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wake up and hear the bullets

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His eyes snapped open. Dave laid in a still, neutral position for a few moments, trying to will his fluttering heart to slow down. The wooden shutters banged loudly against the windows. The storm roared outside and rain pelted the house. He turned and flicked on his lamp, the yellow light throwing shadows across the room. He sat up.

Nothing was there. No soldiers. No air raids. No Korea. Just home.

He laid back down. The nightmares had started just after his return to the states. At the time, he felt relief. But on his first night back in his own bed, his dreams were a battlefield. Filled with bullets showering over him, Eddie on the ground beside him and-- he would wake up screaming. These dreams turned frequent and the relief he felt when he stepped off the train and met his family for the first time in two years, disappeared. Like the tail end of a sweet dream.

This was life now, and he hoped to god that Eddie was doing better than him.

He remembers Hank in post-op. Asleep, just lying there, neck in a cast , looking like he might never wake up. It's a very real fact of war that Dave knows all too well.

But not today. Because Eddie, the loyal bastard he is, performed some quick first aid. Because of him Hank was currently lying in bed, neck elevated, still unconscious--but most importantly alive.

Eddie surprisingly, came in then, trailing behind some Lebanese corporal. But they didn't understand Eddie, didn't know how to talk to him, he spoke up then.

"Eddie that you?," he said, pushing himself up in a sitting position.

Eddie turned toward Dave, "Dave," he came around to Dave's bedside. He took off his gun and set it up against the wall. He squatted next to the bed, "Where's Hank?"

Dave rubbed his leg absentmindedly as Eddie's eyes searched his face, "Over there"
he jerked his over to the bed Hank was in across the room. Eddie's head followed. Dave put his hand on Eddie's shoulder as he turned to the doctors.

"How's Hank?" he asked and an understanding passed the Light haired doctor's face.

"Oh, you mean Corporal Fleming?, Still unconscious but he’ll be alright" he turned to his friend. "He's was the kid with all the scrap metal in his neck. "

The dark haired doctor nodded and turned back to them, although he was still frowning, "Yeah, he'll be alright."

At this Eddie stood, causing Dave’s hand to fall off his shoulder. "I'm gonna go sit with him okay?" he asked, his eyes searching the Doctor's face for approval.

The doctor nodded, "Yeah-Yeah, okay,"

They all watched as Eddie crossed the room and sat down beside Hank. The Lebanese Corporal looked curiously at him, "Hey soldier, is that kid okay?"

At this question the doctor's attention turned toward Dave. "Eddie? Sure, he okay," he nodded confidently "He just slow... you know"

“What do you mean ‘slow’?

“He’s just,” and Dave paused and leaned back propping himself up on his good arm, looking for the right words, “ not to bright. Back in basic Hank was a squad leader, and they sort-of made him responsible for Eddie. He helped him on test and kept him out of trouble. That sort of thing.”

The light haired Doctor frowned, "Wait a minute. You trying to say Eddie has some sort of mental disorder?"

"No," it was Dave's turn to frown, "Eddie's alright. He just not as smart as some people.”

“What the hell is a kid like that doing in combat?” The dark haired Doctor looked from his friend to Dave.

“Maybe there were no opening on the joint chief of staff.” The doctor muttered to his friend, “does your CO know about this?” he said to Dave.

“Well, sure. Everybody does, most of us sort of look out for Eddie. He’s a pretty good soldier too. When Hank got hit Eddie took care of his wounds, picked him up and took him back to batalian aid. I guess he just followed the litter jeep down here.” he sniffed, “Eddie’s fine… as long as he stays with Hank.”

The dark haired Doctor shook his head gravely. "I'm afraid that's going to be hard. Day after tomorrow Hank goes home."


Rain continued to pelt the windows as he crept down the stairs. The house was silent and black at this time of night. The only other sound was soft snores that sounded from his parents room. Dave moved soundlessly toward the large cabinet in the corner of the room, taking out a glass bottle he poured himself a drink before setting the bottle on the side table. He sat down on the couch and sipped his drink.

This was the --- night in a row he couldn't sleep. The first few nights he would just lay in his bed trying to force himself to sleep. But that was slowly driving him anxious until he would get up in the morning dreading going to bed again. Drinking was a rather new development, he thought as he drowned the rest of his drink.

He poured himself a new one. It helped, and for that he was thankful.

