Saving the Marine

Saving the Marine


    The door groaned as it opened, and the grizzled older man behind the bar looked up. Seeing the demeanor and face of the former Marine, Sam knew he was having a bad day. Most likely starting with a bad night.

   He knew very well what his customer was going through, he had gone through it as well. A former Army Ranger himself, he had personally seen hell. He still lives with the memories of combat.

   Sitting down at his favorite stool, Mark raised his hand to indicate he was ready to order. As the bartender approached, the memories of his hell showed deep on the young man’s face. He had the look of a soldier, still in the fury and hell of combat.

   “Howdy Sam,” the Marine said as the bartender approached.

   Looking over the young man for signs of distress, he only saw signs of bad memories. “Afternoon Mark, what can I get ya?” he asked in his quiet tone.

   In a downcast voice to meet his features, Mark answered, “Make it a tumbler of whiskey and a beer Sam.”

 Hearing the request, Sam had a concerned look as he asked, “Bad day Mark?” In a fatherly tone. 

   Mark grunted, then with sadness washing off him, he answered, “yeah, you could say that.”

    As Sam poured the whisky he asked, “wanna talk about it?” As the beer ran from the tap into the glass, he added, “I’m here for ya, if you wanna chat.”

    After downing the whisky in one drink, he slid it towards Sam to be refilled. After a moment he said, “Sorry Sam, can’t really talk about it.” He took as sip of the beer and as Sam poured more whisky he added, “Besides, you probably wouldn’t understand.”

   Sam frowned, then he walked to the other end of the bar and picked something up. Looking at it, Mark saw the clouds roll over his eyes. With a nod so slight that it was imperceptible, Sam walked back to Mark. Sam stood for a moment before laying the framed picture on the bar for Mark to see.

    Looking down, Mark saw a younger version of the bartender in desert battle dress. His eyes widened at the red beret on the soldier’s head. He also saw the familiar desert landscape of southern Iraq.

   Looking up in shock, Mark said, “You never told me you served.” His voice raised some, as he finished, “as a Ranger nonetheless.”

    Sam wiped the bar top down as he thought about what to say. After a moment, he spoke, “I don’t talk about my service for two reasons.” He looked and continued, “It can be hard to talk about at times, but most importantly, I’m here for you.” He looked Mark straight in the eyes then finished, “to listen and hopefully to help.”  

   It was quiet for a few minutes before Mark spoke, “what do you mean by help? I don’t know about you but talking about it doesn’t help me.”

   Sam smiled, he then said, “you would be surprised how much it can help if you talk to the right person.”

   Mark started to get up, then he sat back down as he said, “I’ve tried the head shrinks Sam, it really didn’t work. They don’t really know what we went through over there.”

   Nodding, Sam answered, “trust me, I know all too well. After going through it myself, I joined a group of other combat veterans. That did help, so I investigated how I could help others like me.” He cleaned the bar again, then looked up at Mark and finished, “I discovered, through my own combat PTSD, I could help others because I was there. So, I sent myself to school to study counseling those with PTSD. After I graduated, I didn’t want a typical office.” He waved his hand around as he looked around the bar and said, “so I bought this place. I knew it was here that I would find those that needed my help the most.

    Looking the way he felt, confused, he asked, “and why doesn’t anyone know this about you?”

   With an almost stern look, Sam answered, “because I don’t charge so I can’t advertise.” His looking growing warmer he finished, “and I want to be here for those that truly need me. Until today, I thought you were good and had memories under control.”  

   “Oh, it’s just one bad night Sam,” Mark said.

   Sam stared at Mark with a questioning look. After a moment, Sam asked, “what?”

  Sam gave a sad smile then answered, “every time memories or flashbacks haunt you, you come in early and order tumbler of whiskey. You will sit there and drink until I will no longer serve you or you stumble out.” 

   Mark grunted at this, as he thought about what Sam was saying though. He knew Sam was hitting the proverbial nail on the head.

   “I bet right now your truck is at home,” Sam said, breaking through the thoughts. “On your bad nights or days, you don’t drive. Since I didn’t hear you pull up, you walked,” Sam finished.

   “Okay, okay,” Mark said almost angrily.

   Hearing a noise, Mark jumped, almost coming off his stool. Looking to his left, he saw Amanda coming from the back carrying a food platter for another table. He watched her as she moved. She was without a doubt the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. So badly, he wanted to ask her out, but he knew she would not want a man like him. 

   A man that lived through the same hell every night for the last 10 years. Someone who woke up in a cold sweat more often than not. To be honest, he was afraid of himself, so how could he ask her not to be.

   His biggest problem with her was that every time she passed him, he became entranced. Her movements, her smell, her beauty, it all captivated him. It was her smile though that drove him over the edge, it was almost hypnotic. Sometimes he wondered how he didn’t float behind her, like a cartoon, following her every move.

