Friday, June 3, 2011

Chapter Five

Most mornings I wake up feeling like shit. Today was worse. The bottle lay beside me on its side. I looked at the clock. It was not morning; it was late in the afternoon. Shit.

I sat up fast. My vision split as if a blow hit my head. I sat for a while and caught my breath. Finally I staggered up to the ice chest and tilted it on its side and tipped cold water into a cup. I drank the first and then poured another into the cup. It felt good and made me nauseous at the same time. I spilt the remainder of the second cup over my head down my back and then some into a cloth from the counter.

I swabbed my face with the wet cloth and went back to the bedroom. I snatched a t-shirt off the floor, stepped into my flops and headed to the front door. As I left the trailer I pulled the t-shirt over my head and walked towards Deb’s. I brushed my teeth with the damp cloth and then wiped my face.

The door to her trailer opened as I got closer and Moira and Tonka burst out. I was hit in the waist by my seven-year-old girl and in the side by the stupid dog. They took me down in a mass of laughter and slobber. I looked up to see Deb standing on her porch. She was smiling and mouthed ‘It’s okay.’

She came over and gave me a hand up. Moira squealed in laughter as Tonka rolled in the dirt and acted crazy. We were all laughing as I took Moira’s hand in my other. Deb looked at me as I slowly let go of her hand. My eyes met hers and I nodded my head in thanks.

“Why don’t you two stay for super?”

“Daddy, pwease?” Moira asked in her soft lisp.

“Sure, sounds good.”

Tonka continued rolling around upside down in the dirt and grass. Mastiffs were supposed to be sluggish and lazy. I had not seen it yet and he is six years old. Stupid dog makes me smile. “Tonka, come on!” He bolted up and galloped over in a few bounds and hit the backs of my legs.

Deb and Moira had already gone inside. I opened the door and the dog bolted past me and jumped up on the sofa beside Deb’s Father.

“Hey there Swede.” I half-hollered to Deb’s father. He just smiled and waved back. Poor old guy had Alzheimer’s. He had retired as a Gunnery Sergeant from the Corps back in the late sixties. He had been at Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Iwo in the big war, done a tour in Korea and two in Vietnam. Swede was a hell of a man back in the day. Forearms like coiled ropes, tattoos on both sides and cold-water blue eyes that pierced you if mad. Thank God I had never made him mad. He used to come over and talk to me whenever I cut Gram’s grass. I think he was waiting for me to leave so he could call on Gram.

Swede was the main reason I joined the Corps back in ’78. He had taken me down to the recruiting station in Leesburg and steered me past the dubious programs the Staff Sergeant behind the desk tried to bait me into. The Staff Sergeant saw Swede’s tattoos and gave up. He knew Old Corps when he saw it. I went enlisted with the intention of going MESEP. The MESEP program was a program the Corps had for bright poor kids to pay for college. I’m not sure how bright I was, but I took them up on the offer and went to VMI after a few years enlisted. I was recalled back into the Corps for a year overseas after my Rat year. I think it was my winning personality - that was that year I met the Sergeant Major that the rookie from FINCEN referred to yesterday. He was a Staff Sergeant then, and we went places and did things we still don’t talk about today.

Deb had left her residency at Hopkins to come back to care for Swede when he showed signs of the disease. She was studying Emergency Medicine. Now she manages a trailer court and changes Swede. I had never heard her complain once.

I glanced into the kitchen where Moira was standing on a stool with an apron tied up beneath her armpits. She giggled with Deb as they stirred something. Deb stood behind her and talked softly as they worked. A strand of her dark blond hair fell in front of her face and she wiped it away with the back of her hand. She still had work gloves tucked into the back pocket of her jeans. Moira half turned and placed her head on Debs shoulder.

A tear dripped down my left cheek as I watched. Deb had been more Mother to Moira than Susan. The trailer court’s odd folk were our family. Even though his thoughts were blurred with Alzheimer’s, Swede knew and loved Moira as his own granddaughter. Another tear fell.

I had to tell Moira tonight. After supper I would sit down and try my best to explain to her.

Until then I would enjoy the laughter from the kitchen and watch TV with Swede. Deb had the cable package that included the oldies channel. Now Swede and myself watched Green Acres. Every time the pig did something Swede cackled. I could not resist and joined him in his laughter. I would think about everything else later.

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