern Ireland

My father fought in WWII, through Africa and Italy and finally liberating some of the detention camps. They didn't know about PTSD in those days but my grandmother always said he came back a changed man. Many of the men who fought in that war died early and possibly that had something to do with it. I am glad Max has people to talk to. My father would never talk about the war, I think he thought no one would understand. And maybe they wouldn't.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 6 weeks ago from The Caribbean

It's a New Year for Max regardless of the date and I feel so happy for him. I love the gleams of hope in this story.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 6 weeks ago from Oklahoma

I know I've said it before, but I love your writing, and this Sun Never Rises series is my favorite.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Marlene, you just described it perfectly, like a movie that keeps rerunning over and over and over again. Thank you for that perfect description.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Meg, my dad was the same way, fought in Italy in WW2, never would talk about it, and I'm certain that was because he wanted to protect us all from that reality but also he knew there was no way for us to understand, so why bother.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you once again, Dora. Reality and is impossible to face without the other. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Larry, I've said it before too, but I love your support and kind words. Thank you sir, and again, Happy New Year to you.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 6 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

I'm glad Max is going to work. I like Father Patrick, and I love your story. I knew a man who had PTSD from WWII, it never left him after 50 years.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 6 weeks ago from USA

I knew someone with PTSD as well. It did sad and wrenching things to his psyche and his life.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 6 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

Your story of Max and Katie continues to be interesting, Bill. I'm happy to learn more about Max's family and acquaintances, too. It's good to see that things are slowly improving for him at the moment, even though his life is still hard.

Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 6 weeks ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

What a great chapter. Again it stands on its own. Well done.

It reminded me of the arguments I had with my son and is father when my son was called up for the Army in SA during the Angola War between 1975 until 2005. During the eighties it was at its worst and I did not feel that a child of mine should fight someone else their war and be killed. My plan was to send him to my family in Holland instead. He wanted to join and became an Operational Medic so I had no say at all. What a horrible time. So glad he came out of it sort of unscathed, I hope. One never truly knows what a war does to the psyche of a person.

Myles H Leggett profile image

Myles H Leggett 6 weeks ago from Bradenton, FL

I guess it's always good to be hopeful for Max! This chapter was a nice pick me up. Hopeful for Katie as well :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Ruby! I know quite a few veterans and I am always in awe of what they are called on to do.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Very true, Flourish! Sad and wrenching is a vivid and accurate description. Thank you!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Linda! I hadn't intended to go this far with the story, but the characters keep demanding that I tell their story, so I'll continue to do so.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Nadine, thank you for sharing that experience. I can't imagine sending a son off to war. I'm glad I'll never have to imagine it.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Myles, thanks for stopping by. I try not to be too "doom and gloom," but still retain a smattering of reality.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

The way you describe the effects of PTSD and the horrors of war with Max is so real, Bill, and heart rending. Although I wonder how any vet with these experiences can, to a certain extent, begin to resolve them, I still have hope that Max will find a way with the love of those who surround him. I like Father Patrick...your account of him; why Simon Peter is his favorite character from the Bible (he's mine, too); his protests against the VN war, and more. You must be tired of hearing this, but I love this series.

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 6 weeks ago from United Kingdom

Little by little it's coming together. His sister blasted Max with her feelings about his disappearance, then forgave him. His mother has done likewise. They are on the mend. Max is taking steps closer to his own healing now that he finds himself on firmer ground.

I do hope working with the kids doesn't bring back any bad memories. Maybe it will make him more amenable to Kate's request. I await the next instalment with fingers crossed

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 6 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

This installment had a lovely dose of divine intervention - wonderful to meet Father Patrick.

This job sounds perfect in every way for Max. Combined with the love, acceptance and forgiveness found at home, I am hopeful for his continued healing.

See you next time and have a great weekend. Love, Maria

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I'm never tired of hearing that, Genna! I love these characters, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one. :) Blessings and thanks to you on this chilly Sunday morning.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Zulma, thanks for spending a little Sunday with me. There are ups and downs, yes? And Max and Katie just have to experience them as we all do, head-on, pain required, but hope always leading them forward.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Maria! I'm a little slow getting here. Busy times around here, and busier yet to come. Lots to do...always lots to do.

Have a brilliant Sunday, my dear friend.



Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 6 weeks ago

Once again in this story, my friend you are communicating to your readers that the hardships of life in every situation have in advance an arranged help. Max needed it most and the heavenly providence led him to the righ place . What a supernatural intervention by Father Patrick O'Brien! A perfect human being with a loving heart. Hope , the whole family would find much needed tranquility in their precarious life's journey. So help us God.

Blessings and peace.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 6 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

Glad he got that job. Reading this made me smile because I realized that in some ways you and I hit the same notes when writing. I too would have thought of the River Styx. I usually come up with comparisons or the odd idea and then sometimes take it from there and before I know it I have written so much more than I thought I'd be able to write. Looking forward to the next.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Michael my friend, you summed it up perfectly. Thank you for seeing the story within the story. You are appreciated.

blessings always

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Yes indeed, Rasma, that's pretty much what I do when I sit down to write. It's good to have a soul-sister.

Vellur profile image

Vellur 6 weeks ago from Dubai

Great that Max got a job and his father keeping fine under the watchful eyes of his mom. I hope things sail smooth from now on for Max and the jury just does not catch up with him.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Vellur. I hope the same things, but I suspect there are still tough times ahead.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 weeks ago from Central Florida

Powerful chapter, Bill! Max and Katie seem to be in the right place at just the right time since they hooked up. Life is definitely on the upswing. Hopefully, the nightmares and demons will abate eventually. I have a feeling working with children could go either way for Max. It could be healing or it could be unbearable.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Sha, that's the thing I'm trying to portray in this story. With PTSD there are no guarantees. Thank you for seeing that.

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 4 weeks ago from Texas

If I'm on the jury, and I am because I say so, Max will make it.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Your vote has been recorded and duly noted, Shannon. :) Thank you, my friend.

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 weeks ago

Max is a good and descent man, and he deserves the break that Fr. O'Brien is giving him.

I like what Fr. O'Brien told the Bishop about wars.

This is beautiful! Blessings my friend

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Fr. O'Brien is the priest I wish I knew, Shyron! Thank you from all of us, and blessings to you always.

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 3 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


Really enjoyed this. Max has some good friends, as well as family, and that's what counts.

It's also good to see the 'healing' that's going on for Kate.

Great stuff

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 3 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


Sounds to me like even w

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Lawrence! I do love this story, and it's nice to have others, like you, enjoying it too.

Blessings always, my friend.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 2 weeks ago from Florida

Another wonderful installment of HOPE! Thank You!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

And I thank you, Missy! Peace be with you!

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