July 5, 2009: Never Turn Down a Challenge…Even if You Do Lose Your Pants
Last week on Fiction Friday, Sarajayne (Sarge) Stryker tried to hold it together with her strong parents at her soldier-brother Beaker’s funeral, but ended up crying with Beaker’s friend Rader, who gave her a mysterious letter and lock box Beaker left for her…
It took me several days to work up the courage to finally open Beaker’s letter. I’m not sure why. I think maybe I was afraid by seeing what was in the box and what he had to say in the letter would make his death final. In the end, my curiosity got the best of me.
Instead of going to the Fourth of July festivities with Mom and Colonel, I stayed locked up in my room. After two hours of boredom, I sat down on the floor in front of my bed with the box cradled in my lap and opened the letter.
I tried to figure out a way to start this without having to do the whole “if you’re reading this, it means I didn’t make it home” bit but I guess there’s just no way around it. I know you feel like I left you and I’m sorry for that.
Okay, so, let me cut to the chase because you and I both know I hate writing letters. I know you want to grow up and go to a military academy and join the Army after you graduate just like Dad and I did, which is awesome, if that’s really what you want to do. However, I’m issuing a challenge: before you make that decision, I want you to do everything on the list I’ve included in this letter. You have until you’re eighteen to complete it; you can do all this in four years, I’m positive. If at the end of the list you still want to be in the Army, go for it. But, if at the end of the list you realize that the Army life has gotten old and you want to try your hand at being a civilian, go for it and never look back.
You have options, Sarge. I never did. My life was planned for me from the time the doctor said, “It’s a boy.”
Inside my lockbox are some letters. They are labeled according to the number I’ve designated to each challenge. Only open the letter when you complete that specific task.
I love you, Sarajayne. I know we fought growing up, and in the past years I’ve been too busy with school and the Army to give you the time you deserve. But in spite of all our struggles, you are the best little sister any guy could ask for.
Take care of Talon for me. He needs you and you need him. Don’t let him get fat and lazy. Take care. Be strong! Stand your ground! Never let them see you sweat it.
Over and out,
1. Volunteer at a children’s hospital
2. Skydive (yep, time to get over your fear of heights, lil sis)
3. Learn how to swim (you’re 14, it’s definitely time to learn)
4. Go deep sea fishing and bait your own hook (it’s not that bad, I promise)
5. Go on a mission trip
6. Learn how to scuba dive (See why the swimming is important?)
7. Spend the night in a cave (Watch out for bat poop!)
8. Go on a whitewater rafting trip (Remember to keep your feet downstream it you fall out.)
9. Go rock climbing (You gotta actually scale a mountain.)
10. Date a non-brat (Yep, I just said that. You’ll thank me.)
11. Volunteer a holiday at a homeless shelter
12. Date a brat (Yep, I went there again.)
13. Give blood (Gotta get over your fear of needles, haha!)
14. Go to a dance/prom (You’ll thank me, and wear a dress and actual makeup, not the stuff that doubles as Dad’s or my war paint.)
15. Take an “art” class (You pick the art.)
16. Have a sleep-over
17. Learn how to play an instrument (The more random the better.)
18. Volunteer with Mom at the VA
19. Go with Dad on his annual “camping” trip
20. Learn how to snow ski
21. Join one non-ROTC club
22. Speak in front of an audience (muh-hahaha!)
23. Stay up for 48 hours
24. Visit four colleges/universities, two military and two civilian
25. Go blindfolded for a day
I really didn’t want to do anything on the list. None of it sounded fun to me, but it was what Beaker wanted from me. Soldiers never back down. They run into the action when everyone else is fleeing.
So, this morning, I picked up the phone and called the children’s hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee. To my surprise, the supervisor they directed me to was someone I already knew. Too bad she had a monster for a son. Clayton Lisander was my biggest nightmare.
“It’s really nice to see someone your age taking an interest in helping others, Sarge.” Mrs. Lisander said over the phone.
“Thanks,” I muttered, not sure what to say to that.
“You and Clay are going to make a great team.”
My breath hitched at the mention of his name and I went into a coughing fit. There was no way I was going to work in close proximity with Clayton Lisander. Unintentionally, my mind flashed to the reason why.
I was in the seventh grade and it was my first year in my middle school’s Jr. ROTC program. Cadet Major Clayton Lisander was my commanding officer. He had us do the obstacle course for the very first time in the pouring rain. While we slipped and slid around in the mud, he stood comfortably off to the side wearing a poncho, blowing his dumb whistle and shouting at us.
The pants issued to me were too big but they didn’t make them any smaller. I hesitated for a moment when I came up to the low-wire obstacle. The rain and mud were already weighing my pants down and I knew this had all the makings of being disastrous. Gritting my teeth, I fell onto my stomach and crawled with all my might. My pants were sliding but I couldn’t worry about them; the barbed wire looming just above my head was my number-one concern. I was so glad to have made it through without a scratch that it took a moment to realize that while I came out, my pants stayed behind.
The laughter was deafening. I turned to see Clayton buckled over, holding his side as he barked out his own round of laughter. I’d never been so humiliated and it didn’t help that my commanding officer did nothing to help the situation. At that moment, I decided that I hated Clayton Lisander with every fiber of my being.
Holding my head as high as I could, I retrieved my pants from the mud, pulled them on, and finished the course before promptly going back to the bathroom where I cried to the point I wasn’t sure if I was still breathing.
“We can carpool together. I’ll call your mom to make all the arrangements but expect to see Clay and I out front of your house at six in the morning. You’ll get your assignment when we get to the hospital.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Lisander.” I’m pretty sure my voice sounded like someone was holding a gun to my head. Might as well have been the case.
What in the world have I gotten myself into?
Stick with us for what she’s gotten herself into, and other fantastic fiction on Fiction Fridays! Join us next week. Meanwhile…what do you think this experience will be like for Sarajayne? Have you ever had any experiences like Sarajayne’s embarrassing moment? Share them with us!