Joining the Dream, pt. 2

by: Essy Jane

Two weeks later…

I graduated, my diploma was mailed to me but Uncle Jesse wouldn’t have known
that because I picked up the mail. Well I was proud of myself. I had gotten
the highest mark in the class and to top it all off I was joining the army.
I wouldn’t get anymore respect than I do here but at least there I can learn
something.

The note was all written. Some of the words were a bit harsh but they were
true. I couldn’t stand leaving it for him but you know the war would do some
funny things to me and I knew it. This was one lie I had to have right down
to the coil. I read the note over to myself. I couldn’t believe that it was
me writing it but the words were too strong and full of and everlasting
haltered. It went something like this:

Dear Uncle Jesse,

I am sorry to inform you that I will no longer live under your walls. I
cannot be here anymore. Everyone hates me and I mean that with a passion. I
just make everyone want to leave. I suppose in being gone I will save Vance
the pleasure of kicking me out himself. I know that it is wrong to run away
from my problems but maybe it will make me look like a man.

Tell Coy that I am sorry for ruining his life. I wish I had never laid eyes
on him. Maybe then he wouldn’t be cursed. I seem to cause him trouble even
though I am younger than him. I suppose that makes me the bad guy. You just
don’t see the look he has given me from day one. I wish could change it but
it is too hard to do.

One day you will realize why I did it. Maybe I will recognize that I need
you more than I let on. You are a wonderful Uncle and I am sure that you
know why I have to go. Being who I am will take a lot of time and that time
will be well spent. I will go and get myself a job even if it means one that
I wouldn’t be proud of. I know I can support myself.

I hope you will find joy in your farm and that the land won’t be missed as
much by me. I know that land just as well as Luke does but good luck with
Vance and Coy. I know they too will do their best. They are hard workers and
you are getting them to be better. Keep them out of trouble since I haven’t
been able to do that for Luke. Oh well I suppose that’s the way it happens
sometimes.

I am counting the days when I will see you again and I haven’t even finished
this letter. I love you very much and don’t want to loose you but sometimes
we Dukes are just plain old stubborn. I am a Duke and I just don’t want to
be told how to do anything. How am I supposed to live my life with everyone
on my back? I guess this is the only way out. I am sorry to leave I really
am. I just want to save Vance…I just want to save him. I hope one day you
can understand that.

Anyway, I got to get moving. Don’t think of this as a goodbye either. I
really need to find myself.

Love always,

Bo Duke

Well I left it on my pillow and walked out of the house. I got on my bike
and rode down to the bus station where I would get shipped over to some
training camp. I shouldn’t have left my bike locked up there…maybe it would
give me away. I didn’t want it to but I had to get moving. You know this
would be a bit of a challenge. This was the first day of the rest of my
life.

The bus ride was bumpy and I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. I
couldn’t stand this at all. The ride shouldn’t have been so bumpy. I think
that this is too much. I have never felt someone handle a car like this in
my life. I walked up to the front of the bus and looked at the bus driver.

“Excuse me sir, I was wondering could I drive?” I asked. He looked at me
like I was crazy. I wasn’t though I was Bo Duke and I was the sanest one on
this bus. I wasn’t anything though to them.

“You are a scum sucking idiot; if you think I will let you drive you have to
be out of your mind. I wouldn’t let my own son drive. Heck you probably
don’t know how to drive!” The driver yelled back. A Duke not knowing how to
drive…now there’s a sight you have probably never seen in your life. Oh
no…it’s a sight you will never see. Dukes love to drive. I love to drive
more than learning new things and boy do I love to learn.

“If you think for one second that I wouldn’t be able to drive think again. I
can handle any vehicle you put in front of me.” I shouldn’t have said
that…they might put me in a tank. Now there is one place I wouldn’t want to
be in. I am sorry about those are strictly for people that love machines.
Though it would be an adventure I wouldn’t even think about it.

“You think so huh?”

“Yes I do.” Why in the world wasn’t I backing down? I am smarter than this
guy. I shouldn’t even think about this kind of stuff. After all I don’t
think that people have to be this way ever. But what was the point of going
after this one?

“You want to drag behind this car or be driven there?”

“I would rather stay here and drive!”

“You are such a child.” I was a child? Of course I was a child. Why would he
even doubt that for a second? I am very childish. I am still a kid and
nothing will change that. No one will order me around and not a soul could
make me cry. I suppose that was my weakness.

“You are such an old fart.”

“Are you calling me old?”

