The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Twenty-One

The Healing Has Begun

It happens, you know . . . healing . . . it takes time, of course, and may require pain, but it does happen.

Max is learning these things. Katie’s doing the same. Seems the whole damned family has healing to do, but this family has something that will help them immensely . . . they have love.

But there will be pain from time to time.

So we continue on with the story because, well, I think it’s a story that needs to be told. I write it for all the veterans out there. I write it for the victims of abuse, the victims of violence, and the victims of catastrophe. May you all find peace! May you all find healing!

Source

Up in the Attic

My old man has a Colt .45 up in the attic. He’s had it all my life, got it from his old man, an instrument of war then, now just a memento, something to pull out from time to time, lift it, feel the grips, and then pack away again until the next time curiosity comes calling. Far as I know it still works, can still be loaded, can still be fired . . . can still kill.

One sunny morning in May, just a metaphor of a day in Seattle, the birds chirping like crazy at the park, mothers out pushing strollers, mowers providing background music, me hitting fly-balls to my CYO team, and out of nowhere I’m thinking about that Colt .45, wondering if a guy would feel a thing if he pressed the muzzle up under his chin and squeezed the trigger, just ended it all right then and there, no muss, no fuss, instant transition from sunlight to darkness, you know?

Well no, you probably don’t know, seeing as those aren’t “normal” thoughts for a guy hitting balls, playing a kids’ game, enjoying the seventy degree sunshine. It was a day better spent dreaming of the good life, or an upcoming marriage to Katie, of my dad’s recuperation from a heart attack, of the continued healing going on in our family, a damned good day for embracing all the good in my life but dammit all to hell, I was thinking of blowing the roof of my head off.

And then it was gone, and the birds’ songs were as sweet as ever, and Jamie Silkin settled under the pop fly and hauled it in, whooping to his friends.

Welcome to my world!

At the park
At the park | Source

Back Home

I told Katie about it later that night, us curled up in bed, doing the spoon, her wild red hair splayed out on the pillow, my hand resting on the softness just above her hip.

“Did you want to do it, Max?” she asked, and then turned over to face me, searching my face for the lie to come, or the truth, whatever.

I can’t lie to Katie. She’s been through the same hell I’ve been through, her live ammo a pimp’s fist, her I.U.D.s the thunderous right hooks to the side of her head, keeping her in line, insuring she earned her keep by spreading her legs for every guy with a crumpled twenty.

Survivors should never lie to each other.

“Sometimes yes, Katie, yes, I want to find peace, and I know that round of ammunition can give it to me, but it’s just glimpses of insanity, you know, quick flashes, the crazies doing a fly-over and then they’re gone, and then I shake my head and realize healing takes time, and I am healing, I know it, I feel it . . . but then the crazies return.”

She ran her fingers through my hair, her eyes never leaving mine, a gentle smile her only communication, truthfully the only communication I needed at that moment.

“I’ve got no answers, soldier boy. I’ve got no words of advice. All I know is I love you, and I’d be pissed as hell if one day you acted on those impulses and climbed the attic stairs. Pissed as all hell, you hear me?”

I nodded.

“It’s never happened to you, Katie, the desire to end it all?”

There’s a grandfather clock downstairs in our home. I could hear it ticking as Katie considered my question.

“I was thirteen the first time I kissed a boy. His name was Josh Anderson. God, I don’t even remember what he looked like, but I know he was two years older, in high school, and I remember he kissed me so gently, sent shivers through me, that’s all he did, just a sweet kiss and a promise for more sweetness in the future.

“The next night my stepfather visited me for the first time, and every night after that, and, well, from then on, the thought of Josh Anderson kissing me just made me sick, and then angry, and after more time all I wanted to do was find a gun and blow off the body parts of any asshole who touched me. So no, Max, I’m not suicidal, but I may well be homicidal,” and she suddenly laughed, and the absurdness of her laugh made me laugh, and her laughing ended abruptly when she kissed me, hard, kept kissing me as her hands searched, searched, found their quarry, and led me to that secret place of safety and sanity.

Afterwards, her head across my chest, our breathing returning to normal, the illusion of serenity spread over me, and thoughts of steel-jacketed ammunition slipped out the partially-opened window into the mild night.

Source

The Next Morning

Katie wasn’t working that day, so she went with me to the VA for my therapy session. She said she wanted to walk the grounds while I met with Doctor Prentiss, but I’m pretty sure she just wanted to be near me in case I felt the sudden need to squeeze off a round.

Doctor Prentiss, “please call me Madeline,” is early fifties, an attractive woman, takes care of herself, in shape, a kind face with a gap in her teeth and a slight lisp. I like her. I think I trust her. I must. I’ve opened up to her, so that’s trust for sure. She had been slowly lessening my dosages of Zoloft, working in some cognitive therapy, hoping to have me off the meds by the end of the year. I told her about my thoughts as soon as we began the session.

