Dear John–part 4 of 15

Athletic

CHAPTER 10Her tears ran riot for the entire hundred miles back to Phoenix. Her husband would be out of town for the next two days—a sudden business something or other—but he was on the cell and ready to join her on a moment’s notice if she needed him. He’d promised her that. She would wait to talk to him though. She very much needed to talk to her parents first anyway, and Sam’s dad too. When she talked to her husband she wanted all of what she had to say, all that she now knew, to be vetted and clear in her head. Owen was the only one who had a hope of being able to help her Sam: her children’s dad.It was 7:30 when she pulled up in front of the man’s house: she’d had to pull over to control her sobbing more than once. Getting out of her car she walked purposefully up the steps to the middle class ranch style she’d visited just the day before.She waited. The man was ill; it might be a moment.The door opened. “Abigail! You found him didn’t you?” he said.“Yes, Aaron, I did. I came as soon as I got back so I could report to you. I haven’t even been home yet,” said Abigail.“Come in, come in,” he said. She slid by him and took a seat at the dinette table across from the living room. “What did he say?” said Aaron Bradshaw.“Aaron, I need to get this out before I start bawling again,” she did. “Aaron, our Sam is injured, badly injured and disfigured. He’s not the same man we all once knew.”He fell into the chair across from her. “His face?” he said.“Yes,” she said.“What did he say?” he said.“Mostly he just railed at me and Owen for our sins. I don’t blame him for any of that. I tried to get him to go to dinner with me to talk things over, but he just flat refused,” she said.“Did he ask about me?” he said.“No, he didn’t give me the chance to even bring you up. He didn’t even want to talk about the babies. He thinks, erroneously thinks, that Owen has taken his place with them and that we are intent on cutting him out of their lives. I tried to tell him that he was wrong, but he’s not into listening to anything I have to say. And Aaron, he has to. He just has to. We can help him, all of us: you, me, Owen.“I’m going to be talking to Owen and we’re going to come up with a plan to help the man. Aaron, I know you are on Sam’s side, but I’m going to ask. Can we count on you to back us in this effort? The man needs a lot of help, and it’s going to cost a lot of money. And Aaron, money is the one thing we’ve got going for us. Damn little else, but we do have that,” she said.“Yes, sure, anything I can do,” said the older man.“Thank you, sir, it is more than appreciated, and I might add going to be more than necessary, your help I mean.”They talked a bit longer and then she left.******The door closed behind his ex-daughter-in-law. Or, maybe she still was his daughter-in-law at least on some level. He could see she was sincere in her desire to help his boy. Yes, he was going to do what he could to help her get through to his baby boy; he was determined in that regard. He started to cry. He was too old for this. Daddies needed to be there for their hero sons and daughters; yes they did.He made the decision. She’d given him his boy’s address and where he hung out, that bar, the one she’d found him at, the VFW. He would go there and talk to him. One thing Abigail Cord was more than right about: Sam Bradshaw was going to need help and he was going to get it, accept it. This was no time for false pride or even desperately crushed hearts.Yes, he was on his son’s side, as Abigail had noted, correctly noted. But, he also knew that life was not always a simple matter of first choices. Sometimes life just sucked, and people got hurt or hurt each other. One had to go on and hope for better things to come along down the line. What Sam really needed he knew was his mom. She was gone, but Aaron Bradshaw was pretty sure he knew how she would have handled things were she still alive and with them. That she wasn’t was the sad reality, but he felt, Aaron Bradshaw felt, that she was there with him in spirit; yes he did.He would go to his son, their son. He would get him to listen to reason no matter what. That was his mission in life. He just had to make sure that he didn’t die first or his son either. That would not be acceptable, no sir, that would not be acceptable.******Abigail Cord was distraught and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, say, any of it. But talking to her dad and her mom was the second step in the process of figuring that out. The first had been to go to see her ex-father-in-law. The last would be to talk to her husband two days hence.It was getting late, almost 8:45. She didn’t knock. She just went in and hollered.“Abigail,” said her mom.“Yes, hi, Mom,” she said.Her dad walked into the room. For a moment he just stood across from her not saying anything. He could see something was wrong, very wrong!“Honey?” said her dad.“Daddy, it’s very bad. I mean my ex-husband is in very bad shape and he hates me!” She fell to her knees on the kaçak iddaa floor and sobbed.