The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Twenty-Two

Can You Imagine?

The more I read about PTSD the more I realize just how many people potentially suffer from it. There is a very real chance I do as well, and I somehow managed to suppress its effect for all these years…but perhaps not. I mention it only because PTSD is much more common than you might suspect. It literally affects millions in the United States alone, some severely, some in lesser degrees. Perhaps some of you know of someone, or you yourself suffer from it.

If you do suffer from it, you have my sympathies and my blessings. If you know someone who has it, please, practice compassion and empathy.

And so we move on to Chapter Twenty-Two . . . thank you!



I found her on a park bench at Green Lake on a brilliant day in Seattle. Lovers walked along the pathway, hand-in-hand. Children whooped and hollered, playing tag, tossing Frisbees, and loving the hell out of life.

She was simply sitting, looking out at the water, unaware of life going on around her.

Katie had disappeared after breakfast. She wasn’t scheduled to work that day but still, for her to just go off without saying anything, it was strange at the very least. When she hadn’t returned to my folks’ home after two hours, I went searching for her.

And there she was!

I sat down next to her. She didn’t acknowledge my arrival, just kept looking out at the water, deep in her own thoughts . . . deep, I suspected, in her own past.

Five minutes, ten, she reached out and held my hand, gentle at first but then with increasing fervor, a life-line keeping her from the edge.

“I don’t know how strange this is going to sound, Max, but let me say it, okay? It sounds pretty damned strange in my head, unspoken, so I can just imagine . . .

“The thing is, God help me, there are days when I miss the old life, you know?” I nodded. “There are days, Max, when I miss the routine, walking the streets, picking up Johns, giving them pleasure, all the time disconnecting from it all, floating above it all, looking down on the sweating bodies and knowing that just for one moment I owned their souls. I miss talking to the other girls, miss bullshitting about this and that, hell, and this will really sound sick, I even miss being hassled by the cops.

“And I wake up some mornings, like today, and I look out at people living their Leave It to Beaver lives, and I think ‘what in the hell am I doing? Who am I kidding?’ you know? This isn’t me, Max, and yet I want it with every fiber of my being.”

I put my arm around her, held on tight, just about the only thing I could think of doing that seemed safe at that moment.


I had to say something, right? There’s only so much you can communicate through touch.

“I was over in the Sandbox for two tours. There were times, Katie, of unbelievable boredom, just listening to the wind blow, and trying to stay warm at night on sentry duty. People don’t think it gets cold in the desert but man, I gotta tell ya, it gets colder than a brass monkey’s balls out there in the sand.

“But then there are other times when bullets are buzzing overhead, and you have your cheek pushed into the sand, just hoping you survive it all, and your blood pumping and you about to lose control of your bowels, and you wonder what the hell you’re doing in that hellhole. What is it all for? Love of country? Bullshit! Freedom? That was the furthest thing from my mind at that time. Family? I never once gave a thought to my family during those firefights, Katie. The only thing I thought about, and my buddies confirmed it, was staying alive and watching the backs of my platoon. That’s it, total focus on protecting yourself and your fellow soldiers.

“And then it’s back to the boredom, and then the killing, and the boredom, and when it was all over, when the last body bag had been zipped and I was back in the States, safe and sound, I woke up and I missed it, and I laughed the first time I realized it, then it scared the shit out of me, and now today I just realize that’s the way it is. I don’t know the whys. I just know it’s real.”

A stop at the park
A stop at the park | Source

The Walk

She squeezed my hand, stood, and tugged.

“Let’s walk the lake,” and she led me down the path, kids still whooping and hollering, lovers still loving, life doing what life does with us just observers.

“Will there ever be a place for us in this world, Max? Will we ever wake up one morning and really believe it’s possible for us to consider all of this normal? Right now I don’t, Max. Don’t get me wrong, I love you, and your family couldn’t be more caring and accepting, but I just have these long periods where I feel it’s all a joke and I need to return to the life I’m familiar with, the life that didn’t seem like a threat, you know? And we talk about marriage and it scares the hell out of me, and the thought of maybe having a kid? What kind of cruel joke would that be, you and me bringing a child into the world with two totally screwed parents?”

Right then a little girl, not much older than six or seven, ran over to us, stopped in front of us on the path, and looked up at us both.