“Did that frighten you, Max?” she asked.

“Not the dying, Madeline, but the feeling of being out of control, that’s what frightens me.”

She tilted her head, gave that some thought.

“Do you feel like you might hurt someone while you’re having those thoughts, maybe snap and kill some soccer mom at the park?”

And her bullet found the bulls-eye. My expression must have changed because I know she could tell from looking at me that she had found the mark.

“You won’t, Max, so stop worrying about it. You aren’t going to hurt some soccer mom and you’re not going to go up in the attic, find that .45, and kill yourself.”

“With all due respect, Doc, how do you know that?”

“I know that, Max, because I’m damned good at my job, and I’ve been in your shoes. I’m going to put you on an exercise program. You can either join a gym or work out at home, but I want daily exercise. We need to get your body back to doing what it does best, namely feed your mind with the necessary healthy signals. I’m also putting you on a restricted diet. No caffeine. Limit the sugar. And get yourself some iTunes to listen to throughout the day, slip on some ear buds and listen to soothing songs, no heavy metal, maybe some acoustic, folk rock, light indie.

“Keep working with those kids at CYO. That job is perfect for you, and keep talking to your family about your feelings. You can’t hurt them by sharing, Max, but you can hurt them by being secretive and trying to spare them feelings they have ownership of. The next time the banshees call on you, and you think about that Colt .45 upstairs, dial Katie, or your sister, or mom or dad, and talk it out, right then and there. We are done with secret thoughts, Max. Say it after me.”

“I am done with secret thoughts,” we both said, and shortly after I left her office and found Katie sitting by the fountain out front.

“Well?” she asked. “Are you crazy?” and her eyes sparkled as she punched me in the arm.

“No crazier than you for being with me,” and I kissed her. “Come on. The Doc wants me to eat better and start exercising, so let’s go pile on the calories one last time. I need a double-cheeseburger and chocolate shake.”

That Night

After Katie had fallen asleep, after Mom and Dad and sister Jeanie were deep in dream land, I left the bed, walked down the hall, opened a door, and climbed the stairs into the attic. The second box to the right of the support post, Capital Printing on the label, and inside that box a blue towel wrapped around the silver and black surface of the Colt.

I sat down, my back against the post, and put the gun in my lap. Just looked at it. Ran my fingers over it, not asking it to do anything, just keep me company for a little while. I slipped the ear buds in and listened to some Simon and Garfunkel, them telling me all about the sounds of silence, hello darkness my old friend, and I closed my eyes and allowed the tears to flow.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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Comments 66 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 6 weeks ago from New York, New York

The healing process is definitely one that does take time. So, watching Max still grabbling with his demons and more is only natural here. That said, this installment definitely left more food for thought as where Max and Katie will go from here in future chapters. So, thank you for a small glimpse once again here today and Happy Wednesday now once again.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks so much, Janine! It's a story few people will ever read, but I still think it's an important one. Happy Wednesday to you!


clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 6 weeks ago from Nibiru

Another compelling chapter to the series. Great Work!


RoadMonkey profile image

RoadMonkey 6 weeks ago

Another great chapter, not moving around the country now but learning to explore the canyons, old and new of his own mind. And just like going on a restricted diet, sometimes, it seems you need one last blowout before the new regime starts.


Ericdierker profile image

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

There is just no way you write this without crying tears of love yourself. This touches me like no other reading. I reckon sometimes we do have to face our demons and cry.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 6 weeks ago from Brazil

I am asking myself why someone didn't move that gun. Remove the temptation from him! Cliffhangers, I love them.

I was pleased to read his doctor's advice, I think exercise, proper eating and music can work wonders. Nice touch.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you very much, Clive! I'm so happy you are along for the ride.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Nicely stated, RoadMonkey. One last blowout...hopefully the last for Max. :) Thank you!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Eric, I read these to Bev after I complete each chapter, and I cry when I read each one. It is the human condition, is it not? We all understand what Max is going through because, as you say, we all face demons. Thank you for your insight.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I suspect, Mary, his parents never thought of it. The gun was just a relic, something placed out of sight and out of mind. Max is the only one in the family with a reason to fixate on it. :) As for exercise and proper eating, I'm a big believer in those things. Naturally I had to include them at some point in the story.

Thank you my friend.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 6 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

Oh this was so beautiful, the whole story, but the last when Max was sitting holding the gun, and the tears flowed, so beautifully written! I love your story. Thank you...


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 6 weeks ago from Oklahoma

Healing is rarely a linear process.

Great installment.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Ruby, thank you my friend. This is a story that will not die, and I'm very happy it continues.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

True words, Larry! A linear and oftentimes painful process.

Thank you!