“Well as the old saying goes, if the shoe fits then wear it!”

“You are going to be in so much trouble.”

“Just let me drive and I will leave you alone.”

“I will not leave you alone.”

“Well then you brought this on yourself.” I pulled on the steering wheel. We
went from side to side. It wouldn’t stop either. I didn’t want it to.
Suddenly we found ourselves off the road and in a nice ditch. Oh well, I
suppose it was all for the best when I had to change the tire. Being a Duke
has taught me quite a few lessons in life. Knowing how to change that tire
was the biggest thing I knew. In fact I knew so much that could change a
tire about as fast as a race car driver’s mechanic.

We started driving once more. I couldn’t believe how long this trip was. I
was still feeling restless…almost like a little child. I had to get out of
here before I sweated to death. You think they would treat future soldiers
with more respect. I wondered what I had done. I looked at the people on the
bus. Most seemed to be much bigger than me and a lot older; I was in for it.
What if I couldn’t do it like they could? Go the distance I mean. There was
something about this place that worried me.

Okay, this was my moment and I had to show people that I could do it no
matter what the cost. I wasn’t going to give up on my first day…I will give
up on my second. No that doesn’t sound right…I shouldn’t do it that way
either. Well I had to do something but I was drafter now. Was there really
anything I could do? I couldn’t look bad because I would be sent home.
Though the American Army must think everyone is a war hero. All I knew was
that I was doomed. There was something about these guys that gave me the
creeps. But the army seemed just like school. You can survive as long as you
make a couple friends.

Well that’s what I thought anyway. I went up to one guy and asked to shake
his hand and it was on the floor time for me. “You are rude,” I mumbled. But
you know what? He just looked at me and winked.

“Life can be rude and you will have to deal with it little one,” He replied.
Well so much for that. Maybe I had to do something better with myself…or
maybe they would never like me ever. I was young and stupid…well giftedly
stupid. Putting these two phrases together isn’t exactly smart however it
makes sense to me.

Anyway, we stood in this long line and a man looked us over. There were a
bunch of us. I couldn’t count how many had been recruited or drafted. I
don’t know how anyone could join of their own free will. War is not
romantic…at least it doesn’t seem to be that way. I don’t really want to
know how it is like.

“Welcome to the army, I am your drill sergeant my name is Sergeant Mathews.
You can call me your highness or just plain old sir. I will accept either.
From now until the end of your training I will be the one that will look
upon you the most. You have me until the end of your training. I hope you
all understand that you are in the battle,” Mathews commented. I couldn’t
help but laugh. He was such a stiff. I had never seen something so funny.
“Do you have a problem boy?”

“I do, you are making me laugh,” I replied. I realize now that this was the
wrong thing to say. Uncle Jesse told me though to always tell the truth and
that is what I was doing. If anyone had a problem with it they could take it
up with the Governor. Sergeant Mathews looked at me with those deep icy
eyes. That moustache that he was packing under his nose was too shiny. The
man was going red in the face. Now if you think that some people spit when
they talk you haven’t seen this guy. He spits out more of the juices of life
than I ever could and boy can he yell.

“Who do you think you are? You think that you’re smart don’t you?”

“I don’t think I know I am smart.” Okay, I shouldn’t bad mouth my superior
officer. If I hadn’t done that maybe he wouldn’t be looking at me like that.
I couldn’t help but be myself. I mean I am Bo Duke. I looked at my dog tags.
The name of Vance still didn’t seem right for me. Though with the army I
knew they would just called me Duke.

“What is your name boy?”

“Duke, Vance Duke. I am a very good farmer and a fast learner.”

“You are a farming soldier? Boy I have to see how well you do. I am from a
big city and I know more about life then you ever will.”

“I doubt it.”

“Duke your life is going to be worse than a blistering pit of hot lava. I am
going to take it all out on you!” Good, this was just perfect. I am going to
be spat upon just a little bit longer. I didn’t pay attention to his speech.
I mean after he began to curse I just ignored him totally. I can do that
too. I am very good at putting people out and putting something in.

Scrubbing toilets with a tooth brush is fun. I had to do all of them. I
don’t see why we’re given toilets. If they were smart they would give all
the boys outhouses. I can’t believe they don’t do that. I suppose if they
want to capture all these people and make them talk they would use the
porcelain unmentionables to the men. I think to make them want civilization
back.

“You’re good at putting weapons together,” One of the older men said.

“It isn’t all that hard. It doesn’t take long to figure out which part goes
where and why it is there,” I replied.

