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Drama Fiction Indigenous

An elderly Navajo man stepped out of his black Lincoln. He reached for a worn wooden cane and slammed the door shut. He was invited by his son to come to his house for a chat. They hadn't seen each other since he left for the Marines. The old man inched his way toward a sun yellow Spanish colonial house at the end of the block, the one with a cherry red 1970 Dodge Challenger and the flagpole on the lawn, adorned with the Stars and Stripes at the top, the New Mexico state flag below that and the US Marine Corps flag below that one. Inch by inch, the old man dragged himself toward his son's front door. He knocked five times on the door and was greeted by a young Mexican woman.

"Is Red Bone here?" asked the old man, "I'm his father, Richard. He asked me to come here."

"Oh, yes," replied the woman, "I'm his girlfriend, Luna. He's in the bedroom getting ready." She let Richard in and directed him to the sectional. "Can I get you anything? Tea, soda, juice, some horchata?"

"I'd ask for a beer, but my doctor wants me to cut down on the drinking. What kind of soda do you have, Miss Luna?"

"Sprite."

"Pour some in a glass for me please, but don't put any ice in it?"

"You... won't think it's too hot?"

"Too hot? If it's coming straight from the fridge, then ice is unnecessary. Come on, bring it here."

"Sure thing." I'm starting to understand why Red hasn't talked to him in a few years, thought Luna.

Red joined the Marines in 1988 on commission from college and became a Second Lieutenant the following year. During Operation Desert Storm, he, another lieutenant and a captain would command a platoon of Marines while stationed in Kuwait. This platoon saw very little combat and none of his Marines were severely injured during the campaign. For his service in the Marines, Red and his fellow officers, as well as the platoon they led all received service medals. Red stayed until 1993, receiving an Honorable Discharge and getting promoted to First Lieutenant. Overseas, he offered to help sergeants and corporals who were part of transport commands with the trucks, as some of the equipment was prone to breakdown and stoppage due to the Kuwaiti desert sands getting small particles stuck inside. Here, he realized he had a knack for fixing cars and wanted to continue to do so once he returned to the states.

Once Red was ready, he stomped his way down the stairs to greet his father after almost a decade away from home. Richard laid eyes on his son for the first time and almost cried. He hadn't experienced this type of pride since his son's birth. For much of his life, Richard had worried about his son joining the military, especially the Marines. When he did, Red was a scrawny, paper-thin string bean of a young man who would probably have to buy muscles. But the Marines are an elite force whose motto "We Make Marines" is a promise to kept at all costs, and their work paid off; they took Red Bone and transformed him into a 6'5" walking mass of muscle.

"Hey, Dad," greeted Red, "How was the drive?"

"Could be better, could be worse," commented Richard, "Anything beats a 6x6 through France."

"Or a line of jeeps and Humvees in Kuwait."

Father and son shared a laugh. Like Red, Richard was also a combat veteran. He joined the Army in 1942 as a paratrooper, and stayed with the Army all the way through to the end of the war in Europe.

"Surely, you didn't drag this geezer out of hiding to share war stories," noted Richard, hurrying to the point of his visit, "Did you need to tell me something?"

"I actually do want to get to war stories, but before I do, I thought I'd let you know that I clearly got out of the Marines in one piece. I'm still standing, better than you, old man." The comment got more chuckles out of Richard, "While I was there in Kuwait, in my downtime, I used to help some of the sergeants and others who were part of transport with the vehicles and I realized that I had a talent for fixing cars and trucks. I worked as a mechanic for three years, enough to get that car you must've seen on your way up here and this house."

"I can see that. I see very well that you and your lady are living comfortably. That's the only thing I ever wanted of my son: comfort and freedom of mobility."

"I also wanted to see how you and Mom were doing. If you were alright or if you need anything..."

There was a pause. Richard was picking up inflections in his son's tone of voice. He was suggesting something.

"If I'm not mistaken, are you suggesting that you want your mother and I to move in with you and your girlfriend?"

"It's merely a suggestion, Dad. The choice is yours. I know you don't want to live in a retirement home..."

"Prison in disguise!"

"...but you're 73 years old. You're not exactly a spring chicken. Luna and I can help you and Mom out."

"Red, I'm very proud of you. I'm happy that you've put your experiences to practice and that you have a nice house, car and woman who loves you dearly. But I can assure you that I can still take care of myself and your mother without any help."

I knew he'd fight me on this, thought Red. Richard's pride didn't slow with age; in fact, it may have strengthened while his physical mobility weakened. He even bragged to his son once that it was better to die in your house, surrounded by the fruits of your lifelong labors. Richard was determined to die next to something or even someone he could be proud of: his house, his trophies, his service medals, his wife; anything that gave him a sense of pride was too good to be away from. He also maintained the belief that once a child moves out of their parents house, they shouldn't come back save for financial or relationship issues. But Red and Luna had been living comfortably for at least a year while Richard and his wife, Red's mother Catherine, had been married for over 30 years at this point. They were also retired. Richard was a decorated WWII veteran and retired carpenter while his wife worked in the same restaurant as a table server since Red was born, with plans to retire in the next couple of years. Red himself was an officer in the Gulf War and mechanic while Luna was attending college to become an artist mainly for therapeutic reasons.

Both men took pride in their military service, both men put hobbies discovered overseas into their professional lives, both used their earnings to invest in their homes, and neither man was alone in their endeavors. Red knew very well that convincing his parents to move in with them or closer to them would be like crossing an ocean in a canoe during a hurricane, but he wasn't going to give up until he and his father reached a compromise. Then, Luna got an idea.

"Well, if that's where you stand," began Luna, "why don't we come and visit you at your house once every week or so?"

"Hmmm..." Richard was a little unsure. In truth, he'd love to see his son more, but several concerns arose from this and Red could see them as well, "Are you sure about that, Miss? It could be expensive. I don't want to be the reason you lose more gas in your car than expected."

"It's fine, Dad," said Red, easing his concerns, "money isn't an issue. And it's a great idea, it won't just be you and Mom in that old house."

Red had been dying to introduce Luna to his parents for the past few months, once they had moved in together. The problem was that he hadn't had the best opportunity to do so and several incidents in his life have been blocking his path. For one thing, Luna's school schedule kept her on campus for much of the week with her latest classes keeping her past 4:00 PM. The campus she attended was also several miles away, a complicated drive to make since Red's house wasn't on a main thoroughfare; when Richard spoke to him on the phone, Red needed to give him specific directions to follow, which he wrote down on a notepad.

For Red, work was just fine; he started at 10:00 AM which was an hour later than Luna's first class and ended the day at the same time as Luna's latest days which were Thursdays and Fridays, so he could pick her up directly after work those days. However, there were several instances where Red would have to stay later than usual and this would cut into his and Luna's time. In case this became a permanent thing, he'd have to call the house from a payphone and leave a message letting her know the situation at work. She'd typically take a cab back to the house if she waited for at least half an hour for Red to pick her up.

The weekends were free for the couple to use however they saw fit, so Red, Richard and Luna decided to dedicate Sunday to visit Red's parents mainly to reconnect but also for their own health and well-being. Red and Luna would visit them the following Sunday.

February 05, 2021 07:29

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