Dave had been discharged from the hospital a few weeks after his arrival. It was just enough time for his arm to heal before he was sent back to base. Once he arrived his commanding officer found him almost immediately. The CO cut an imposing figure, but he was a firm man who would do anything for his men.

Dave stepped off the jeep and salued him, “At ease soldier. We’re all glad you’re back safe, Eddie is too.” The Commander jerked his head toward their shared tent, “He’s waiting for you.”

“Thank you,” Dave started to walk pass the CO, when a hand on his shoulder paused him. “Keep him safe soldier, we all want to see Eddie go home in one piece.”

Dave turned back to the Commander with raised eyebrows, “Of course,” was all he said before walking on.

He paused in the doorway of the tent. Eddie was sitting criss-cross on his cot, hunched over writing hurriedly. “You writing to Hank?” he asked announcing his presences.

Eddie’s head jolted up and he put his letter to the side, “Dave,” he grinned, “ you’re back”

Dave walked over and sat down beside Eddie, “ Sure I am. I said I would be didn’t I?”

“I wasn’t sure,” he drawled, eyes flicking down to his lap, “Hank hasn’t written yet.” he said

“He will,” Dave reached over and patted Eddie’s knee, “You know how letters are, they take awhile to get here.”

“I’ll help you write your letter, if you want,” Dave said, “let’s go see if lunch is still being served.”

Dear Dave,

Hope you’re doing well! My sister is getting married next week. I’m supposed to be happy for her, but I get the feeling her Husband-to-be doesn’t like me much. It’s just not the same as the Korea was, I miss having friends who understood you.

You don’t need to come Dave, besides you’re probably very busy.

I’ll continue to write,

Your friend,
Eddie


It was the middle of May and the heat was stifling. Dave had spend the majority of the day helping his father in the sawmill. The saw groaned loudly and sawdust flew everywhere, and by the end of the day he smelled of wood dust and sweat.

His father led the way into the house. Dave dropped onto the couch rubbing his aching limbs. His father moved passed the couch and insead went to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a half empty glass bottle of amber liquid. Off in the kitchen, food sizzled and pans clanged together; a sure sign of diner. His father poured two glasses and handed one to Dave. Dave took the glass and side eyed his father.

His father shrugged and settled into his chair opposite, sipping his drink and wincing a bit as it went down. He brought the glass to eye level and swished the remaining liquid around, “You know,” he said “I’ve never been a big fan of whiskey, only brought it out when I had hard days. And I don’t have too many of those.” He swallowed the remainder of his drink.

Dave didn’t know what his father was getting at, so instead he knocked back his drink in one go. He didn’t wince as it went down, Dave remembered the taste well enough from last night. He also didn’t miss the look his father gave gave him. He shifted, muscles tense under his father’s gaze.

His father set his glass down with a clink on the coffee table. “Well,” he said, “Now I know where the whisky’s been going.”

“Dad-”

“No son,” his father held up his hand, cutting him on, “ I know what your going through, I do.”

Dave gripped his glass tightly as he watched his father lean forward, “ You know what my old man said to me once? He said to find your friends, loved ones, and don’t let them go. It’ll help.”

May -- 1955

Dear Dave-

How are you? Hope the farm’s doing well. It’s nice here in Boston. The family store is doing well. In fact it’s doing so well, my father is thinking about expanding! He says the market seems stable enough.

The real reason I wanted to write to you was to tell you: I’m getting married! We didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but you know how mothers are! They’re probably more excited than we are! I hope you can make it! I’m inviting some other guys from the squad too.

The wedding will be Friday the 20th. Don’t worry about bringing a wedding present, you being there will be enough. I hope you’ll be able to make it. It’s been so long!

Your buddy,

Hank

Eddie and Dave had made it as far a Hawaii together. The war had ended just a couple days earlier and it felt like a mad rush to get everybody home. By the time they landed on the naval base they were told there would be a few hours downtime before one of them could get a flight.

The words, before one of them could get a flight, struck him hard. Dave knew that this would be it and it would be a while before he would see Eddie again. If ever.

Realistically would either of them see each other again? Probably not. Dave knew there were Army buddies his father spoke highly of that he hadn’t seen again after the war.

They parted in Hawaii. Dave hugged Eddie one last time, he smelt faintly of gunpowder residue and cheap army bar soap. He put Eddie on the plane with a promise to write and watched the plane fly away.