“My name is Sam.”

“I’m Vance.”

“What does Vance mean?”

“Well it means marshland…I looked it up a long time ago.” I liked my name
better than Vance’s ugly name but I wasn’t about to say that to him. I am
supposed to be someone else after all and it would seem dumb.

“I don’t know why but that name is just too stuffy. I think you are
different than that.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think you need a better name.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well you must have a reason for something like that. I mean my name is my
name I suppose.”

“Well that gun of yours must be pretty powerful.”

“What is this, a beauty Salon? You don’t have to tell people how good your
gun is. The enemy will find out soon enough if you put your weapon working!
Now get back to work!” Sergeant Mathews screamed. Man I hated that guy with
a passion. You know he wasn’t as great as anyone I knew. Maybe he was like
this to help him through his past or something. I shouldn’t say that in
front of him though.

Waking up at all hours and putting guns together. Going through training
courses that would kill some people and learning to fire weapons. This
wasn’t a common day for the regular man. But it was the life of an army man.
I wondered how Luke ever got through this.

My drill sergeant hated me. I don’t know why he treated me differently from
everyone else. I was doing all things faster than everyone else. I could
take apart anything blind folded and then put it back together. Still I was
lacking something, discipline. I also refused to cut my hair. When he tried
to make me we got into a big fight. I won of course but again that was
another hit to his over sized ego.

Training wasn’t all that hard though. I loved to crawl through the goopy mud
and allow it to run through my fingers, it was almost like home to me.
Nothing they said I couldn’t do. But as I said, when people hate you, ya
don’t get the best assignment. I would be located on the frontline.

“I can’t believe you Duke. You are such a sucker. You are a horrible person
and you have quite the anger management problem. You don’t need to tell me
that this is going to affect your performance out there. Now listen to me
carefully because I will not say this again to you. I won’t ever repeat
this. If fact I will deny it if you tell anyone and they ask me about it.
Now I really and I mean really I hate to admit it Duke but you were the
best,” Mathews told me.

“You’re…you are an interesting person. Now you have to tell me one thing.
Please humor me. Why are you sending me to the front?” I asked. I knew it
was to spite me even though he didn’t say it I knew it. He couldn’t do it
for any other reason.

“You are born to lead Duke, I can see right through your defiance. You are
not like all the other men. Some of them just enlist and others aren’t sure
why they have to be drafted. You are made for this man’s army.”

“You hate me too right?”

“Yes I do, with a passion and I never want to see your ugly face again.”

“I never want to feel your slobber after it flies out of your mouth.”

“You are a good man.” They hugged and suddenly let go. I couldn’t believe
that he would do such a thing. I didn’t know if this guy was trying to do
something to me or just get my attention. I couldn’t believe this at all.

“Now you get out of here before I get military police on your butt. I don’t
think I have to tell you that again.” With that I was out to find out where
my true place was in the world. You know it is funny; we go out and do
stupid things to find out who we are.

It seemed like only yesterday when all that was going on. But now I was in
war, I had to be in this war not only for myself but for my cousin too. He
couldn’t be within all this noise and all of these problems. I mean in all
honesty he wouldn’t last a day. The helmet would be too tight or there
weren’t enough girls in this army. Well I chase after girls too, don’t get
me wrong they’re great, however I know when to stop.

I had been here for three months and already I was a corporal. I had one
Purple Heart and a smile on my face. I loved looking at that medal. It
reminded me how courage was only a breath away. I thought of Luke and how he
would be doing in the marines. I suppose a lot better than me. He has been
there for about a year now if he hasn’t been shot and killed.

The guns were getting louder and louder that dumb Lieutenant had been just
standing there screaming orders to us. I wouldn’t back down from these guys
though the fear tried to conquer my heart. The rip roaring flames as the fox
hole next to us was struck. I grabbed my riffle and began to shoot. I
wasn’t about to let all of my friends suffer. One from our side shot off a
Bazooka. It flew to the other side. They bombed us and we bombed them. That
was the way war was. I guess I got used to it as I went along.

How can people kill so many without it being on their minds? Well that’s
simple, get rid of your sense of right and wrong. Pull all of your thoughts
and feelings and become numb. You learn well when you’re in this kind of an
environment. One thing is for sure, if you think about how you may being
killing people your age you will surely die. It is not like you can see
them. There is too much dust and smoke to see specific faces.

