May 29, 2009
Patrick Brennan left the Mess tent early. “I’ve been assigned to play school nurse,” said corpsman Brennan as he walked out into the Baghdad sun carrying his medic bag and side arm.
“I thought we were a team?” I shouted.
“Our outfit is assigned to the school tomorrow,” shouted Brennan. “Captain Conti lost a corpsman, so I volunteered a day early.”
“Good idea, bunky.” As Brennan left, my mind wandered. I’ve been remembering things…random things. I remember when Grandpa taught me how to drive. I remember how proud I was of something so simple…behind the wheel of a moving car.
I remember my little sister beating me in arm-wrestling and teaching me humility. Fortunately I wasn’t the only kid she taught that lesson to.
I remember telling my wife I loved her for the first time…and at the time not knowing just how important that moment was.
“The other side, Dummy!” Jesse shouted at Mark. I smile every time I hear him say that. They’re like an old married couple. Jesse and I sat at the Mess tent. He ate his breakfast while I turned my eggs and sausage into a face on my plate. The plate and I looked at each other, sharing memories.
Mark smiled at Jesse’s demand, but obliged, like a thousand times before, and sat across the table.
With a spoonful of powdered eggs in his mouth Mark asked, “Do you think the Wings will win the cup?”
My mind drifted to back to Joe Louis Arena, 1983, and a young rookie wearing number 19. I remember he smiled at one of the few young kids who wore his number that day.
Jesse shook his head at his empty plate. He looked up at Mark and said as he chewed, “We need Yzerman back.”
I nodded. Some things simply are not debatable. Nonetheless, Mark said, “He’s too old.” Mark could always be counted on to keep a conversation going.
“Wanna bet?” challenged Jesse.
“I’ve been losing bets to you for over twenty-five years,” said Mark. “What makes you think that Yzerman could still make a difference?”
“Hell, he’s practically our age and we’re making a difference in a war,” replied Jesse. “Stevie Y was only 16 when the Wings drafted him in ’85.”
All Jesse’s life he has been right. But I guess there really is a first time for everything. Without hesitation Mark reached his hand across the table. “Fifty dollars says the Red Wings drafted Yzerman in 1983 when he was 18 years old.”
“You seem pretty damn sure of yourself,” replied Jesse. “Why am I suspicious?”
“Have I ever been right about anything before?” asked Mark.
Suspiciously hesitant, Jesse squinted both eyes and said, “Nope.” Jesse reached over and shook Mark’s hand. “Fifty dollars, American,” he said.
Jesse soon left the mess table, carrying both his lunch tray and his suspicions. Mark looked over at me and grinned.
“What?” I asked as my breakfast looked up at me.
“Can I read your journal again,” Mark asked.
“Why? I said questioning his question.
“You know why,” accused Mark. “Fifty American.”
“Which year?” I asked.
“You know which year,” he replied. “I want to reread the beginning…June, 1983. Gimmee 1984 while you’re at it.”
Mark has always enjoyed reading my journal. I had no idea that I’d ever have an audience. “Just why are those your favorite years?” I asked. “You must have read it 100 times.”
“Because I get to read my own name in someone else’s story,” Mark answered. “It’s like it’s all about me.”
I answered, “It’s not.”
“It’s snot?” Mark replied as the middle schooler in him jumped from the digital pages of my daily journal.
I reluctantly knew that this was going to cost Jesse $50. But I handed over my flash drive. “For the record,” I reminded Mark, “You are not mentioned in the first entry…so it can’t be all about you.”
Mark smiled. “You could have started writing any day. But I believe that Peter Kogut’s very first journal entry was written so that years later, today, Mark Bigelow could finally get the best of Jesse Brooks…and fifty dollars, American.”
Mark’s convincing grin has almost convinced me. This journal of mine may have been written by me…but maybe not for me.
Maybe that’s how all journals are meant to be.