The train pulled into Boston on the afternoon of the wedding--and Dave was exhausted. He spent the majority of the trip in the same train car as a young mother and her colicky baby. Not to mention as soon as he stepped off the train he found that Boston was stifling and Dave was left perspiring and generally unimpressed.

Dave tried not to be so irritable at the wedding. The venue was lovely. The whole thing was set up under a large, white canopy outside. It was beautiful and he made a reminder to congratulate the bride and groom’s mothers on what a great job they did. By the time he got there however, the majority of seats were occupied, so he squeezed into a chair in the back.

He wasn’t in his seat long however, as one of Hank’s siblings pulled him away and into a house where the groom was. Dave was led to a small bedroom, the walls had cute blue wallpaper. Very reminiscent of a child’s room. Hank was in a corner in front of a full length mirror. He was doing a very poor job of tying his bow tie. Hank happened to glance over in the mirror and spot Dave standing in the doorway.

Hank turned and met in the middle for a quick hug, “ Dave!” he said pulling back “How are you doing?”

Dave tried to push aside his feelings and smile, “Oh, I’m doing fine. How about you? I mean you’re getting married.” He hoped his smile wasn’t to strained, but if Hank noticed he didn’t let on.

Hank squeezed Dave’s shoulder, “To tell you the truth? I’m pretty nervous,” his eyes flicked to the doorway, “You didn’t see Eddie did you?”

Dave’s smile fell, “I didn’t see him. Do you think he’ll show?”

Hank shook his head, “No, it’s too late. He’s not going to be here.”

Dave frowned, “Why?”

“I wish I knew, Dave,” Hank said shaking his head, “I wish I knew.”

 

Eddie never did show up to the wedding. Dave tried to happy for Hank. But happiness was hard to find that night.

Before he took the train out of Boston he bought a postcard and scrawled Hank’s wedding was a blast, but not the same without you. Wish you got to be there - Dave

He mailed it, and tried to push it out of his mind.

The summer of 1955 seemed to come and go and before too long the sweltering weather turned into autumn. Leaves turned colors of red and orange before falling into clumps. Dave, like the weather, also found himself in transition.

He started taking classes at the local college. The majority of the people there were his age and he found himself making fast friends with many of them.

Sometimes Korea came up in conversation and they would talk about their war buddies, the conditions they had to endure. It was always in a light hearted almost joking tone, like “Can you believe this?”

They didn’t share all their experiences though, like the terrifying experience of being blown up-flying through the air-landing on your arm with a sickening crunch. That, Dave had to deal with on his own.

But you can rarely leave these things alone for too long. Without help it starts to fester beneath the surface until it blows up, like they often do. Dave and a couple of his college buddies went out to the local bar one friday night. They took a table near the door, chatting and watching people come through. They enjoyed their drinks slowly.

“I’m telling you,” one of his friends said as he sipped on his drink, “you’ve got it wrong.”

Dave zoned out from their conversation as his eyes roamed around lazily. It the conversation from the table beside him that caught his attention.

“Look at him,” a deep voiced man said to his friend. Dave’s eyes flicked to where they were laughing at. The guy was younger than Dave was by a couple years. He was standing at the bar, trying to talk to the bartender. Dave couldn’t make out what the was talking about, but could see the guy tracing an image into the bar. The guy was just talking, looking down at the table not really caring whether the bartender was listening or not.

“ What a retard,” the other said and they both threw their heads back and laughed.

Dave stopped breathing, his world flashed back. For a moment he could see, hear, breathe, Korea. Eddie on his own--no real friends yet. He could hear a couple of guys making snide comments, he should of--would of said something, but he didn’t know Eddie yet and he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts. Should he had said something?

He hadn’t realized he stood up until both his friends had stopped talking and were looking up at him with worried looks on their faces. “Dave? What’s wrong?”

But Dave wasn’t paying any attention to them. Instead he found himself in front of the men’s table. They were looking curiously at him, and the deep voiced man looked him up and down and said “What do you want?”

Dave’s fist were clenched at his side, “Take it back,” he said staring hard at the man. The man looked at his friend and they both snorted.

“Listen kid, just walk away,” the man warned as he reached for his drink.

Dave pushed the bottle to the side and leaded down so his hands rested on the table, “I said, Take. It. Back.”

