For parts one through three, see our table of contents from last Friday. Our apologies for never being able to get this story up last weekend. We hope you enjoy it and stick around for the next installment next month!
Still July 10, 2009:
Going to the Colonel for anything was always scary. Not because he ever raised a hand at me, but because he had a look in his blue eyes that made grown men tremble. Mom called it his soldier face, something he did automatically whenever anyone spoke to him. She claimed it was habit and that he didn’t mean anything by it. Still, it terrified me. So, imagine how scared I was when I had to approach him in his study. I would do it for Zeke. Zeke deserved my bravery.
“Colonel, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, what is it, Sarge?” He sat his silver pen down on his desk and turned to look at me, still wearing his military uniform.
“Well, I met this boy at the hospital who has cancer. His dad is in Iraq and his mom just had a baby so he’s usually by himself. Do you think there is a way his dad could come home, just for a little while?”
“What’s this boy’s name?” Colonel asked, his face unreadable. No surprise there.
“Zeke, Zeke Winston. His dad’s name is Roger Winston.”
“So, do you think we can do anything?”
“War is a hard reality, Sarge. I can try but I can’t make any promises to you.”
His practical tone unnerved me. This was more important than some stupid war. This was about the wellbeing of a little boy lying alone in a hospital bed! “If I was dying, I’d hope you’d be there for me!”
I stormed out of the room, knowing my actions were disrespectful but my anger overrode my sense of remorse.
The rest of the week went by pleasantly, even with Clay around. Whenever I finished my rounds, I’d hang out with Zeke and play cards or watch his favorite cartoons. I’d decided to push aside my mission to bring Zeke’s dad home and focus all m attention on just trying to make him happy while I was there.
By Friday, I was actually kind of sad to be leaving. I saved Zeke’s room for last on Friday because I knew it would probably be the last time I saw him. Hopefully he’d be able to go home soon.
When I rolled my cart into his room, my greeting died on my lips when I found his mother and baby sister sitting by his bed.
“Hi, I’m Sarge,” I introduced myself. She was a pretty woman with bright red hair and emerald green eyes. The baby had the same hair and eyes.
“I’m Tina, Zeke’s mom. Thank you for hanging out with Zeke this week,” she smiled but I could see that her eyes were almost lifeless, as if she had a lot on her mind.
“We had fun, right Zeke?” I asked him and he nodded.
There was a knock at the door and I turned to see Clay walk in wearing a huge smile on his face. He looked like he had a big secret he couldn’t wait to share.
“Hi, I was ordered to wheel one Zeke Winston to the rec room.”
There was some commotion as we all tried to get Zeke ready for the trek down the hall where all the relatively-well children were allowed to hang out and play. The room was filled with balloons and Zeke looked up at us, confused. “It’s not my birthday.”
I heard his mom gasp and turned to see a guy with short blonde hair wearing an Army uniform enter the room.
“Dad!” Zeke cried out and instantly the soldier was kneeling before Zeke, holding him fiercely to his chest, tears unashamedly falling down his cheeks. Tina and the baby somehow made their way into the hug and I stepped back, letting the family unite. I looked over at Clay, smiling so big it made my face hurt.
“You did this, Sergeant Pudding Butt,” he motioned to the family, laughing, crying, and hugging each other.
“Don’t call me that,” I rolled my eyes, trying to mask the fact that I was seconds away from turning into a blubbering female.
Clay chuckled before turning serious. “Still, you did this.”
We slipped out and I came face-to-belt with Colonel.
“Thanks, Dad,” I smiled, throwing my arms around him in a fierce hug. He’s not usually one who invites this sort of outward display of affection but I was too emotional to stop myself.
“You’re a good kid, Sarge,” he surprised me by returning my hug.
“How long is his dad going to be here?”
“He’s been granted a month’s leave. Hopefully that will be enough time.”
I pulled back and wiped away a tear I didn’t notice had fallen until then. “I’m glad.”
“I’m just glad to see you smiling again, Sarge,” he whispered before he stepped back.
Clay saluted him and Colonel saluted back. “At ease, soldier. Keep an eye on my girl, but if you cross the line, I’ll see to it that you never make it to officer rank after college.”
“Yes, Colonel,” Clay nodded.
“See you at home, Sergeant Pudding Butt,” Colonel smirked before walking out with determined steps, like he always did.
“Does everyone know about that?” I squeaked but Clay was too busy laughing to answer my question. I resisted the urge to smack him, only because I was in a good mood.
I left the hospital with a promise from Wendy to tell Zeke I’d visit him when I could, sad to see my volunteer time come to an end. Those sick kids made me forget for at least a little while about how much I missed Beaker. And for that, I would be eternally grateful to them.
After I had dinner with my parents and took Talon for a long walk, I locked myself in my room and pulled out Beaker’s old green metal lock box with its rusted on the corners. I retrieved the envelope marked “#1” and opened it.
I’m sure you’ve learned a lot this week and I hope that somewhere in all this you’ve come to realize that there is sickness in this world and not everyone makes it. But, in all of it, there is a hope that we will get better and stronger. It’s easy to only care about yourself and what you’re going through but realize that there are many out there who are going through things that you could never even imagine, and I pray you never know those things personally.
Sarge, I know I only asked you to volunteer a week of your time but go visit and help out as often as you can.
When I was five, I had the flu and ended up spending a week in the hospital. A volunteer named Will Quinn visited me every day, brought me comic books and just sat and watched TV with me when I didn’t want to talk. He talked to me about a man named Jesus and how he came to earth and died for my sins and rose again after three days. I thought he was talking about some superhero but after that week, Will kept in touch and I realized he believed Jesus was real. It wasn’t until later that I found out just how real he was for me, but I’m leaving that for another letter. Just know for know that it was Will’s friendship and caring that brought me the source that would help me get through some of the darkest days of my life.
Whether you are a soldier or a civilian, to a child, you are just a person who cares about them. Never stop caring.
Over and out,
This was a lot for my fourteen-year-old brain to handle. A lot of what Beaker wrote didn’t make sense, but if it meant I learned something from it and that Beaker would be proud of me for the way I helped Zeke, then I guess that’s all that matters.