“Will you play tag with me?” she asked, mainly to Katie, me just watching it all transpire, wondering where this wrinkle would take us. Surprisingly, Katie let go of my hand, took the little girl’s hand, and out on the grass they went, Katie taking a few steps away from the girl, telling her to catch her, the little girl chasing and laughing, tagging Katie, roles reversed, their laughter like soothing music on a troubling day, the world suddenly compressed, nobody else at the lake, just Katie and that little girl, me watching . . . me hoping . . . me praying… and Katie’s red hair flowing behind her as she ran, like some wild horse galloping across the arroyo, a thing of beauty, a wild, majestic thing no saddle should ever touch.

And then that little girl’s mother calling her, the game ending, and Katie fighting back the dark clouds as the child ran off to continue her life.

Can they find happiness in this home?
Can they find happiness in this home? | Source

No End to This Trail

I joined her on the grass, watching the little girl run, leap into her mother’s arms, both laughing, and Katie took my hand once again.

“I see a little girl like that and I wonder if she has a father, or a stepfather, who molests her. I wonder if her life is going to be torn to shit like mine was, and there are days, Max, when I wonder those things about every damned kid I see. And you and I talk about marriage, and kids, and happily ever after, and I really wonder if that’s all just a bullshit story made up by Disney. Is it really possible, Max?”

But she really didn’t expect an answer. Good thing, because I didn’t have one.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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Comments 62 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 weeks ago from New York, New York

You seriously are amazing, my friend and thank you for shedding light on the serious subject of PTSD here in your short story. I just can't say that enough. Happy Wednesday now on this dreary, January morning here in NYC! ;)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Janine, I don't know about the amazing part, but thank you very much. As for dreary, I think we can match NYC this morning. :) Happy smiles to you, dear friend.

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 weeks ago

That little girl was a gift badly needed at that exact moment. Your writing is that kind of gift for me.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Aw, thanks Pop! I am just like everyone else, I need affirmation from time to time, and your words helped today.

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 4 weeks ago from Rural Arizona

Bill you seem to have a talent for pulling a ray of sunshine into any gloomy day. This is truly a great story, please keep them coming for awhile.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I will do that, Mike. My wife has taken a liking to this story and won't let me stop writing it. LOL Thanks my friend. Good luck with that gloomy's a torrent here.

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 4 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

One more time I say "thank goodness for Bev" if she is the one who encourages you to keep this going. This one really pulls at the heart. Will Max and Katie's former ways of life one day cease to be the norm? Will they find real ease and contentment in life the way it was meant to be? What does your Muse tell you Bill?

I hope so.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Linda, this is the story that Bev loves to cry through. I keep thinking it's too much for her, and she keeps telling me to keep telling this story. I guess I'll listen to her. :) Thank you!

RoadMonkey profile image

RoadMonkey 4 weeks ago

Yes, when the running stops and the excitement disappears, then the old thoughts surface because there is no busy work to keep it at bay. You have great understanding of what these two going through.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

To think that these inner conflicts are real though they not make sense to those who have never tasted both worlds. Bill, you takes us where few authors dare to go, but we're more honest with ourselves afterwards.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 4 weeks ago from Oklahoma

Always a pleasure:-)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you RoadMonkey. I don't know where that understanding comes from, other than the fact I'm an observer, and I try to understand where others are coming from.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

That is such a beautiful comment, Dora. Thank you for that...thank you very much.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks a bunch, Larry!

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

Wow, this was deep. I knew a man who had PDST. He fought in WW2. It never left him. Katie was suffering from the same thing, only it was different. You were able to bring out the joy of Katie and the little girl playing with your detailed writing. I continue loving this story. Thank you Bill.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you, Ruby! I can always count on you to elevate my mood, and make me feel good about my writing. I appreciate that very much.

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 4 weeks ago from Texas

I say screw reality. If it's all a Disney happily ever after, let's all believe it anyway. You know the quote "a child shall lead them"? Children have an amazing ability to love and to forgive. They aren't yet jaded by the cruelty of the world, the evil, the general unfairness of love gained and lost. Then they begin to test things and do things like bully other kids to express anger or disrespect parents and other authority figures. Some eventually find a balance that allows them to let love in despite a loss of innocence while others are irrevocably "damaged." But sometimes I wonder what if more people just accepted others truly unconditionally? We place conditions on all of our relationships, constantly choosing who to like, who to love, and who to let go of. Like it's all expendable. And what do we do when we become neglectful and accidentally lose touch with friends? We blame it on life and either don't acknowledge that those people weren't as important as we thought and that if we ever cared at all, it wasn't unconditional or we become too damn stubborn to reach out enough to let people back in or in at all. I held this sweet little baby in my arms yesterday whom I'd only just met and she smiled at me with all the trust and innocence in the world, accepting me and my family right away without a fuss. More of that from adults and who knows how our lives would be enriched.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Bill they say you can begin to form a habit by about 21 days of doing something. I wonder if it might take 21 years to handle somethings in the past.