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 6 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

Healing is never easy especially for the soul but this had a hopeful ending.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 6 weeks ago from The Caribbean

I like the way you handled that bedroom scene with Max and Katie, and also the way you allowed to experience some thought cleansing in the attic. Compelling! Not only the story line but also your literary skill.


Eldon Arsenaux profile image

Eldon Arsenaux 6 weeks ago from Cooley, Texas

This is powerful stuff, Bill. Very honestly rendered. Over time these characters have come fully to life. Their dialogue isn't trite, a mouthpiece for your opinion, merely, but a beautiful display of your prowess to let these people speak. They're channeled through you, and that is the art of storytelling. Healing, in part, requires silent voices to be heard. And we hear them. Adios, Bill, hope to hear from you in the future! :)

-E.G.A.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Always hope, Rasma! You can count on it in my stories, just like I can count on you. Thank you!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Dora, thank you so much. Hopefully I'm growing as a writer. I feel like I am. :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Eldon, it's always good to hear from you. Sorry for the breakdown in communication. I still don't know what the reason is....but at least for today we made contact. Thanks for your kind words, my friend.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

Hi Bill. I fell behind over the holidays so I have some catching up to do. What a great chapter. I'm now very curious as to how Max and Katie wound up where they are?


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks for being here, Bill. No worried about catching up. These articles will be here for hundreds of years. :)


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 6 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

Bill, I've said it before and I'll say it again (when you get tired of hearing it I guess you can 'unapprove' my comments). This is your best work to date. The heartbreak and healing are so real, so raw. Your characters are true to life. So thankful Max and Katie found each other--they both have demons and no one else would understand.

I thought that before Christmas we had heard the last of this family--I'm so glad that you continue to tell their story.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Linda, somehow I don't see myself unapproving your comments. LOL Thanks so much. These characters have just hijacked my computer and taken over. I have very little to do with it all.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 6 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

OK.....Hold on. WTH?? Bro, this is not funny. Tell me who's paying you to mess with my old mind? This isn't fair, speaking of PTSD. You wouldn't be purposely trying to set my therapy back years, would you??

Did you not end this series at Chapter 16?

Am I suffering from Snow White Syndrome?? That's it. I've just awakened from a very long sleep & have missed a chunk of time here.

OK.....I'll just move on now and go read Ch. 17......etc. until I catch up.

This is another of those big brother scams, right?


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 6 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

I found this chapter very moving, Bill. I'm glad that Max has a good doctor and supportive people around him. He needs them all.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Just messin' with ya, Sis! I never want you too comfortable. LOL Always keep the reader guessing, that's my motto.

I did intend to end this, but realized there was much more to the story. Blame Max and Katie if you must.

Have a great weekend, funny lady!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Yes he does, Linda! We all need a huge support system, don't you think?

Thank you and Happy Weekend to you!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 6 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

No fear of me ever being too comfortable, bro! I understand that first we need to get over mass confusion. Too many people already believe I'm a natural blonde.........Hugs to U, Bev & "kids" to include the baby goats!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 weeks ago

This episode got to me, but then they all do. I knew someone who went up to the attic and pulled the trigger. I want more for Max.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 6 weeks ago from USA

Uh oh. I wish the counselor or Katie had immediately taken action to ensure that the gun was removed from his access -- just for safety. Firearm access in the home is a predictor of suicide risk, even when psychiatric illness is statistically controlled for. Specifically, keeping a weapon unlocked and loaded (don't know what that gun of his is) are two additional predictors. Let's hope there's no ammo around and that someone in this story is level-headed enough to inform family members who can help him by removing the weapon. It would have been neat if he had gone to find the gun and found a don't do it letter instead.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Hugs to you, Sis! Have a great weekend!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Aw, you're just a softy, Pop, and I love it! Thank you!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Maybe in the book, Flourish, that letter will appear. Great idea...great points about weapons in the home....an imperfect situation so often...and the aftermath is rarely enjoyable. :)


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 weeks ago from England

I keep missing your chapters, get lost and start again! lol! another great piece Bill!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Well shoot, Nell, that just increases my views, so get lost all you want. LOL


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

"Survivors should never lie to each other." Katie is perfect for Max...for sure.

Doctor Prentiss' style will take some getting used to for me. My protectiveness towards Max makes me want to speak to her in private... ;)

See you next time and keep up the beautiful work. Love, Maria


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

So many of us don't have a clue as to the remunerations and compulsions that haunt the minds of those who have seen and experienced the human terrors that Max and Katie have. Survival of such horrors comes with a cost. The healing process is yet another struggle...but thankfully they have the love of each other and family. "Simon and Garfunkel, them telling me all about the sounds of silence, hello darkness my old friend, and I closed my eyes and allowed the tears to flow." Beautiful writing doesn't get any better than this, Bill.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thanks so much, Maria! I think there are still tough times ahead and lessons to be learned, by all the characters in this story. Healing is a process, as you well know.

love,

bill


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Genna, I'm humbled and thankful. I'm trying to feel what the characters feel...I don't want this to become a cliche. Max and Katie deserve better than that.

blessings always

bill


Vellur profile image

Vellur 5 weeks ago from Dubai

Hope Max gets better with therapy, forgets the gun and goes ahead with life. Beautifully written, going to read the next.


