The story so far:
May 26, 2009
Patrick is my new friend and bunk mate. He’s a young Corpsman transferred to our unit just today. Friends are important, especially friends with their own medic kit. Grandpa always said to keep new friends coming. That way, your last friend will never be an old friend.
“Where you from, Soldier?” I asked.
Patrick Brennan smiled the smile of a freckled-face, red-haired Irish-American. “Most recently, Alaska,” he replied. “But I suppose…”
“Suppose what?” asked Mark as he leaned over his bunk.
The new corpsman bristled a bit at Mark’s interjection. My new friend will just have to get used to the buttinski that has always been my old friend.
“I suppose…” said Brennan cautiously, “that pieces of this shameless shanty Irishman can be found from Dublin to…where is it you said you hail from, Captain?”
“Michigan, says the Sergeant in me,” I answered.
“Been there, too, says the future physician in me,” said he.
I looked at this young man and could see the green eyes of my daughter smiling back at me. Over the years I have had less of a reason to write in my journal. So I opened my laptop on the barracks bunk. “How do you spell…?”
“Brennan?” he asked.
“No…Shanty?” I answered.
Mark and Jesse share the bunk next to mine and Brennan’s. Geoff and Adam share the bunk across the isle. “Are you really typing the words that I am saying?” asked Patrick Brennan.
Mark spoke up again. “Congrats, you’re now part of the story.”
“What story?” asked Brennan. “Whose story?”
“A story within a story,” I replied smiling to my new bunk mate.
“What’s the story about?” asked Patrick Brennan.
Jesse Brooks appeared, throwing his helmet on his bunk. “It’s about a hockey stick,” said Jesse.
Adam and Geoff were listening as well. “It’s about our fathers,” said Adam.
“It’s about old men and young women,” said Geoff.
“No, really,” said Brennan. “What’s the story about?”
“Which one?” I answered. Answering questions with a question is an old family trait. “Like I said, it’s a story within a story.”
Young Brennan looked understandably confused. At great risk of complicating it further, Mark spoke up a third time. “The Story story is about not forgetting stuff.”
Brennan looked around the makeshift barracks in the middle of a war zone and said, “Somebody’s got to write the story because I’m gonna forget this place as soon as I possibly can.”
“Today’s story is probably about not forgetting you,” smiled Mark. “And Baghdad in the summer.”
“Spring,” said Jesse.
“Summer,” argued Mark.
“Want to bet?” asked Jesse.
In order to protect what’s left of Mark’s National Guard payroll check, I said, “It’s a loser’s bet.”
“Exactly,” said Jesse.
“So if I read your story years from now, I’ll remember…” said Patrick Brennan thoughtfully, “…I’ll remember that…” he looked around at all of our faces, “I’ll remember that you…and I…were here.”
“Exactly,” I said.