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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Twenty-Four
A Quick Note
At some point I have to wrap this story up, right? It can’t go on indefinitely, like “Days of Our Lives,” or “General Hospital.” I need to give it a proper burial and slip it into the ground.
But that time won’t be today!
Last week, Max faced his demons head on, and survived the 4th of July. So let’s slip into August with this fictional family and see what the dog days have in store for them.
I don’t own a gun, haven’t had one since I got back from my second tour. I’ve got no beef with gun owners, no Constitutional argument for or against private citizens owning a weapon. It’s just not for me. I left that all behind, and I leave the Second Amendment discussion for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
The thing is, I’ve seen the aftermath. I’ve carried an M16 around, day and night, week after week, month after month, almost like it was attached to my hip, “your weapon is your friend, soldier, treat it well and it will treat you well,” and I know what it can do. Pull the trigger on an M16 and you release a cartridge at 2,900 feet per second, forty-five millimeters of lead weighing 183 grams, capable of penetrating twenty inches into soft tissue, eight-hundred rounds a minute on full-auto.
But those are all just numbers, nice, neat statistics for gun-buffs to toss around over a beer after a sweaty round on the shooting range. Pull the trigger, hit the target, check your score, and go home to the little lady and barbecue a steak.
One-hundred and eighty-three grams, that’s what a 5.56 x 44 mm NATO round weighs, 6.46 ounces . . . doesn’t seem like much, does it, but the real of it is it doesn’t take much weight hurtling at 2,9000 feet per second, not much at all, and the human body isn’t twenty inches thick, not close to it, so you take all that velocity and blunt force trauma and shockwave, and you compute the physics of it all, and that 6.46 ounces ricochets off of bone, chews up some organs, destroys some tissue and muscle, and then explodes out the other side of the target, leaving a hole the size of your fist and a dead man where once there was life, a father, a son, a boyfriend, dead, never more.
So no, I don’t own a gun and no, I have no desire to ever own one again.
A baseball, by comparison, weighs about 5 ½ ounces, just a little less than a NATO round, but it does a whole lot less damage.
It’s funny what you’ll think about while hitting fly-balls to the kids on a sunny, August afternoon. I toss a ball in the air, grip the handle of the Louisville Slugger, and loft another one high in a soft arc, the whiteness of the ball in contrast to the robin’s egg blue of the Seattle sky, John Risse calling for it, settling under it, letting it snuggle into his glove, no bloody aftermath, no hydrostatic shock, and no death, just a broad smile on his face as he fires the ball back to me, five-and-a-half ounces thrown at seventy miles per hour, doing no damage on that August morning.
I wrap up practice by eleven, my CYO kids heading home to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, eager to return to school, dreading it at the same time, the timeless lament of school kids everywhere. Toss the ball bag and bats in the trunk of the car, my sister Jeannie’s car, and drive to “Perfect Cup,” the coffee place Kate and my sister work at.
All the tables are taken outside, people enjoying the warm morning, enjoying the warm friendships, pigeons standing guard like sentries on post, the air alive with possibilities, not bullets, and I open the front door, step in, see my sister and Kate working the counter, their skin radiant, their smiles welcoming, and they both look up simultaneously, see me, and my morning instantly improved.
“Don’t you dare kiss me, Max, all sweaty you are and in need of a shower,” and I ignored her, as she knew I would, and leaned across the counter and kissed Katie softly, and my sister standing by, grinning, telling the next customer she’d be right with her, as soon as the love birds took their act outside.
“It’s break time, beautiful,” I told Katie, and after she fixed us both a blended mocha, we filled up our favorite spot outside under the canopy of a fifty-foot maple, the soft grass welcoming us, the bark snug against our backs, squirrels chattering overhead.
“How was practice, soldier?” she asked me, and took another sip.
“A walk back in time, Katie, the years peeled away and me and dad were out there, shagging flies, tracking the arc of the ball, and loving every minute of it. I’ll never be able to thank Father Patrick enough for this CYO job.”
“He’s lucky to have you, Max. Those kids are lucky to have you.”
“How’s work going this morning?”
“Big tips, soldier boy. If this keeps up I’ll be able to retire soon, live the life of luxury I’m so accustomed to living, and if you play your cards right, I just might take you along for a world cruise.”
I picked up a rock, tossed it sidearm across the grass. The squirrels chattered some more, competing with robins overhead, the sweet sounds of a sweet summer morning, no shouts of “incoming,” no body bags, no tears drying instantly in the desert heat.
“Let’s get married, Katie. Today, tomorrow, next week, but not much longer than that, let’s get married, let’s say screw it to the past, start a new damned life, and beat the odds. What do you say, Princess Kate, will you marry this broken down crapshoot of a man?”
And she did the damndest thing, she got up, started running across the parking lot, shouting “JEANNIE, JEANNIE, GET OUT HERE,” and Jeannie heard her, hell, the whole damned neighborhood heard her, and “HE ASKED ME TO MARRY HIM, JEANNIE, LORD ALMIGHTY, THE BIG ASSHOLE FINALLY DID IT,” and I swear to you all, the people at those tables, they all stood up, and they were applauding, and people inside came out, Jeannie leading the way, Jeannie crying, hugging Kate, then both of them in my arms and everyone around us, crying, laughing, telling us how happy they were for us, complete strangers caught up in the dance of life, and then Mom and Dad on the phone, “oh, we’re so happy for you two, son,” and them crying, and the robins and squirrels and pigeons blotting out the memories, making it all about the here and now, no body bags allowed.
And later that night, after the sun dove into the Pacific in search of Hawaii, after the porch lights came on, and the heat of the day gave way to a cooling breeze, we all sat on the porch, Mom, Dad, Jeannie, Katie and me, sipping lemonade, laughing, all happy with the wedding day choice, one week from that day, comfortable in the sweet bosom of love, and not once did I see the torn asunder, not once did I smell death or hear the weakened cries of the wounded.
No, I don’t own a gun. I see no reason to do so.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)