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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter 23

Updated on January 25, 2017

Welcome Back

I didn’t know if Max and Katie were going to call out to me this week. Sunday came and went, and no word from this story’s duo. But then I woke up this Monday morning and the next chapter was there…so here I am, your storyteller and hopefully, your friend.

This is, ultimately, a story of hope and love. Is it a stretch of the imagination? I don’t think so. There are literally millions out there who suffer from PTSD. There are also millions of abuse victims. Bring those two groups together and you have the basis for this story.

So get comfy, kick your shoes off, put your feet up on the ottoman, and let’s get crackin’.

The calm before the storm
The calm before the storm | Source

The 4th of July

The first fireworks went off on the Third, some kids in a vacant lot, a block from our home, were just messing around as kids are apt to do, and someone had some firecrackers, pretty harmless stuff, really, and one thing led to another and there was a small explosion, the kind of thing happening across the country, just kids being kids . . . and I dove for the ground and covered my head, INCOMING, ENEMY FIRE . . . and I could hear their laughter, urban background music, but I could also hear the buzz of bullets disturbing the atmosphere over my head, air-displacement from the projectiles, and I could see the blood staining the hard-packed sand, and I froze.

Five minutes, ten, I’m not sure how long I hugged the ground, the grass soft beneath my cheek, when Katie found me in the backyard. She didn’t try to fix me, God bless her; she just got down on the lawn with me, stroked my hair, kissed the back of my neck, hugged me, and told me it was all right, my part of the war had ended, it’s just the celebrations, Max darling, shhh, now.

And then Mom, Dad, and sister Jeannie were there as well, “come on, let’s help him to his feet, gentle now, Max my boy, into the house we go, nice and easy,” and love carried me away from that battlefield into the womb of my childhood.

So I was up early on the Fourth, determined to meet the enemy head-on. I had breakfast going when Katie found me downstairs, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, kissing me, telling me everything smelled great. Mom and Dad, uncharacteristically, were sleeping in, it being a holiday, and my Lil’ Sis was working the early shift at the coffee shop near the Westlake Mall. The smell of bacon in a quiet home, a good woman in my arms, it should have been a trip on gossamer wings. Instead the air felt heavy, sprinkled with dread, as is often the case when one is about to face the dragon.

“What’s the plan, soldier?” Katie asked as she took her first bite of toast, her red hair framed by the early-morning sunlight through the window behind her.

I plated two eggs in front of her, added four slices of bacon, and sat down.

“There are festivities going on all over this damned town today, Katie, and I aim to see as many of them as possible. I was hoping you’d join me, just in case I need someone to pick me up.”

“And you think this is smart, big guy?”

“Smart don’t enter into the discussion, Kate. It’s necessary, and that’s the real of it. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life ducking for cover when loud noises go off. That’s just no way to live.”

Leaving the safety of home
Leaving the safety of home | Source

Eleven A.m.

Mom and Dad thought I just might be certifiable, my idea “crazier than a March hen” according to my mother, and I saw their point, and loved them for caring, but they weren’t crawling around in my head so they really had no idea. They said they would meet us on the waterfront at dusk to see the Ivar’s Fireworks Show, and Jeannie was home by then and said she’d meet us for dinner at Antonio’s at five, worry in her eyes and false bravado in her voice.

My doc at the VA had abandoned her plan to ease me off of Zoloft, so I was feeling mellow as we left the house and walked down the hill to Aurora Avenue. The sun was chasing away the early-morning marine layer, and the day held a promise of warmth as we boarded a northbound bus headed for Woodland Park Zoo.

“What’s it like, Max? War? I don’t have any frame of reference, you know? What’s that saying of the Marines, ‘For God, Corps, and Country?’ Is that what soldiers think about in battle?”

Green Lake was sparkling under the July sun. The park was filled with walkers, talkers, players, and watchers, little kids of five, little kids of forty-five, none a threat to us and yet, it felt like, they all were.

“That’s just propaganda bullshit, Katie, something said during recruitment speeches at college campuses. I can tell you, for a fact, and I’m pretty damned sure I speak for every soldier who has ever been in battle, when the lead is flying, your only damned thought is how afraid you are. Your own survival is front and center in your brain. It’s an animal thing, survival. At that moment, when you really don’t know if you’re going to make it one more day, you don’t think about loyalty to country or loyalty to the damned Corps. All you can think about is surviving, and covering your buddy’s six. That’s it! The whole damned universe is compressed and shrunken; that’s the whole reality of your world.

“And you pray! Atheist, Catholic, Muslim, or Southern Baptist, you pray your ass off, whatever comes to mind, just God, please, get me home in one piece.”

Three P.m.

It was one continual battlefield. Green Lake became a watering hole in Kabul, the Ballard Locks a rendezvous point where the enemy lurked behind every tree and lamp post. Bottle rockets were I.E.D.s and I don’t know how I kept from breaking Katie’s hand, me squeezing it so tight, her wincing and continuing to tell me it was okay, she loved me, we’d get through it together, but we kept moving forward, always forward, and as we turned south, heading for downtown on foot, watching the sailboats on Lake Union, the explosions became muffled, and the screams of the wounded less shrill.