I guess the worst part of all is not receiving any contact. You see all of
the other guys with mail and you know that you will never receive a letter.
They were always concerned about me. I wasn’t too bad off without it but
still the thought of how my family was doing really shot through my mind. It
doesn’t really when you’re at home. I guess it is because you are actually
away from them. You can’t suddenly hold on to Daisy because she is in a
whole other country.

Out here was different than any other place I had been to. For one I had to
drop my whole identity. I was no longer Bo Duke. I hated the name Vance and
the other guys told me it didn’t match me. It was a stiff name that just
simply matched my cousin. The men called me Little Duke. I thought that it
was interesting to be called that. I guess it was because I looked younger
than I really was.

“Hey Little Duke, look at the picture of my girl,” Jimmy said as he flashed
a picture out at me. She was respectable. His girlfriend was not as slim as
some girls but no girl was perfect. I liked her smile though, it reminded me
of Daisy.

“She’s a sweetheart,” I replied. How could I talk to him about girls? I mean
everyone I would have dated I didn’t. Why? I didn’t want my cousin to be put
into war.

“Little Duke, I wish that you got mail.”

“I wish I could have some too. I miss my family.” Mike was listening into
the conversation as he always did. Mike wasn’t the type to stay out of
things. He was bold, unlike anyone else. Nothing I could say would change
his opinion. He liked to work hard in this army. Mike worked for everything
in his life and I admired him for that. When you come from a farm things
seem a lot different. You have all of the city boys that have never stuck
their hands in the dirt. They don’t have to work as hard as some people.
Mike has the blessings of both worlds.

“Duke, your family ain’t nice. I mean here you are fighting for liberty and
the American way. All they can do is keep to themselves? I don’t think it is
right. You need something to keep your mind occupied. I would never ever
allow my family to push me away like they have been doing to you. It just
ain’t right boy,” Mike mumbled.

“They have their reasons not to talk to me,” I answered.

“Why is that? What did you do that is so all fired terrible?” I had to think
of something. Every time I thought of a lie Uncle Jesse’s face entered into
my mind. I had to tell them something truthful.

“I ruined their pride. You see my brother Coy hated me because I beat
someone up for him. They would have killed him. Coy would rather be dead
than get help from anyone.”

“This Coy ain’t too smart. I swear if he were my brother I would knock some
sense into him. In all honesty you just got here and you are the best
soldier I have seen. You take on all the biggest operations.”

“I want to go home faster. If I get all my points I am out of here. I will
never have to kill that many people again. It just isn’t fair that we are
expected to do this. In all honesty, they should invent something where no
one gets hurt. Well until that day I am getting out of here with those
points.”

“That’s a good idea. If I wasn’t so dang scared I would follow your
example.”

“You’re scared?” I couldn’t believe it. Mike seemed so tough all the time. I
mean his chin was held high and his eyes were ice. I guess he has gone numb
too. You would never believe it by looking at him.

“We’re all scared to a point Little Duke. But onto different things, dang
you look younger than 18.” Oh no, they weren’t going to catch me now. I was
just getting stubble on my face and being proud of it. I had to have shaved
nine times a day in basic training. I couldn’t be caught now. If I was I
would be sent home. I didn’t want to be. I wanted to work harder than
everyone else and get out that way.

“Shoot, we all look young. I mean look at me, I am 20 and I look like I am
15 at least,” Jimmy commented. I breathed in deeply and sighed in relief.

“Well it isn’t that bad,” Johnson added.

“What isn’t that bad?” I questioned.

“Being here I mean. I don’t know you guys make it so much easier to be here.
I just don’t think about my family that much. I know you guys will always be
covering my can. I love the sounds of war as well. I just like to listen to
it. There’s something about it that is soothing yet scary. I love listening
to the bombs hit.”

“No you don’t you’re just saying that to make conversation.”

“Maybe so but at least I got everyone talking to me. I love everyone’s
voices.” Well the war was back for its second wave of ruining our day. Just
like the war. The whistling sounds of the shells before they hit the ground.
The machine guns we used were almost like loud jackhammers. I couldn’t
believe it was really a tool that shot millions of bullets into our area. I
was worried, almost scared to death. People were getting shot all around me.

A bomb landed too close for comfort. I didn’t want to die nor get shot but
something within me knew that this was going to happen no matter what. We
were shooting off everything we had but it still wasn’t enough. I could hear
the leaves that still hadn’t burn shift. There was a spy from the ‘nam side.
I didn’t know what to thing but as the gun got closer I was scared for my
Lieutenant’s life.

