Life and Love in the Army Ch. 05

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Waking up Tuesday morning in a sleeping bag on the floor brought the reality of the previous night crashing back to Joe. The fact that his kids were no longer there made him want to break down again. Instead, he got dressed for PT and went to post. He drove in silence, feeling numb. His life a surreal sort of hell in his opinion. He even toyed with the idea of getting on the H. E. Bailey turnpike and running into a bridge abutment at full speed. After PT he showered and returned to post and went through his day like a robot. Performing his duties on auto pilot. It wasn’t until final formation that he realized that he had pretty much ignored everyone the entire day. He was broken from his trance by First Sergeant Pope.

“Farkas…Farkas!”

“Yes First Sergeant!”

“You forget your name private? Dentist, 0800 tomorrow, be there!”

“Yes First Sergeant.”

And just like that, the day had passed. He saw several people on the way to the parking lot and only acknowledged a few with a cursory wave. He wasn’t in a mood to talk and he certainly didn’t feel like explaining to anyone what was wrong with him. He just wanted to go home. Correction, to his apartment.

“Hey private!”

It was Leon.

“Yes Sergeant.”

“What’s wrong with you? Did you catch a case of the stupid?”

Joe looked around the parking lot before answering. He felt a knot welling up in his throat.

“I’ll call you later Sarge.”

Joe walked off and got into his car before Leon could see tears. He wasn’t about to let anyone see him cry. Joe started toward the PX and changed his mind. Not wanting to chance running into Lenore. He went instead to a dollar store on Sheridan Blvd. He picked up a cheap five dollar phone and a coffee maker. Once at the apartment he hooked up the phone and called his in-laws house number, no answer. He knew they had caller ID but tried again anyway, to no avail. After a shower and half of a bologna sandwich Joe sat at the table in silence. It dawned on him he didn’t even have a television and he laughed uncontrollably. He was still in hysterics when the phone rang taking him off guard.

“Hello?”

“Joe, you OK man?”

“She’s gone Leon. She took the kids and left.”

“Fuck dude. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. Wasn’t trying to pry or anything. I’m sorry Joe.”

“It’s alright man. You couldn’t have known. Not like I told anyone.”

“That would explain why you were acting the way you were today. Is there anything we can do for you?”

“No, thanks man. I’m ok, well, I’ll be ok. Just need some time to figure things out. That’s all.”

“Just don’t do anything dumb. And if you need anything, anything at all don’t hesitate to ask.”

“You have an extra T.V.?”

Joe started laughing again

“Just joking, I’m good Leon. Thanks.”

“Uh huh, ok. Just remember. We’re here if you need us.”

“Thanks Leon. That’s appreciated more than you know. I gotta run dude. Need to go pick up a few things. I’ll holler at ya later.”

“Ok man.”

“Bye Leon.”

“Later Joe.”

*******************************************************************

Leon couldn’t help but feel like Joe was anything other than ok. The way he went around the unit and motorpool today certainly wasn’t normal behavior for him. But since he wasn’t asking for help there wasn’t much anyone could do other than watch him and respect his wishes. He hung the phone up to an audience. Namely Ruby and Lenore. It was Ruby who spoke first.

“Well?”

“Pam left and took the girls. He also said he’d be ok. But he did kind of laugh and ask if we had an extra T.V. So at least he still has his sense of humor.”

Lenore didn’t hesitated before she spoke.

“Only because she couldn’t pack it into a moving truck.”

When it came to Pam, Lenore always let her true feelings out. “Lenore look. Ruby and I both know how you feel about Pam. Joe too for that matter. If you truly do care, you’ll let this run its course.”

“I will. But know this. Being his friend and letting this ‘run it’s course’ are two different things. If he asks, I’m going to be straight with him. I’m not going to hold back or lie any more. He deserves better than that. Especially from friends.”

“Fair enough. But keep in mind he’s still government property.”

“He may be but I’m not.”

“Doesn’t matter. The fact that he is means there’s a certain way he has to conduct himself. You need to keep that in mind and keep your labido in check.”

“Enough you two! Just stop. Let’s keep it at being friends, and as such we’re here to help him as much as we can. Agreed Leon?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Lenore?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. Now that that’s settled, let’s eat dinner.”

*******************************************************************

Wednesday morning wasn’t much better. Although Joe came to the realization he needed a bed. A sleeping bag on the floor and a lumpy old couch weren’t going to work for much longer. Being in the field was one thing but at home he liked his creature Betturkey comforts. He took a shower, skipped shaving, threw on a uniform and headed to the dental clinic.

His dentist, a newly commissioned Capitan, was neither friendly nor gentle. Four hours and an undetermined amount of Novocaine later, he was finished. With the right side. The other two would have to come out in six weeks. The woman at the check out gave Joe two prescriptions.