Loss of job is always up in the top five traumatic events. I understand that it is because we identify our selves as being "a" ,,,, Seems to me that it would take awhile to stop viewing oneself as "a" street hooker.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Shannon, you just eloquently stated why I was a teacher for eighteen years. Kids are the only homo sapiens I totally trust at first sight, for all the reasons you just listed. Man, Shannon, with writing like that, you should be a writer. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

You make a profound point, Eric, about identifying ourselves by our job, but it doesn't surprise me at all that you made a profound point. You've lived life, and that's the best teacher of them all. Thanks buddy!

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 4 weeks ago from Texas

Haha. . .gee, I never really thought about writing before. Maybe I should consider it.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

There ya go, Shannon! LOL

Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 weeks ago from Dubai

The painful past haunts and taunts Kate and Max. I sure hope they find the strength to get beyond their painful past. Wondering how the story is going to go, will keep wondering till I read the next.

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 4 weeks ago from Texas

You'll be happy to know that I am slowly plugging away at a novel. A couple of them, actually. Perhaps someday I'll finish.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I'm excited to hear that, Shannon. Best wishes to you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Vellur, I wish I could tell you where this story is going, but I'm just along for the ride. :) Thank you!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

Hi Billy - you point out a sad and amazing truth here. We can walk around in life, passing people who seem to be carrying on simple, lovely lives, like hanging out on a bench by a lake. We can't know the horrible stuff they may have been through, can't see the darkness that may haunt them and, sometimes wish we could be like them, just sitting on a bench by a lake.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Dolores! It's an interesting world out there, with universes within our reach....a kind word just might open up a new universe for us to explore, and how exciting would that be. :) Thanks for the "right on" analysis.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 4 weeks ago from USA

No way do these two need to be considering marriage or children. They each need a o deal with their own demons b fore complicating their lives.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I would agree with you completely, Flourish! Now let's see if Max and Katie listen to our advice. :) Thanks a bunch for following along.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks not only for writing an interesting tale but also for educating me, Bill. There is a lot to learn from Max and Katie's story.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you for saying that, Linda! I am trying to educate about PTSD..I think it's important that we all understand.

Genna East 4 weeks ago

Compassion and empathy are an undeniable, compelling fusion in this great story. Empathy reaches beyond sympathy. Sympathy is feeling for, while empathy is feeling with, which leads to better understanding. I know I'm not alone when I say that we all look forward to where your insightful muse will take Max and Katie -- and us. Happy Sunday. :-)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Well, Genna, the must better wake up, because I'm sitting down to write the next installment. :) As always, I thank you so very much for your kind words.

blessings, dear friend


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Bill,

I am biased in loving your writing. However, what strikes me most in this story is the credible manner in which you relay PTSD and its multiple wrinkles and layers.

The books you've recommended are part of my healing library - both excellent.

Wondering if writing this story is as cathartic for you as it is for me as a reader?

Love, Maria

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Maria, thank you dear friend. I'm an interesting bundle of humanity. I ooze empathy and yet don't know how to show it other than with my yes, this is cathartic for me, in that I can release all that is inside of me, and in so doing show people that I truly do care.



Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

I think the answer came with that little girl and the game of tag. I is possible for them to make a family and I believe that their family will be what saves them both in the end. Looking forward to more.

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 3 weeks ago from United Kingdom

I'm grateful that the encounter with the little girl was a happy one. In real life, the mother might have called the police and reported Max and Katie for attempted kidnapping. Thank you, Bill, for not spoiling the moment.

Max is certainly right about the reality of military duty. It's not at all like the movies where it's non-stop action and gunfire. Most days, the biggest enemy you face is boredom. When the shooting does start, it can catch you off guard because you were probably daydreaming. That sudden burst of adrenaline can really freak you out. I suppose you get used to it though. Maybe it's not so much that life Max misses. Maybe it's the adrenaline rush.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Huge step, that family thing, Rasma! We shall see. In the meantime, enjoy the ride. I know I enjoy you being along on it.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks for sharing that about military duty, Zulma, and boy oh boy, are you ever correct about real life, talking to a little girl in the park. I'm not sure I would consider doing it at all, and how sad is that?

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 weeks ago from Central Florida

Bill, the last two sentences, as simple as they may be, are a powerful ending to this chapter.