I jumped in front of him as the guns went off. I don’t know how many times
he hit me but man is I in pain. My chest is burning and I don’t know what to
do about it. It hurts so much. I hear someone call out my nickname. “Little
Duke!” It had to be Johnson. I slipped into the deepness of sleep. When I
woke up I was still in the battle zone.

My Lieutenant was on the ground. He had one bullet in his shoulder. I wasn’t
about to leave him there though the throbbing pain almost convinced me to. I
looked at my green clothes that had been tinted with his blood and my own. I
didn’t know what to say or if I should say anything at all but one thing was
for sure

I had to get out of here. I picked up Lieutenant Kendal and ran for my life.
The shots from guns followed my feet and I got down. I couldn’t move for if
I did they would surely get me. My gut hurt like heck but I didn’t care.
Kendal needed my help and I wasn’t about to let him down.

I was woozy and couldn’t think straight. Everything that was going through
my mind at that instant was about life and how I wanted to live it. “You’re
going to make it,” I mumbled to myself. I picked up Lieutenant Kendal and
ran towards the aid station. Another bullet hit me in the shoulder. It hurt
bad but I couldn’t think about that now. All of this was dependant on me
alone. As I finally reached for the aid station, I collapsed on the ground.
I couldn’t stay awake any longer. My head filled with a hazy red color as at
last I came to rest.

I awoke in the hospital unable to move. I looked around and saw the clear
netting around the beds. I didn’t know what was going on at first but I was
sure that I had saved someone’s life. I had to save people’s lives. I would
rather risk my own than have someone die. I suppose that was the wrong
attitude but that’s just the way I am.

I looked around and I saw all these beds just full of people. I wondered who
had died or what had happened. If anything had happened to all these men I
wished that they were at least alive.

Something inside me crawled when they mentioned death. I wasn’t scared of
dying but I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live long enough to see thing
happen. I wanted to go to the mountains where my dad died. Maybe visit my
family in Brittan. I don’t know something interesting. Maybe get arrested. I
suppose that was too much to ask for as well. Oh well I guess I am a bit
weird.

“Hey little Duke, you did great out there. Geeze I can’t believe you didn’t
bleed to death,” John commented.

“That was close wasn’t it? How is everyone else?” I asked. John didn’t say
anything. He didn’t want to or he couldn’t and I respected that. “I know
that must’ve been weird huh?” Again nothing I didn’t know what to tell him.
All I could do was prescribe one of the nurses to him. War was a dirty
thing.

At that very moment, I heard something that I hadn’t heard in a long time.
It was a familiar voice that didn’t seem to stop mumbling to the nurse. I
couldn’t believe that I this hospital would have so many people I knew in
it. No…this voice was different. This voice carried me through hard times
and sad places.

“I don’t want the drugs,” Luke said. I couldn’t believe he was here. If Luke
saw me I would get a whipping for sure. I couldn’t move though and I
wouldn’t be able to for a while. Maybe I was dreaming. Yeah that’s it. It’s
not me.

“You have to take the morphine! Look I am not trying to mean here but you
are really pushing my buttons!” The nurse exclaimed.

“Look lady, I am a Duke and a Marine, if you want to get rid of the morphine
you take it. I don’t like drugs! I have never liked drugs nor will I ever
like drugs. I would rather be in this amount of pain then take your drugs.”
It was Luke. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to hide or maybe just die. I
couldn’t die though. Besides that he would see me sooner or later.

I tried to sit up to find the crew cut which I knew would be there. I
couldn’t get up enough and John pushed me back down. I had to know if it was
Luke and if he was okay. I couldn’t take the suspense of it anymore. “Luke?”
I yelled out.

Luke automatically sat up and looked my way. He didn’t look pleased. I could
hear him getting out of bed and heading towards me. I couldn’t run now even
if I tried. Some things just happen this way. I suppose it was fate but then
again Uncle Jesse says there is no such thing as fate. You make your own
destiny.

“You little scum bag! What the heck are you doing here?” Luke exclaimed. I
knew he would be mad. I couldn’t help but look for him though. He’s my
cousin and not only that, Luke is one of my Best friends.

“Look I am sorry, I looked in the mail and there were my draft papers. It
said it right on the top, Vance Duke.”

“Oh no…You will not get away with this. I am taking you for a walk.” Luke
grabbed a wheelchair and put me in it. He hung up the parts of my IV’s and
took me outside. I wished I had just kept my little mouth shut. As we got
closer to a clearing Luke put on the breaks.