The man pushed his chair back and stood up, “Okay kid, so this is how it’s going to be-”

But the man was cut off as Dave let his fist fly right into the man’s face. Before Dave knew it he was on the ground wrestling with him. They were pulled apart and Dave sagged against the bar his breathing labored and head pounding. His friends face came into his line of vision.

“Dave! What they hell’s the matters with you?” his friend grasped his shoulders, “What were you thinking?”
He shook his friend off.

He needed air. The bar was suffocating, closing in on him. He needed to get out. He needed to-

“I-I need to go,” he sputtered and ran out of the door. He found himself in the middle of the empty street. A row of houses were lit up in the distance. He started walking-stumbling without really knowing where he was going.

{Maybe add a paragraph of Dave breaking down further?}

Dave recognized his house from the row of others. He stumbled up the sidewalk, his porch was illuminated with yellow light and he was able to get up the steps somewhat coherently. He stumbled into his house, the screen door banging shut behind him.

He stood in the doorway for a moment, swaying on his feet. Then the pain struck him and his eye throbbed. He jumped when he felt hands grasp at his shoulders, forcing him to move to the couch.

“Dave?” His father. He relaxed at the voice. “David son, here sit down.” his sat him down on the couch, Dave buried his face in his hands. A moment later he felt his father sink into the couch beside him.

“David what happened?” His father’s hands rested on his shoulder.

He shook his head as tears threatened to spill, “It’s all my fault,” he mumbled, “I tried my best--I really did.” He removed his his hands from his face, but still didn’t look up.

His father pulled him into a hug, “It’s not your fault,” he said, “It was never your fault.”

Lunch couldn’t have come a moment too soon. Dave’s stomach had been rumbling since breakfast and he scarfed down his meal without-thankfully- tasting it. Hank set his tray down on the table, and looked at him with mocking disdain.

“I can’t believe you’re eating that, “Hank said as he sank down on the bench.

Dave shrugged, “I can’t help that I’m starving.” he said noticing Hank’s gaze behind him.

Dave turned and saw a few guys staring at another guy who sat alone further down the table and laughing as they ate.

He faintly remembered who the lone guy was, “That’s Eddie right?” he said turning back around.

“He’s the guy they made you responsible for?”

Hank’s mood seemed to sower and he sent a glare to the guys behind Dave, “Yeah, I’m not doing my job very well am I?”

Dave shrugged, “He shouldn’t be your responsibility,” he said raising his hands in the air when Hank’s glare flicked to him. “ All I’m saying is can’t he take care of himself?”

“He’s a nice guy! So what if he needs help,” Hank started to get up before looking Dave in the eye “We all need help sometimes.”

His old, battered suitcase felt heavy in his hands. Dave stood over his bed looking down on the open case. He felt slightly guilty, running off before Christmas. However, he knew they would understand, this is something he need to do.

He nodded to himself and walked back over to his dresser. He dug around and pulled out a brown wrapped present. Eddie’s name was scrawled on the paper. He puts the package carefully in his suitcase and closes the lid.

He’s as ready as he’ll ever be.

The drive to Texas takes a little over two days before he crosses the state line, having driven though two states. Maps are spread across his dash and passenger seat. His route to Eddie’s house has been highlighted and re-highlighted as a just-in-case.

He stops in car just outside town limits. Dave is suddenly struck by how beautiful it all is. He remembers Eddie telling him about his hometown, many times in fact. The weather is warm and sunny. He shifts in his seat, suddenly aware that in ten minutes time he’ll be in front of Eddie’s house.

Before he can talk himself out if it, he puts the car in drive before he can put it in reverse.

He surprised at how quaint it feels. It’s beautiful, sure. But as he drives though the center of town. He notices how small it feels. Storefronts and cars line the brick streets as people walked leisurely in and out of the shops. It doesn’t seem much like Eddie though.

He pulls in front of a small, white house and fresh lawn clippings are littered in the yard.

He fumbles around for his suitcase in the backseat and takes out the brown present. He gets out of his car and slams the door behind him. He wipes his sweaty palms on his pants, and swallows before starting up the walkway.

Once he gets on the porch, Dave squares his shoulders and knocks on the door. It reveals a familiar blond man.

Dave smiles and holds out the present, “Merry Christmas Eddie.”

 

end