Fiction Fridays: Soldiers Don’t Cry, Part Three

July 10, 2009: Just call me “Sergeant Pudding Butt.”

I wasn’t thrilled when I saw Mrs. Lisander’s blue Volvo pull up into my parents’ driveway at six-thirty in the morning…Clay sitting in the passenger seat.
“Be a good soldier,” Colonel waved at me as I hurried past him and Mom on my way out.
“Sarge, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you want to work in the Children’s Hospital. We love having volunteers.” Mrs. Lisander gushes as I climbed into the backseat.
“Thanks, Mrs. Lisander,” I muttered.
“Hey, Sarge. Nice pink scrubs.” Clay smirked as he glanced over his shoulder at me.
“Great to see you too, Clay,” I muttered. I wanted to point out that it wasn’t my choice to wear the regulated pink scrubs and shove him out of the moving car…but that would get back to the Colonel and I’d be in multiple levels of trouble when I got home.

Photo by Bethany Brown

Once we got to the hospital and I met with my supervisor Dr. Summit, I found out that my job was going to be pushing the library cart to the children’s rooms. I rarely read for fun. How was I going to help these kids pick out books to read?
It was no surprise that the first room I went to the kid wanted my recommendation for a good book. Poor kid. I looked at the stack on the cart and muttered, “Well, this looks fine,” as I held up a Dr. Seuss book.
“I’m ten, not two,” the bald boy replied sarcastically.
“Fine, um, how about this?” I held up a thin paperback book…the first in the Chronicles of Narnia series.
“Sure,” he shrugged and took the book from me.
“What are you in for?” I asked him, just because I wanted to stall before I had to go to another room.
“I have acute leukemia.”
“What’s that?”
“A bone marrow cancer.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Chicks dig bald boys,” he raised his eyes in an attempt to make a flirty face and I burst out laughing.
“Call me when you’re eighteen, okay?”
“My name’s Zeke.”
“I’m Sarajayne but everyone calls me Sarge.”
“Like Sergeant? That’s cool. My dad’s a sergeant.”
“Really? Mine’s a colonel.”
“Is your dad in Iraq?”
“Not right now but he was a few months ago.”
“Mine’s in Iraq. That’s why I’m alone. Mom has to go back and forth between taking care of my little sister at home and visiting me.”
“It must get lonely, huh?”
Zeke looked down at the cover of his book and shrugged. So much emotion was revealed in that little movement. Poor kid.
“I have to roll this cart to all the rooms on the floor. Once I finish, I’ll come back and hang out with you until I’m told to do something else. How’s that sound?” Normally, I would have high-tailed it out of there so fast but something in his sad brown eyes made me go beyond myself and offer my time to him.
“Sure.”
I went on to the next room and the little girl there was easy, asking for a fairy book. Several kids turned down the books, while others were so young that their parents just asked for picture books. Many were bald like Zeke, and others were in casts or and then there were those that looked perfectly normal but the masked tension in their rooms told me that something was wrong. Most kids had parents who stayed with them.
I parked my cart at the nurse’s station as I’d been instructed and checked Zeke’s room. He was still alone, lying in bed, staring out the window with his book in his lap.
“Have you ever read this book before?” he asked, holding up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
“Yeah, I had to read it for class once.”
“Do you think Narnia exists?”
“I wish. Wouldn’t it be awesome to meet Aslan?”
“Yeah. I like Mr. Tumnus.”
“He’s cool too. You remind me of Peter.”
Zeke’s face turned a cute shade of pink but didn’t say anything.
“I wish my dad could be here,” Zeke said, still not looking at me.
“I know how you feel.” I thought about Beaker, wishing more than anything he was here to tell me what to say and do. This was his area of expertise, not mine.
“Last week, that wish foundation group came to get my wish. I asked for my dad to come home. She said that wasn’t the type of wish they could grant right now.”
“Huh, I’m sorry.”
“Sometimes I hate being an Army brat.”
“Tell me about it,” I sighed as I pulled my legs up into the chair.
He continued to talk about the different places he and his family lived but my mind wss racing on what I could do to bring his dad home.
“Zeke, what’s your last name?” I asked after a lull in the conversation.
“Winston. My dad is Sergeant Roger Winston.”
“That’s a cool last name,” I smile.
“Good afternoon, Zeke. How are you today?” Dr. Summit smiled as he walked into the room.
“Fine, Dr. Summit.”
“Zeke and I have to do some tests. Could you step out for a little while?” Dr. Summit asked as he turned to me.
“Sure, see you around, Zeke,” I waved before I hurried out and ran smack into Clay who has just finished picking up the breakfast trays. Plates and empty cartons exploded into the air and I landed on a pile of spilled pudding. Once the commotion died down, I look to see that a fruit cup landed right on Clay’s head, bits of mango clung to his dark brown hair.
“I’m so sorry,” I blushed to my roots as I made an ungraceful attempt to stand up but fell on his feet. He only laughed as he helped us both up and began the process of cleaning up the mess.
“It’s the obstacle course all over again,” he laughed. Great, he just had to bring that up. I had to resist the urge to wipe the pudding off my backside and throw it in his face. He helped me get all the food out of my hair, leaving it to me to get the pudding off my pants. I bent to help him pick up the trays but he raised his hand to stop me. “I’ve got this.”
“Thanks,” I muttered.
“At least you didn’t lose your pants this time,” he winked. I rolled my eyes before I walked away, forgetting about the pudding still stuck to my backside.
“Hey, Sergeant Pudding Butt,” Zeke laughed when I walked into his room for the second round of books. I looked back at my pants and rolled my eyes. Sadly, the name stuck and soon all the kids were calling my Sergeant Pudding Butt…even Clay. Unfortunately for me, their good-natured ribbing did nothing to distract me from Zeke’s problem. There was only one answer.
I had to go to the Colonel.

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2 thoughts on “Fiction Fridays: Soldiers Don’t Cry, Part Three

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