“I am sorry. I am sorry for trying to be a person I am sorry for being here.
I am sorry I wanted to make a difference. There are certain things a person
has to do when they are American and this was something I had to do. I know
it seemed wrong but it wasn’t. I know you think I am some sort of creature
but I am not. I was just trying to help my county become the best it could
be.”

I wondered if that speech worked. I knew I might run into Luke, it was in
the stars. It was bound to happen so I practiced this speech. I wasn’t about
to let him think that I was the one that chose to do this at fist anyway. I
wanted to tell him that I wanted to be proud and that my American side…made
me do it. Now to put this to the test, Luke opened his mouth and his face
got red. Oh boy, I was in trouble.

“Explain yourself now! Don’t tell me that Coy or Vance put you up for it
because I know they wouldn’t do such a thing. How dare you come here! Do you
have any idea how much trouble you can get in? Not only if you’re caught but
if you get shot I will never forgive myself. What were you thinking? Why are
you up here?” Luke finally said.

“No one likes me so…”

“You joined the Vietnam war! I can’t believe you did this. What was it
supposed to help you to see me? I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy
that’s how much I hate war.”

“I understand that Luke but…I just wanted to help and it seems that all I am
doing is ruining things.”

“You ain’t ruining anything! War is ruining it for you my cousin. You have
stepped into the theatre of war. You know what the only difference is
between the stage and this place?”

“What Luke? What is the difference?”

“You can actually die! Not the person beside you though he has a good chance
too. You can die Bo, have you ever thought about that? Bo, do you know how
many people die out here?”

“Yes, I see it everyday. I see war and I see what goes on. I am a big part
of it. I am the one that makes sure no one else dies. I am the one that does
all the death causing missions.”

“Are you mad?”

“No I am not. I just don’t want to have people die.”

“What’s your rank?”

“Corporal Vance Duke. That is so cool and to think that stays on Vance’s
record the rest of his life. He got a promotion in less than three months. I
save a lot of lives you know. I am up for another; I saved a General’s son,
that’s the Lieutenant of this outfit.”

“You must be pretty slick. Do you realize that Uncle Jesse is tearing his
hair out because he doesn’t know where you are?”

“I don’t care, I am helping people. I finally feel like I belong somewhere.
I didn’t need you to hold my hand to get that promotion I did it all by
myself.”

“Bo! You’re 16 years old and you should be in school. You don’t have time to
be up here. You have a life back home that you ain’t living because you are
here.”

“I am 15 years old still and I am finished school. I took it during the
summers and also through night classes and they skipped me up a couple
grades.”

“Uncle Jesse thinks you could be dead in a street gutter. How do you think
it would make him feel to know you’re holding a riffle? Do you have any idea
how crazy you are?”

“Yes I do! I didn’t want Vance out here. I didn’t want to not know where
both of you were. I couldn’t take it Luke. I wouldn’t take it either. I love
you more than life and there’s no way in the world I would let you out of my
sight. After you left, well I couldn’t just up and let Vance go.”

“You would miss Vance too?”

“You think I wouldn’t miss my cousin? Luke I love him with all my heart and
soul. I couldn’t just watch him go off to war. Now that I have been there I
wouldn’t want him to come over here.”

“You would do anything for him wouldn’t you? I mean even risk your own life
to save his?”

“Yeah I would. Even though he is one of the most annoying kids on the planet
I surely would. I would do it for anyone in this family. I would especially
do it for you. You are my cousin and my friend and I don’t want to loose
you.”

“I guess I won’t tell on you. I will start writing you letters too. So tell
me what are you in for?”

“Well I got shot Luke.”

“I knew that already. Now Bo, you don’t feel too much pain do you?”

“No do you?”

“Of course I do.”

“Uncle Jesse must be worried about me huh?” I couldn’t help but ask that. It
was running through my mind the whole time we were talking.

“You think Bo? Of course he’s worried. I know he wouldn’t be Uncle Jesse if
he didn’t worry. We got to find a way of talking with Uncle Jesse without
him finding out about you being in the army.”

“Call Cooter! Uncle Jesse goes over there on Tuesdays.” Luke wondered if
that would work. I could see it in his eyes. I knew it would. It was my plan
after all. I wasn’t about to prove I was stupid now or ever. Sometimes
though I would let Luke come up with the plans. His face would light up when
he would come up with them. I left my opinions in my shoes.