I can see this as a movie partly narrated mixed with real time dialogue. Those last two sentences were narrated in my mind and could be the perfect close to the story (once we get there).

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

You simply won't believe this bro. This chapter has me literally stunned with it's depth, brute honesty, palpable emotions, intimate dialogue, (spoken & unspoken)~~warmth & comfort, tenderness, compassion....

So stunning, this is what I'm able to do. One thought, one emotion, one word, one moment of awakening at a time.

Damn. I just saw the Best Hallmark Movie my mind's eye! SIS

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Aw, thanks, Sha! I wanted it to be an understated ending, and yet have impact. Maybe I hit the mark on that one. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Sis, being me, I have a hard time believing it, but I am grateful for you saying it. Thank you dear friend....I'll let you know when Hallmark calls me.

Hugs from Oly


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 2 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

I have a better idea. Don't wait for them to call you. Make sure your copyright is authentic & Solid.....send THEM THIS story. If you are hesitant....send it to ME....I'll submit it! Damn it! Just like when we were kids & I had to do your homework!! (No wonder you graduated as Valedictorian!!).......:) that's my modesty smile.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

LMAO...Sis, I'll be laughing the rest of the day over that homework line.

shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 2 weeks ago from Texas

Hey, I am not the only one saying you could have a Hallmark movie! ;)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

LOL...Shannon, I'll let everyone know when filming begins.

Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 2 weeks ago

Now more than ever in this series you have opened the secret door to the spirit world my friend. Ketie has spoken outright of tormenting her innermost being I would say, while Max shared his constant companion of the past experiences hidden deep in his soul. Hard to understand by outward observation. However they found the way toward normal life, I believe. By mere sharing, speaking up, some call it confessing I just hope and pray , they will one day clebrate total relief in a new and happy life ...


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

MIchael my friend, that is a perfect summary of this story. You have managed to reach inside my mind and heart and pull from them the truth.

Blessings, peace, and thanks!

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

Born, raised, and marrying into a military lifestyle gives me the "privilege" of knowing many people who struggle with PTSD. I don't think people ever get over the trauma. I think people just learn to recognize the onset of a flashback, realize it is not their current reality, and manage to get through it to the best of their ability. I think having someone to share the struggles with is a large part of recovery. It is good Max and Katie have each other to help get through their inner battles with the trauma they experienced.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

It is a tough road for sure, Marlene, but as you said, having love by your side is an important recipe for recovery. Thank you for your insights.

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 2 weeks ago from United Kingdom

I said before this story needed to become a novel. A movie would be good too, but for now, get this published.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

All in due time, Zulma. How about you give me an extra ten hours per day as a gift? I know I can do it then. :)

Thank you for your encouragement. It means a great deal to me.

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 13 days ago from United Kingdom

You don't need ten hours, you just think you do. Five should be enough. Off you go then. :D

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 13 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


Been there, done that, and no matter what they say, it does stay with you.

Difference was, for me, I could point to events and explain to people and they'd accept it because there were 'events'

I think part of the writing is because like Max and Kate I miss I too!

So glad Kate is starting to deal with her issues.



billybuc profile image

billybuc 12 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Off I go then! :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 12 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you for your reflections, Lawrence. I'm glad you are with us, my friend.

blessings always

annart profile image

annart 7 days ago from SW England

It is indeed a strange thing that some can miss a life that wasn't good, yet in some ways was secure or at best familiar. You explain such things in such a plausible way, in these vivid characters whose agony and memories are so powerful, so poignant. Your writing becomes more and more powerful and we live every emotion with them.

The main thing I get from these two is that they are good people who've been dealt a bad hand, yet they continue to be good people.

Amazing, bill!

Hope you're having a vivacious Valentine's Day!

Ann :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you Ann! I try to get inside the characters and feel what they are feeling. Perhaps I miss the mark; perhaps not. All I know is they are human beings and deserve compassion.

Vivacious Valentine's Day? LOL Thank you! I hope yours was, as well.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 2 days ago from Florida

Maybe someday one of your stories will be picked up for a movie. These gripping, real-life stories are the ones I gravitate to. I want emotion, realization, and beautiful awakenings when I watch a movie. Unfortunately, beautiful awakenings usually come from a past of pain, but that's what makes a story and the characters so special. :)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 45 hours ago from Olympia, WA Author

Missy, I have never had a beautiful awakening that was not paid for in pain. I assumed they always did that for everyone. :) Perhaps not, eh?

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