Davy walked down to the sub-basement and sat down at his laptop, and he flipped the screen up. A small clock sat on his desk, it read 1800. Something about the boy had touched some part of him. He opened his word processor and began to type:
“I didn’t join the military because I hated our enemies. I joined because I loved my country. After the attacks, we had to respond. Some folks joined because we endured our day in hell. Others sought revenge. Some went in for what they could get out of it. There was an assortment of reasons but none of it really mattered, the attacks on our city were the inciting incident, and the politicians leapt at the chance to send young men and women to the slaughter.
When you experienced your first roadside bomb, your first kill, your first innocent bystander murdered because they were different, reasoning had nothing to do with any of it. War was a time of chaos, a time of madness. Reality and war would never mix. It was just another day in hell.”
Davy shut down his laptop and walked upstairs. He dropped onto the couch and turned on his television. The Looney Tunes were on. He chuckled at the antics of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, and he watched cartoons until his eyes grew heavy.
Tomorrow he would go to his meeting and listen to the stories of other veterans. He would drink coffee and eat a snack, then he would pretend to listen intently to their troubles-all while he avoided talking about his own. He would smile to show that he was present in the room.
But in reality, it was just another day in hell.
At 1445 the following day, Davy ambled into Mountain Top Faith Center. A gaggle of veterans were already seated. Some blew on their hot coffee; others were engaged in conversations that ranged from their favorite baseball teams to who was the worst politician. Everyone had a favorite, and no two were the same.
A few noticed him when he walked in. They nodded at him; Davy nodded back. He poured a cup of coffee and scooped up a dry donut, then made his way to the back row. Davy nibbled on the dry pastry and sipped his coffee, while listening to a few different conversations at the same time.
The ringleader of the meeting was a young woman named Betty. She was a psychologist in town, and ‘had a burden for those who returned from war still struggling with the baggage.’ It was nice to hear that. As a member of the church, Betty had gotten permission from the pastor to start a meeting.
It had been in place for over a year. Many of the veterans that came to it were the original group. They came because it was their safe space. Davy came because his doctor checked up on him. Betty came in and gave everyone her mega-watt smile. She was a looker. Betty had jet black hair, grey eyes, and more curves than a dirt track. People smiled back at her, some even flirted with her, after they covered up their wedding bands. Davy sat in the back and concentrated on making minimum movement and effort.
“Good evening, everyone. How are you all today?”
A chorus of answers came from the crowd, and she glanced around the room and gave another smile. Davy watched. Betty pulled out her folder and cleared her throat. Silence fell over the rowdy gaggle of veterans, as she began to call off names. Those present responded with ‘here.’
“Here,” he said quietly.
She looked up and found him in the back row. She gave him a small smile. One of the ‘original’ members snorted and said, ‘you need to sound off like you’ve got a pair, boy.’ Some of the older men chuckled at the bully’s remarks. Davy said nothing.
Betty cleared her throat and forced a smile at the bully. He grimaced, aware he had crossed a line and more importantly, he had displeased the pretty woman he was trying to impress. Betty’s eyes darkened, but she kept an even tone when she responded with, “I heard him fine, Buster. Do I need to remind you that we are in a church?”
“No ma’am. I apologize for my vulgarity.”
Betty smiled, pleased with the apology and the progress the bully had made. Buster smiled at her.
“You should apologize to Davy. That way the air is cleared.”
“Um,” Buster began.
Davy stood to his feet and waved his hand to silence the man. Betty stared at Davy and tilted her head at him in a quizzical manner, as if she couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want an apology for the insult he’d endured.
“I don’t need his apology, ma’am. It’s all good.”
“I think it would be best, Davy.”
“Just let me apologize,” Buster started.
Davy cut his eyes to the loudmouth, and Buster went silent. Betty watched the confrontation and said nothing. Things had gotten awkward, and Davy hated awkward situations. Davy stood up and walked out of the class. As he neared the door, he heard Betty excuse herself from the group.
Davy kept walking. Betty ran up and touched his shoulder, and he turned to face her. Betty put both hands up. She was a beautiful woman. Her black hair fell at her waist. Her eyes were a clear grey, and Davy thought she must have been the model God chose to represent womanhood. It was her intellect that Davy was drawn to. She was smart, well-spoken, humorous, and quick witted.
“What more could a guy want,” he thought to himself.
“Davy, let me explain.”
“I don’t need an explanation, Betty. I will come back to the next one.”
“Buster needs to apologize in front of the whole group…”
“I don’t need it. The group doesn’t need it. Buster is an idiot. He’s an idiot now, he’ll be one when I return next week.”
Betty shook her head in frustration. She could not understand why fighting men would battle to the death for their brothers and sisters in combat, but they were like a jackal on fresh blood when they weren’t fighting a war.
“Okay, Davy. You win. I’ll mark you present, but I expect you here next week.”
Davy walked out of the church and got in his truck. He’d suspected that these group meetings would evolve into social gatherings and cliques, and from what he’d witnessed, he wasn’t wrong.