Genna East 5 weeks ago

Bill, you could never be guilty of cliches...you are about as far removed from the cliche as the moon is from the sun, my friend.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you so much, Vellur! I'm just trying to keep it real, my friend.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Thank you for that, Genna.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 5 weeks ago from Texas

Aww, man, you're a puppet master! Stop playing with my mind and emotions, will ya? My goodness, Max is becoming a bit unpredictable.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

It's just so damned hard to tell in life, isn't it, Shannon? So many ups and downs for us all...Max and Katie send their love.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 5 weeks ago from Central Florida

Powerful ending paragraph, Bill. I'm having a hard time finding the word for the symbolism of Max listening to "The Sounds of Silence" with a Colt .45 sitting in his lap. Can you help me out?


billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Jeez, Sha, I don't know...poignant? It was meant to show the struggle that is in each of us.....I would probably go with poignant.....and I would also go with a big old thank you! :)


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

HUH?? Sha girlfriend....you're poignant?? Congrats! Who's the baby Daddy? Can I be Godmother? Obviously you'll be naming him Jesus Jr.?

Oops...is that sacrilegious? Oh well. (I'm positive Noreen will jump in if it is!!) Love you guys. Just roaming aimlessly today, doing my fair share of silliness. I know, I'm so good at it.........


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 5 weeks ago from Central Florida

Good choice, Bill. Still not sure if that's the word I was looking for. It'll probably hit me in the middle of the night and wake me up in the process.

Paula, you're a trip!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Sis, thanks for the Sunday morning laugh. She, get thee to a doctor immediately! LOL


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I didn't think it was, Sha, but I could hope. LOL


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

You think SHA needs to see a DR? or are you suggesting I get myself to a shrink...quickly! Either way...you're correct.


Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 4 weeks ago

Amazingly overcoming temptation after short episode of holding the gun in his lap. To my understanding Max preferred life over death indicating total healing body soul and spirit. My hope is unwavering, my friend that at the end of ends, all of us will be celebrating victory.

Blessings.


phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

Max, Max, Max...you do worry me. Please don't do anything selfish. It would be cruel to show up after ten years just to leave again so soon. And let's not forget Katie. You're her hero. She depends on you as much as you depend on her. Have your cry, then get back to the business of living. Please.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Sis, if you need a shrink, so do I! Let's go together!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Michael my friend, it is my unwavering hope as well. Thank you for your insights. They are always appreciated.

Peace, my friend!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Zulma, I've seen too many suicides during my lifetime. No way in hell one of my characters will do it. :)


phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

Thanks for that, Bill. :)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

My pleasure, Zulma!


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 3 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Bill

No caffeine, and restrictions on the sugar? Man, I'm in serious trouble!! :-)

I do well with the exercise though!

This is a much needed story

Lawrence


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

Lawrence, I couldn't do it..sugar and coffee fuel this man. LOL

blessings my friend

bill


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 3 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

Max has a great doctor, for sure. I have to admit, I struggle with depression. Writing and music are my "go-to" solutions for overcoming negative emotions.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA Author

I've never struggled with depression, Marlene, so I have no personal experience (other than alcohol-induced)....but I do have empathy for those of you who do suffer from it. It must be horrible.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 6 days ago from Florida

"Hello darkness my old friend." That is one of my favorite songs of Simon and Garfunkel, but when I am in a good mood it's "I am a rock; I am an Island." Their greatest hits CD is a permanent fixture in my car ready for me to pop it in the player when I'm having that kind of day where I feel like their melodies and words will help my psyche out.

I'm almost always surprised when I read one of these installments, because it seems they have a tendency to relate to a part of me in some way. Not in the way of being a war veteran with hardcore flashbacks, but the parts where I can feel what Max is going through with depression when out of the blue, even on a nice day, a bad thought enters his mind. I do that sometimes. The fight of life for some of us just carries a big weight I suppose.

I felt the struggle here. I felt the want to survive instincts that kick in when Max is right on that edge of giving in for no apparent reason, except being tired of bad memories. I know this guy. We have different stories but similar thought mechanisms.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 days ago from Olympia, WA Author

Perhaps, Missy, that is why I enjoy your so much. You are real, as am I. No lollipop endings for you and I...just the knowledge that we fought the good fight and never gave up.

Sending hugs from Olympia

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