“Daddy what am I going to do?” she said, not even looking up at him.He knelt down beside her. “Come on, honey girl, let’s go into the front room. You need to tell us all about it,” he said.In the front room, the mood was dark, and no one was sitting, not yet at any rate.Abigail was pacing back and forth in front of the coffee table and literally wringing her hands. The table itself was almost an antique. It had belonged to an uncle, one who’d been a ball turret gunner on a B-17 that went down over France during War II; the story was that his plane was blown out of the sky by German flak in August of 1943.“Abby, tell us,” said her mom.“Mommy our Sam will never walk again. He’s in a wheelchair for life. And . . .”“Baby?” said Greg Williams.“Daddy, he’s ugly! His face . . . Daddy, his face is gone, half of it anyway. And he’s only got one eye. Daddy, he is so ugly. My Sam is so ugly. No woman . . .” she burst into uncontrollable sobbing.Her parents came to her and held her tightly or she would have fallen.“Honey, wasn’t he working at headquarters or something?” said Cecilia Williams. Abigail nodded.“Yes, but he said that there was no safe place in that country,” she said.“Oh my,” said her mom.“Honey, I almost hate to ask, but didn’t the Army do any plastic surgery or stuff for him?” said her dad.“I don’t know. He didn’t say and I didn’t ask. He kinda kicked me out. He doesn’t want to see anyone. He’s afraid to see anyone, even the children. Daddy, it’s all my fault. I’m the one that almost forced him to join up. I wanted him to make more money and there was the Army bonus, and I don’t know what to do.“I wanted him to make more money so he joined the Army. Then I dumped him for a guy with lots of money. I know what he must be thinking. Heck Daddy, I’m thinking it too,” she said. “I know he hates me, and he should hate me. I’m sure he hates Owen as well even though he’s never met him. Daddy, he’s got no life. He just hangs out at the Army bar thing drinking.“Daddy what am I’m going to do?” she said.“Have you talked to Owen?” said her mom.“Not yet. I will tomorrow or the next day or when he gets back. I stopped and talked to Mister Bradshaw first; then I came right over here,” she said.Her mom looked thoughtful. “Gregory?” she said.“Yes, I’m going to go see him too. He and I always got along good. I’m pretty sure, even given everything that he’ll talk to me.” He turned to his daughter.“Abigail, you say he has no life. The fact is he can have a life, lots of servicemen who’ve given so much to their country find a way. There are support groups and even women who don’t see the ugliness in a face just the hero in the soul. Trust me on that one.“You need to talk to Owen. Find out if there is something he’d be willing to do to help our Sam. Okay?” he said.“Yes, Daddy, I’m going to. I know Owen will be willing to help. But will Sam let him, us, help him?” she said.The talk went on a little longer, but it was getting late and she needed to get home to the children. The new housekeeper was sitting with them, but she had to get home to them. And she had to talk to her man. There would be little sleep until she had talked to her husband.******He passed a bank building and the clock on its crest declared that is was a little past noon. It was already pretty hot outside. The warm days were good in the main, but some days it could get to be a little much if one had to be out in it for any length of time.A bit farther down the street, he saw the building, the Gloria Arms Apartments. Pulling in, he saw how the units were numbered and spotted his goal almost immediately, number 104. He hoped he’d be home. He’d go to the VFW if he had to, but he was preferring to be able to talk to his boy in private; there might be some arguing. Arguing was better done in private.Getting out of the car, the 103-degree air temperature was a bit of a shock: the car’s air-con had made the hundred mile drive tolerable. The sudden change in temperature was stunning. He stood beside the car door and leaned back onto it for a short minute. The heat was dizzying. Gathering himself, he made to go to where his son’s apartment wasPassing through a low gate and into the walkway was good. The walkway was shaded by the roofing above it. Arriving in front of the door he knocked. He waited. He waited a full minute. The heat was getting to him. The door opened.“Dad!” I said.“Son,” said Aaron Bradshaw.The older man had been forewarned; he didn’t flinch when he noted his son’s disfigurement.“I know what you’re going to say,” I said.“Yes, and the next words out of your mouth need to be expressing profound apology,” said Aaron.“Okay, and I do apologize,” I said, “But Dad . . .”“Son, I know you’ve been served up a busload of raw deals. I mean the divorce, your daughters, your battle wounds. That’s why I’m not yelling at you right at this moment,” said Aaron. “And believe me when I kaçak bahis say I do want to yell at you.”The younger man nodded and looked away. “Yeah, I guess,” I said.Then began the verbal exchanges, sometimes heated sometimes melancholy sometimes productive.They talked for hours. In the end, the younger one agreed to keep his father in the loop and that regularly.