We waited ever so patiently for the phone lines to reach our Hazzard. Cooter
was one person who would understand better than anyone. Well maybe not. For
when he answered the phone, he was worse than Luke. “Are you out of your
puny little mind?” Cooter questioned. Well there it is again. I guess I will
never hear the end of this one.

“Cooter, I had to do this,” I replied. Luke slapped me on the back of the
head. I hated being treated like this. I felt like I had robbed a bank
instead of saving my cousin the way I did. I have to explain myself over and
over again.

“I know that you think that you are so almighty tough by taking your
cousin’s place. Your Uncle is so upset now. He hates staying home because of
the tension. Coy feels awful about you leaving. He hasn’t talked to anyone
for days…weeks…months even. Vance is a mess but has to be strong to hold the
family together.”

“I am sorry, I wanted to…”

“Save Vance’s life I heard that part. Here comes your Uncle now do you want
to tell him the truth or leave him in shock?” I could hear Uncle Jesse in
the background asking who was on the phone. As I heard his voice I had tears
in my eyes. I wanted to tell him where I was but at the same time I didn’t.

It would kill him to know that I was here. You know to know that another one
of his boys were out there not because they had to be but because they chose
to be. That didn’t make me feel too proud of myself. I didn’t know if he
would accept that. I guess I wanted to keep it a secret.

However it would also kill him to find out I was anywhere else. As Luke said
he thought I was dead in a gutter. I probably was. It was a bigger gutter, a
foxhole that could fill with water easily. There was tormenting in this war.
Everything was ripped from me in the split second I got here. I was now a
soldier in this theatre of war. Not having anything to hold onto or even
show for it. Well I got a metal but at what loss? I no longer get letters
and everyone is mad at me. So should I tell my sweet Uncle or not?

“Hello?” Uncle Jesse said.

“Hey Uncle Jesse how are you?” I asked. What else was there to say after not
talking to him for so long? He took a quivering breath and almost seemed to
straighten up behind the phone.

“Bo Duke you rascal. I am better than any other day this week. How are you?”

“Alive and well sir, nothing bad has really happened to me.” How could I
just up and lie like that? I didn’t like telling my Uncle anything like
that. It almost worked to until the nurse called the doctor in from some
emergency. I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of that.

“Bo you’re lying to me, are you in the hospital?” I wouldn’t be lying if I
told him that.

“Yes sir, it’s nothing really!”

“What’s your version of nothing Bo, a scratch on your shoulder or a bullet
in your back?” Boy oh boy did he ever know me! I didn’t like the sound of
this at all. Bo Duke, you are the worst liar in the world. I needed to tell
him the truth without giving too much away. I was here talking to him and
that’s all that matters.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Look, I am in the hospital for being
shot. I am okay. You don’t have to worry about me.”

“I don’t know about you Bo Duke. You better not be telling me something I
want to hear. I love the truth.”

“I can’t give you the full truth but I can tell you that I am in a hospital.
I was shot and I am going to be just fine.”

“Alright, I understand that you don’t want me to find you right now. I mean
I have gone places too that my parents didn’t know about. Just as long as
you come home to me when you’re done I will be happy Bo. Don’t stay away
from me boy, I love you too much.”

“I won’t, I could never stay away from you Uncle Jesse. You are one of the
jewels in my life. I don’t want to loose you as a friend. I love you and I
want you to always be there for me.”

“Oh Coy’s in the car. You have to talk some sense into him. He won’t talk to
anyone boy and I am scared for him.”

“What makes you think he’ll talk to me?”

“Just do it for me. I can’t expect it of anyone else but you.” I could hear
Coy’s cold breath on the phone as Uncle Jesse put the receiver to his ear. I
didn’t know what to say to him.

“Coy, I ain’t mad at you, the only reason why I left is because I felt like
I needed to. There’s something inside people that…” I was saying.

“No, I am sorry; I shouldn’t have said the things I did. I don’t want you
dead. I haven’t felt good since you picked up that mail. I didn’t know what
to tell you. I mean when you got home you had this determined look on your
face. I wanted to say sorry but it was like you weren’t going to listen to
me,” Coy commented. Oh boy, now I wanted to go home. Man I wish that I could
make up my mind. I loved the army though and boy howdy I can’t leave now.

“It’s okay.”

“So you’ll come back?”

“I wish I could but where I am you don’t come back very easily. It will take
me a long while. So don’t forget that I love you and tell Vance for me. Can
I talk to Cooter quick?”