   Sam’s chuckle brought him back. Looking, he saw the humor in his eyes. Sam didn’t have to say it out loud, his face already did, “hey dummy, ask her out already.”

   With a sigh, he took the other whisky and downed it. Thinking to himself, “if only I knew I could protect her from myself. I wouldn’t ask her out, I’d ask her to marry me.”

   Once again Sam broke through his thoughts. Looking back at the bartender, Sam was saying, “usually when men look at my daughter that way, they get hurt.”

   The shock on Marks face made him laugh before he added, “but you, I don’t know what it is. I swear even I want you to ask her out.”

   Mark laughed, then he said, “she wouldn’t want a broken old Marine like me.”

   Sam’s smile turned down as he answered, “you would be surprised Mark. With a woman like that, you would be surprised.” Mark took a sip of coffee, as he set the cup down he said, “tell me what’s going on.”

    Mark had a blank look as he started, “it’s mostly about one night. We were on patrol and got hit.” He could feel the tears coming so he stopped and cleared his throat.

   He was calmed some as Sam said, “take your time.”

   After a long breath he continued, “it was a bad and long firefight. I was hit in the leg bad enough that I needed medical attention.” Feeling the memories as he talked brought tears to his eyes. “The medic couldn’t get to me with his equipment, so I needed to crawl to him. But I knew if I left my post, my fellow Marine would be overwhelmed.”

  Mark cleared his throat and wiped his tears. He continued, “so I stayed in the fight, another in my squad came to relive me as another was there to drag me to safety.” He stopped to take a sip a beer.

   Sam stood back and watched, he waited until Mark was ready to go on. He knew from his own experience how hard this was. Most people, including head doctors, think the fight is the hardest. When, in actuality, it’s living with it afterward that is the hardest.

   Continuing, Mark said almost in sobs, “first one fell, then the other. I knew they were gone, gone because of me. I fought on, they didn’t. But now I fought for them, I fought so I would join them.”

   Sam handed him a towel to wipe his face, but he didn’t say a word. Instead, he watched and listened, he waited for Mark to finish.

    Mark spoke again, almost in a drone, “I was getting low on ammo, we all were. That’s when the Apache’s got there. At that point the fight was over, I was still alive, wounded badly but alive and the others weren’t.” He took a breath then finished, “they, died because I was too stupid to leave my post for medical attention, I lived because I was to wounded to stand.”

   Sam thought for a bit as he poured coffee for them both. Without thinking, Mark took it with a nod and drank. Mark could see the hurt in Sam’s face as he walked away to help someone else. As Sam walked back to him, Mark could see the resolve come over him.

   Standing in front of Mark, Sam said, “you think you killed those two Marines by staying in the fight.” He could see Mark slightly nod. Holding up a finger, Sam said, “ask yourself, how many more did you keep alive by staying in that fight. Maybe it was the fact that you could no longer stand and move that made you the better warrior that day.”

   Sam could see Mark working over the question, as Mark began to open his mouth to talk, Sam hushed him. In a quiet tone, Sam said, “don’t, just think about that question.”

   Mark sat and thought about the question, his mind wanted to ignore it, but he worked on it. Soon he felt the bathroom calling, so he moseyed on back. By now he was usually stumbling, but this time he was clean and clear. The two shots were there, but he still felt crystal-clear.

   While in the bathroom he heard a strange request from the bar room. Something inside him went on high alert, he felt the signs of danger, he felt his training kick in. slowly, he opened the bathroom door, peeking out he saw a young man holding a pistol.

   With the pistol pointed in Sam’s direction, the kid said loudly, “I said give me the money old man.” The last word he seemed to shout, “NOW!” 

   Mark watched as the kid seemed to shake from fear just a tiny bit. Without thinking, Mark began to move. Slow and quiet, just as he was trained. Nobody even knew he was moving; it was like he wasn’t even there.

    Mark watched as Sam reached under the bar. The kid hollered out, “slowly old man, don’t make me kill you.”

   Without anyone even knowing he was there; Mark came at the kid from behind. Mark saw the kid begin to apply pressure to the trigger as he moved. He drove the kid’s arm down, taking Sam or anyone else out of the line of fire as the pistol shot off a round into the floor. 

   His only mistake came when he tried to turn the kid. Not wanting to kill him, Mark was only trying to apprehend him. The kid was able to get the pistol back up.

   As Mark began his knockout move, the pistol fired. He could feel an intense burn then pain in his chest; he knew the feeling of a bullet. After all, he had felt it before. Without thinking, he moved quickly, first sweeping the kid’s legs from under him. He then struck down at his head, a blow that was meant to kill without question was checked.

   The kid lay there unconscious as Mark lost his breath, grabbing for his chest as he fell. Mark watched to floor move toward his head as he blacked out. 

   Watching in horror as Mark fell, Sam grabbed the phone and threw it to his daughter as he ran. Dropping to his knees, he began to assess Mark’s wound. He was losing a lot of blood; at the wound site, it was foamy and pink. He knew this wasn’t good, the round had punctured a lung. 