“And the Cords?” said Aaron.“Dad, I don’t know. But I will think about it like I said. They, the two of them, have dumped a busload of stuff on me, and I don’t trust them, but I will consider things and let you know, like I said,” I said. The other man nodded.He’d be staying the night, but he’d be gone early. He had a doctor’s appointment that he had not shared the reason for with his son; what would have been the point.CHAPTER 11From across the room, he watched the man, his daughter’s ex-husband. He was a man whose body was clearly ruined if not his spirit. He didn’t seem as depressed as his Abigail had indicated. Of course he was among fellow warriors for the most part here in the VFW “party” room.He made his way to the man. This would be a test for sure, thought Gregory Williams.“Hello Sam, I hear you’ve been getting a lot of visitors,” he said coming up to him from behind. The wheelchair spun around at the sound of the familiar voice.“Greg! Greg Williams,” I said. “Uh-yes, a few.” I was not exactly stupefied, but I guess for lack of a better term I was stupefied. First my ex-wife, then my dad, now her dad, and all within the same few days: clearly word about my return to the USA was getting out. Not sure how I felt about that. What I didn’t need is what the bunch of them all had in common: their sympathy. What I did need was to be left the hell alone to drink, grow old, and eventually die. There wasn’t anything else left for me.“My daughter came to see us. She told us she’d come by to see you,” he said. I nodded.“Yeah, she did. Her big money husband hired a PI to bother me evidently. Don’t know why. No offense, Greg, but she dumped me. There’s nothing left for me and her now, nothing,” I said. “Hell, there’s nothing left for me period. Her new man has taken her from me and my children along with her. Like I said, there’s nothing left for me back there, nothing.”“Sam, could we, you and I talk for a bit. My daughter may have divorced you, but Cecilia and I haven’t,” he said.“I don’t know, Greg, what would be the point,” I said.“The point is that you and I are still friends. Maybe not son-in-law and father-in-law in a legal sense anymore, but as far as I’m concerned . . .” he stopped in the middle of the thought.“Okay, Okay,” I said. “Have a seat. So how is your wife?” I said. I really did like my ex-in-laws; they’d always been good to me and to us, me and Abigail, as a couple.The man took the proffered seat and smiled.“Thanks,” he said. “Cecilia’s good. But, she’s worried about you believe me; we all are, and yes including Abigail. Sam she has a new man now, but that doesn’t mean that she’s written you off. She hasn’t . . .“Sam, Abigail told us about your injuries, war wounds of course. I can’t tell you how sorry all of us are about those. And, now seeing you, in person, well . . .”“Yeah, well thanks for your concern, it is what it is. I’m stuck like this forever I guess. Not much I can do about it,” I said. “A lot of other guys have it worse.”“Couldn’t the Army do more about getting you back to something more approximating the old you?” he said.“They did all they could I guess. They told me I was lucky to be alive actually, as if this is anything that can even remotely be considered lucky,” I said. “A couple of guys who have similar wounds said there were things that might be done, but the cost . . .”“The cost?” he said.“Yeah, stuff could be done, but that the military couldn’t do it. It’s like a million bucks and only some guy in Germany is doing it for the select few—their rich families and relatives being the ones paying the bills for the few. Anyway, way beyond this poor guy’s ability to consider,” I said.“Sam, I don’t want to be in the middle of a big to do here, but Abigail wants to help you. She and her current husband have a lot of money and influence. They will help if you’ll let them. Abigail came to us and broke down. Says you wouldn’t talk to her, I mean well, you know what I mean,” he said.“Greg, it’s hard even being around her. I love her still and I always will, I guess. But she’s with another guy who stole her from me. Kinda hard to get my head around accepting anything from them. The humiliation would be just, well, worse than my wounds. I don’t expect you to understand. But it’s the reality for me,” I said.“Sam, I guess I sort of understand, but like you, I see this whole situation as kind of a real tough nut. On the one hand there’s the two of them. They did you wrong. But Sam, love is a weird ass thing, It can come and go without any rhyme or reason.“Her husband’s an okay guy, actually a good guy. But, he did steal her from you illegal bahis and that was and is reprehensible. On the other hand there’s you, a genuine American hero. You deserve a whole lot better than you’ve so far gotten, and that’s deserve, Sam, not just want or need.