“Sure Cousin.”

“You didn’t tell them!” Cooter exclaimed. How could I tell them? They would
be more worried about me than they are now.

“I will,” I replied.

“When is that? Are you going to tell them when hell freezes over or when the
world ends?”

“Cooter, I can’t tell them if I do I will hurt them.”

“You are hurting them now Bo what makes you think this is any different?”

“Cooter, just promise me you won’t tell them. I have to do it at my own
pace. I will not be ruined by whatever this is. I can’t have my family
thinking about this.”

“Alright Bo, I won’t say anything to them but you will get letters from me
ya hear?”

“Thanks Cooter.”

“Thank me when you get my first letter. You stay safe; I don’t want you to
be hurt in any way.”

“Cooter, I will do my best.”

“Bye now.” He hung up the phone. I leaned against my wheelchair and looked
up at Luke. He knew I was happier than I had ever been. I knew that he was
glad to see me as well.

That afternoon, Luke spent his time reading all the letters Uncle Jesse,
Coy, Vance and Daisy sent him. I listened to his soft voice and smiled.
There was nothing like it at all. I loved to hear what everyone was doing. I
wondered how they were all doing since I got to this place.

Daisy was sewing as usual making blankets for the orphans which I though was
neat. Daisy was always doing something great for everyone. I was so proud of
her. I could never think of anything bad about her. Daisy has always been so
nice to me. She was wonderful when she first came. With Daisy’s parents
being in the service permanently, she came to the farm. They felt that it
wasn’t a good thing for such a young child to always be moving around. I
know now that I agree. Besides, her parents are missing out anyway.

Coy was depressed. I wondered why. I suppose it was because of me leaving.
Supposedly he was seeing a therapist to deal with his feelings. He was
scared for me maybe. I wondered all the time about my cousin. He wasn’t as
stable as the rest of us were. Vance had his stuff and Luke was good at a
lot of things. I had my sports, school, arts and all that. Coy was sometimes
left in the dark.

Vance was good but he got a lot quieter according to Uncle Jesse’s letters.
He hasn’t been talking as much to Coy even. It was weird because Vance
seemed to talk to Coy nonstop. It made me jealous. I don’t know why it did
but it just always there. Especially when Luke left, I went all green eyed
because I missed the friendship we had.

Uncle Jesse was just plum worried about me. I couldn’t believe what I had
done to him. I didn’t tell him where I was or where I was going or really
even why I wanted to travel there. I shouldn’t have said the stuff I did in
that letter. I knew that it was wrong to make them think I was mad at them.

“Bo, I want you to take these letters and read them over and over again.
When you feel sad you can open them and think of your family. I know that I
would be lost without these letters. I know that you would be too,” Luke
finally said after finishing letter after letter.

“Luke, I can’t take these,” I replied.

“Bo, I know that you need them more than I do. You know what? You are an
awesome person.”

“I love you so much Luke. Thanks for everything. You will always be a great
friend to me. I know I shouldn’t be saying this but I am glad you are here
even if you shouldn’t be. I missed your face. I missed everything about you
Bo. I hated not receiving letters from you and I better receive a million of
them.”

“I will give you many.”

“How many is many?”

“If you want to know the truth I wrote you letters everyday even though I
thought I would never give them to you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah I am. I have written to Daisy, Coy, Vance and Uncle Jesse too. Though
I will probably never give them the letters I still wrote them.”

“You are wonderful you know that?”

“Thanks Luke. Thank you so much. I am so happy you’re my cousin.”

“I am proud to be your cousin Bo. I don’t ever want to be anyone else’s
cousin. You are too wonderful.”

When Luke left the next day I was saddened by it. I would miss him but then
again he was always close by. I didn’t care though, I wanted him near me and
nothing could replace those feelings. I suppose that maybe I was being
selfish. He must have been one of the best soldiers out there. There was
something about Luke that made me want to be by his side.

Luke and Uncle Jesse had a lot in common and I noticed that too. They were
just so much alike that it was amazing. I couldn’t tell the difference
sometimes. I suppose they were both trying to get the same things through my
head. I suppose they were right but I jumped into another bad situation like
I always seem to do. I didn’t like doing but I did anyway.

It didn’t make me too thrilled being away from home. There was something
about it that didn’t appeal to me anymore. I wanted to be home, I really
did. Through all of this though I thought of my family how wonderful they
all really are. It has gotten me through rough times. They have always been
there for me and I feel good about that. I just wish I could do the same for
them.

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