Jeannie was early, we were early, so an early dinner was the only solution, me the luckiest grunt in the place with Katie on one side of me and Jeannie on the other, two beauties spending time with the infirmed, helping me lick my wounds, spreading on a generous portion of loving salve. The food was good, it always is at Antonio’s, and Jeannie asked if she could tag along with us the rest of the evening, not sure how the hell I got so lucky to have a Lil Sis like her, but “God yes you can,” I told her, and the three of us left the restaurant in search of more crowds, more excitement, and more painful celebration.

On the water
On the water | Source

On the Water

My dad’s buddy, George Pitkin, had a twenty-seven footer moored down on Pier Sixty, he was out of town, and said we could use it for watching fireworks, so we met my parents there, dad with a cooler of beer, mom with a picnic basket full of snacks, the boat full of family love, and on that boat we all sat, the sun heading for Hawaii and beyond, the sky changing to various shades of lilac and lavender, the whole shoreline overflowing with happiness. The air was a constant crackle of small-arms fire, occasionally changing to exploding shells, Katie’s hand always in mine, Mom, Dad, and Jeannie sneaking looks at me from time to time, gauging my sanity and my grip on the present.

And when the grand finale had ended, when the last starburst pattern had exploded overhead, the last whoop and holler from appreciative fans had slid into the dark waters of Elliot Bay, I thanked everyone, gave everyone a kiss, and realized that through the worst of that night, even as the explosions happened, seemingly, every five seconds, I hadn’t once dove for cover, hadn’t once thought about survival, or covering my buddy’s six, but instead had thought of my family, of Katie, and how much I loved them all.

And perhaps that was the first sign of recovery.

2017 William D. Holland

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    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      No it isn't, Ann! :)

      bill

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 months ago from SW England

      It's never too late, bill!

      Ann :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww, thank you Ann! I really enjoyed writing this story. It's too bad I don't have the time to write novels of all my story ideas. Should have started when I was younger.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 months ago from SW England

      This is a great switch of mood, albeit a little apprehensive now and then. I love it when the good guys win!

      Hope your muse keeps all this going as it's such a brilliant tale, bill.

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is for sure, Missy....there are some wounds that just never heal.

      Always good to see you, my friend. Thank you!

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 8 months ago from Florida

      It's certainly a step-by-step process when you have lived with such explosions. It's good to know that you can get by with a little help from your friends and family. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Lawrence, that is great news, my friend. I sure hope that study/technique continues to bear fruit, and so many soldiers can find peace in the surf. Thanks for sharing that, my friend.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 9 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill.

      Awesome, loved this all the way!

      Last week I was watching a programme about PTSD and a new form of treatment they're trying out, it works, and there's no medication involved!

      Apparently in the US Marines it's calculated as one in five has PTSD in some form, (it's that common among those who served!) so they're trying something different down at Camp Pendleton, SURFING!

      Apparently when they're in the Surf, it's like the brain remembers what it was like in the safest place it's ever been, the womb!

      Apparently the surfers actually manage to 're-program' their brain in the surf, and they're teaching it as part of the 'debrief' from active service (Wish they'd had that when I was in!)

      There really is hope and it was so good to see in the story.

      Max may never 'love' fireworks again, but he'll get used to them, and learn to enjoy the family.

      Great stuff Bill

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Look at them now for sure, Sha....a happy ending is in sight, my friend, and you were there every step of the way. Thank you!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 9 months ago from Central Florida

      The first sign of recovery indeed! I don't know if Max would have fared as well had he started the day alone. With Katie by his side, then Jeannie, then Mom and Dad, the love embrace grew stronger, building a fortress against demons, memories, shame and regret. The best thing Katie ever did was talk Max into calling his parents way back when. Look at them now!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I suppose, Michael my friend, this is my vision of a "typical family," one with problems, one with issues, but one that provides hope and love to each family member. My wish that this were true in all families.

      Blessings and thanks always

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 9 months ago

      Yes, here you are Mr. billibuc our storyteller, and my friend, my professor and my mentor. Within every episode we are being introduced into yet another inner human positive influence of understanding and compassion and love. Katie having been affected by the same misery as Max, by her mere presence and heartfelt attention have provided more effective restoration than many other prescription do. I marvel of your bringing together family members taking quality time focusing on needs and well being the one whose desire is to leave past behind and live a happy life once again. A very educational story.