“And, then there’s the wild card, your children. They need to have their daddy, their real daddy, around to help them grow into the women that they one day will be. And Sam, the truth is, you owe them that,” said Greg.“Their real dad? Think that they see me that way, Greg. I mean me and not him?” I said. “Or better, how do you think they’ll be seeing me if I did try to impose myself in their lives: ugly, crippled for life, broke, nothing to recommend me whatsoever? How do you think they’d react to me, Greg? Tell me.”“I won’t kid you, Sam. He’s been good to them. I’m sure that they do see him as their dad. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to see their hero dad as their real dad if you know what I mean,” he said.“No, I don’t know what you mean, Greg?” I said. “What’s a hero dad? Some guy that trots out his medals on the big holidays? No, I don’t see them as ever accepting me as anything but an interruption in their lives. And that goes double for Abigail. I’m sure that at best I’m nothing but a nuisance as far as she’s concerned. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s the reality, Greg. So no, I don’t see my girls as wanting to complicate their lives with a second daddy who looks as awful as I do.”“Son, you have to give those girls of yours a chance. You just do,” he said.“Greg, let me ask you. The girls are what now, six?” I said.“Eight,” he said.” I nodded. I guess I’d lost track, not that it mattered an iota.“Greg, they’d be in school now, I know. Who do you think it is that’s going to be doing those father daughter things with them? Who do you think that they’re going to want to have walking them down the aisle and giving them away at their weddings?” I said.“Well I . . .” he said.“Yeah exactly,” I said. “And how do you think I’m going to be feeling when he does those things with them?”The conversation went back and forth for a long while, two pitchers of draft worth. For all of the intensity that the conversation was fraught with, the atmosphere remained cool and calm.“So you’re willing to come visit me and Cecilia?” he said.“Yeah, I guess. Labor Day’s only a couple of weeks off. But at your house, not hers and that other guy’s,” I said.“Can I invite them?” he said.“I don’t know . . .” I started.“Sam, let me do the leading here. I’m going to be calling your dad too to see if he’ll come by. And don’t worry, I will have the two of them briefed and fully understanding that the twins will be reintroduced to you as their real daddy and not the other guy,” he said. I was tapping my fingers on the table’s surface and eyeing my visitor very intensely.“Okay,” I said. “If they’ll go that far, I guess I can bend a little. But make no mistake, that has to happen or it’s a no go, and I will know immediately if they’re playing me. And, I’m dead-mortal-lead-pipe-cinch certain that they’re going to be thinking of trying to.”“Understood,” he said. “And, I’ll be doing my level best to make certain that they ‘don’t’ try.” I nodded, but it was a nod laden with dubiosity.******The couple at the door knocked and the knock was answered.“Mom! Dad! I’m surprised. Dad, I thought you were in Tucson,” said Abigail. She waved her parents inside, well the night was cold, summer’s end notwithstanding.“I was, Abbs. I’m back. And we have some serious stuff to talk about,” said Gregory Williams. “Is Owen around?”“No not yet, tomorrow I think; he called to tell me that,” said Abigail. Her look reflected her father’s tone of voice. The conversation was going to be serious as hell.Five minutes later, coffee poured, first sips taken, the three of them: parents, and daughter, settled in at the formal dinette table down the long hall of the plush two story Cord residence.“You went to see him then, and so,” said Abigail, her low voice breaking the ice.“Yes, and you certainly didn’t exaggerate,” said her dad, “the man is seriously in tough. He will for sure never be the same, the same as he was before he went over there to serve his country. He was on the verge of crying the whole time I was with him. But, being the man that he is he didn’t. And trust me, Abby, I wanted to cry right along with him.”Abigail Cord began to cry, quietly cry. “I know,” she said. “I absolutely know what you’re talking about. Daddy, he’s my hero. He is. He’ll likely never believe me but he is. Daddy, I don’t know what to do. Owen and I have talked about him a lot, but nothing we’ve come up with is likely to work. And Owen doesn’t even know the worst of it yet. He will though when I do talk to him.“Sam needs a woman, and yes, I know he wants me. But, Daddy, mom, I’m with Owen now. And, well, I need and love Owen. Sam is never going to be okay with that, I know it, hell anyone who knows our situation would know it.”“Abby two weeks from now is Labor Day. In talking to Sam, I got him to agree to coming to our place for the holiday,” he said.“Daddy? He’s coming here, to Phoenix!” she said. “I mean really!”

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