   Sam heard his daughter talking to the 911 operator, he began to call out the situation for her to repeat. It was only a minute maybe two and he heard the police sirens. Sam jumped as the police came busting through the door, the noise also brought Mark back awake.

   Hearing a groan, Sam looked down to see Mark moving. Placing a hand on his shoulder he said, “don’t move, help is coming.”

   Mark placed his hand over Sam’s and said, “something happened.” He then grimaced.

   With a smile, Sam answered, “yeah, you got shot saving us.”

   In a weak whisper, Mark said, “no Sam, I feel free. At last, I feel free.”

   With a tear in his eye, Sam replied, “that’s because this time you know that you saved lives.”

   As he began to see the blackness closing in, an angel seemed to appear beside him, kneeling beside him. As the darkness took him, he wondered why an angel would be crying. “She should be happy to take me home, not sad,” he thought. The last thing that crossed his mind was, “unless.”

   He woke to men touching him and talking to him. He opened his eyes to see three paramedics and one officer working on him. His shirt was gone, and he had hoses and wires running into him. 

   One of the paramedics saw he was alert, and

smiling he said, “welcome back Mark, we’re going to get you moving soon. Just hold on buddy, stay with me.” 

   He looked for his angel, and he realized she seemed familiar as though he had seen her before. She appeared in the corner of his eye; her face buried in Sam’s shoulder. A thought crossed his mind, “is that really Sam’s daughter, or is she my angel?”

   “Okay, Mark let’s get you moving,” he heard the paramedic say as he felt the floor fall away.

   He asked in a week voice, “Am I going home now?”

   The paramedic chuckled then answered, “Nope, were taking you to Mercy General.” As the bed he was on began to move, the blackness came again. Before it was there, he heard the paramedic say, “you’re going to be ok Mark, I’m pretty darn sure you’ll be just fine in a few days.”

    His eyes opened slowly, the light in the room was low. As his vision came to him, he noticed Sam sitting in the corner, his head against the wall with eyes closed. Then he noticed the most beautiful thing on this earth sitting beside his bed. Her head resting on the rail, the sound of restful breath coming from her. His hand felt weird, then he realized it was because she was holding it. 

   Her hand was cupping his like one lover holds the hand of the other. He was afraid to move, afraid if he did it would all end. Without thinking, he squeezed her hand with his, the feeling sent happiness through him.  

   As her head came up she smiled, and the whole room seemed to become brighter. Her eyes lit with joy making the brightened room become even brighter. Without even knowing what he was doing, he said, “your smile and the happiness in your eyes rival the sun for brightness.”

   Her smile grew as she said, “you’re awake.” He couldn’t figure it out, she seemed to glow somehow. He also realized she was still holding his hand; in fact, her grip was slightly tighter than before.

    Sam jumped up and ran to the bed, “Mark, oh thank God you’re awake.”

   “Wow, why the reception? How long was I out?” Mark asked almost afraid of the answers.

   Sam pulled his chair over to Marks's bed, over the next hour he told him the story of the kid. It would seem that the kid was responsible for five other hold-ups that month. Each time, the one behind the bar was shot and killed once the money was handed over. Sam filled him in with all the details, making sure Mark knew that he had saved their lives.

     Mark realized through the hour of talking; Amanda never let go of his hand. So badly he wanted to pull her into bed with him, just to be closer. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he felt as though he were saved today. Not only once, but he was saved twice. 

   For the first time in eleven years, his mind and heart were free of the things that he couldn’t let go of. As he looked at Amanda, he felt something. For the first time in a long time, he felt love. 

   Again, not using his brain, the words “I love you Amanda,” came out.

   He thought he had sent her away as she stood. Instead, she bent over and said, “I know sweetie.” She gave him a loving kiss on his head, then said, “I guarantee, I have loved you longer.” As she sat down she finished, “since the first time we met, I have loved you.”

   He then realized two wonderful things, Sam seemed to be beaming with pride, and she was still holding his hand.


James Owens Jr.

 My name is James Owens Jr. I'm a proud Texan from El Paso. I have worn many hats throughout my life. I have worked jobs like farming, ranching, riding in the rodeo, and the steel industry. But the job I loved the most was truck driving.
   After 27 years in the trucking industry as a long-haul driver, I was forced to hang up the keys due to my health. I have always liked thinking of and telling stories, and I came up with a lot while running the long and lonely nighttime highways.
   Until now, I have never actually put any into writing, but since my departure from trucking, I have written quite a bit. I felt now was a good time to get published since I love entertaining others as much as I love to tell stories.
I have not yet been published; I have not even tried until now. I do hope that others will enjoy my work as much as I did creating it, so I thought it was time to take that leap.
I have my family as support in this endeavor; they also work as my editors when the first draft is finished. Without them, I couldn't do this or be as happy doing it.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post