      Peace and blessings.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Marlene! This story has been good for me to write, and I'm so glad others have enjoyed it.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 9 months ago from Northern California, USA

      I can always count on your characters to deliver the kind of events that soothe my mind. I truly enjoyed this episode filled with love and hope.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aw, thanks, Rasma! I want a feel-good story we all can relate to and applaud.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 9 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      That was a wonderful Fourth of July as I watched and heard those fireworks go off and cheered Max on. Way to go!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks so much, Bill! Max and Katie appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment. Have a great first week of February!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 9 months ago from Massachusetts

      Another wonderful chapter Bill. I can't imagine what it must be like to live with PTSD. I love the way Max is dealing with it. Have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Chris. I don't have all the answers, but I can't think of many situations where a hug and human touch will hurt. :)

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 9 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      I loved how Katie just got down on the ground with him. Just get down there and wait until healing comes. It seems as though there is a glimmer of hope here in the ending of this episode. May that be the case for all those suffering today. Thanks, Bill, for listening.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      So do I, Pop! I do know, for major change to happen, there must be pain. Of that I am certain.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Vellur!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 9 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Bill. No, it most certainly isn't a stretch of the imagination. I know you must be tired of hearing this, but you are a superb writer.

      "...even as the explosions happened, seemingly, every five seconds, I hadn’t once dove for cover, hadn’t once thought about survival, or covering my buddy’s six, but instead had thought of my family, of Katie, and how much I loved them all.

      And perhaps that was the first sign of recovery."

      I am in smiles and tears, Bill. Thank you.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 9 months ago

      I want to believe that there is always hope.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 9 months ago from Dubai

      Another great chapter, full of promise and hope.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I got this one, Ruby, and thank you for your perseverance. All is well, once again, in HP Land. :)

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 9 months ago from Southern Illinois

      Bill, this is the third time I've attempted to comment on this story, the same with the mailbag. I sent you an email and I don't think it went either. I don't know if it was my computer or a HP glitz. Anyway, I told you that I see a good sign of recovery for both Max and Katie. I especially loved this line, " Love carried me away into the womb of my childhood. " So beautiful!!!!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Always hope, Linda! My stories will always have hope. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      RedElf, thanks for binging...you are appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ms Dora! There is a lot of my family in this story.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bely!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 9 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a lovely chapter, Bill. I say it's lovely because of the wonderful sign of hope that it contains.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 9 months ago from Canada

      Well I am hooked. Have been binge-reading your tale and will definitely be back for more. Thank you for reaffirming the need to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and moving forward - and it does lead to hope, no imagination required! But thank God for yours (imagination, I mean).

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 9 months ago from The Caribbean

      So pleased with Max's transformation. Hope he continues to heal. This chapter also reinforces the social, mental and spiritual assets that love and family life can be.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Larry! I'm not sure if it is ever totally gone, but it can be managed.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I believe so, Zulma! I think I can feel safe in saying we all applaud him for his efforts to become whole again.

      Thanks my friend.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 10 months ago from Oklahoma

      PTSD is rough to recover from. Great read!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 10 months ago from United Kingdom

      This was the bravest thing Max has probably done in his life. Not so much tackling the 4th head on, but knowing he would need help and ask for it. Way to go, Max. You've taken a big step towards healing.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      RoadMonkey, I think that's the key, knowing you have backup and a safe place to fall....I'm glad you enjoyed this, and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Maria, I suspect this story hits a lot of people close to home. It certainly does me. Trauma, and the effects of it, have been swept under the rug for far too long. Let's bring it out into the sunlight and see what happens.

      Thank you dear friend.

      love,

      bill

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 10 months ago

      That's a great chapter. Max showed great insight and courage tackling hid PTSD in this way, although he was probably ready for it at that time. And he knew he had great back up to help him hold on.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 10 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      This hit me close to home as the 4th of July continues to be a holiday I love and dread at the same time.

      Flashbacks are reality bites that take us back in time faster than the blink of an eye.

      Max's healing is centered in love and support - very inspiring to see this story unfold.

      Happy Wednesday. Love, Maria

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Kaili, you are very welcome, and my thanks to you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, I would apologize, but I'm laughing too hard. Love heals all? I'm not sure, to tell the truth, but in this story, perhaps. :) Thanks for enjoying this so much.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 10 months ago from Canada

      Thank you Bill for another wonderful chapter. I really enjoyed this one.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Darn it Bill! I blame you for the fact that my eyeliner is smeary and I've lost most of the 12-hour mascara. Not sure why but THIS one really got to me. Love heals all? Maybe that really is true. It sounds like it could be for Max.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, I sleep like a baby, but once these eyes pop open, the ideas just flow...and I love it.

      Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, thank you. I believe we are all storytellers...you are an excellent one...a preacher man is simply a storyteller, is he not, so from one storyteller to another, thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Always hope, Janine! Always hope!

      Happy Wednesday, my friend.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 10 months ago

      Bill, I'm curious how you sleep with these people calling you all hours of the day and night. But I'm glad they did. Great chapter in this story.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Some things just are and somethings we can change, so we need courage and wisdom to grow better.

      Wonderful putting a sixth person into the story. You are just a master at putting the inside of the brain right there with the rest of the folks.

      Thanks again friend

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 10 months ago from New York, New York

      Loved seeing a bit of hope at the end of this with a sign of a possible upwards recovery notion. Thanks for the hope and the continuation of Max and Katie story. Happy Wednesday to you now, as well!! :)