“Take these as directed. You’ll get vicodin for the pain and phenergen for upset stomach. You swallowed a lot of blood in there. No smoking, no drinking thru a straw, and no carbonated drinks for twenty four hours and no solid food either. Also, quarters for seventy two hours. I’ll send your next appointment and your quarters slip to your unit. And between me and you, I’ll try to schedule you for someone more experienced. Take these to the dispensary and they’ll fill them for you.”

“Than hue.”

“You’re welcome hun. Try not talk too much, and keep that cotton in there for at least a couple of hours.”

Joe nodded and headed for the dispensary. He felt like he had just had the hell beat out of him.

It only took an hour to fill both prescriptions. The whole time he fought the urge to go back to sleep. Rather than going to his room once he was home, Joe flopped onto the couch and fell straight to sleep.

In his dream he was a kid being slapped around again by one of his step fathers. An especially hard slap woke him to the reality that his pain wasn’t from his dream but rather from his recently removed wisdom teeth. The Novocaine had wore off while he was asleep and he was in pain. Staggering to the kitchen he pulled his meds from his pocket, put one of each in his hand and went to the fridge. Two beers, half a bottle of Jack, and an almost empty pitcher of red cool aid.

“Maybe tap water…” The thought made him wrinkle his nose.

“I seriously need to go to the store. Technically, she didn’t say no alcohol. Beer is carbonated, so Jack it is.”

With some pain Joe opened his mouth, spit the cotton into the sink, threw in the pills and took a long swig from the bottle.

*******************************************************************

Lenore was having a typical day at work. On the floor pretending to be a shopper. It was her early day so at noon she clocked out and went home. She really didn’t want to but knowing Leon was still at work she’d be able to talk to Ruby in confidence. Driving the long way home she became lost in her own thoughts and the music coming from the radio. She missed a stop sign and nearly hit another car. She finally made it home and into the house.

“Done already?”

“Yeah, early day. Anyone heard from Joe?”

“No not today. But Leon did say he had a dental appointment so…”

“Oh yeah right, forgot about that. Think he’s alright?”

“Stop worrying Lenore. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Just his wisdom teeth.”

“Its not just that Ruby. It’s everything. You know as well as I do that she could have done that differently. She just packs up and leaves over a weekend. Kind of low really.”

“I never thought she was capable of doing that to be honest. But then again I’d only known her about a year. She never seemed comfortable around me or Leon. Personally I think she had a sheltered childhood.”

“Whether she did or didn’t doesn’t excuse how she did what she did. Think we should call and see if he needs anything?”

“Normally I’d say yes. But in this case let’s wait for Leon to get home and have him do it. I don’t want him thinking you’re trying to weasel your way into that situation.”

“Look, yes I have a crush on Joe. And yes, I would love to do really bad, nasty things with him. But I’m not about to get caught up in a bunch of drama I neither need nor want.”

“I know Lenore, I know. But Leon is a man that thinks like a man. So just give him a little leeway and things will work the way they’re supposed to.”

“Yeah I know. But I’m a woman that thinks like a woman. And I’m thinking Pam isn’t gonna be back. Just my opinion though.”

“No, not just yours. I think she’s back in Tennessee with her brother, parents and their money, and she’s not coming back. Money talks. You know that little sister.”

“Yeah. I also know bullshit walks. And she walked…out.”

“Well, be that as it may, you just keep doing what you need to do for yourself. Joe will be fine. If he’s not, then we’ll help. The right way.”

“Well, what if what I want involves doing him and helping him? Wouldn’t that kind of be the same thing?”

Ruby gave Lenore a long hard look.

“Ok, ok. Y’all really need to grow a sense of humor. Sheesh. I’ll be good.”

“Lord girl. You are a hand full. No wonder mom and dad let you go to school in California.”

Lenore spun and looked at Ruby, eyes narrowed, mouth open ready to retort. Ruby began laughing.

“Now who needs a sense of humor? Got ya!”

“Oh, that’s dirty pool.”

“Look, I think everyone that knows, Betturkey Giriş knows what’s going to happen between Pam and Joe. You just need to be patient girl. They say good things come to those who wait.”

“True, but Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.’ And I’ve made a decision. But I’ll be patient too, for a while.”

“You and that college education. I’m on your side, so long as you do it right.”

“Oh, I will.”

*******************************************************************

Thursday morning Joe woke up at 0530 like clockwork. As he started his daily routine he realized he had no where to be. He used the bathroom then stood in front of the mirror. Not much bruising, minimal swelling, but still hurting. He grabbed a vicodin, washed it down with a swig of Jack and went back to the couch.

After a few more hours of sleep Joe got up and decided he needed to hit the town and buy a few things. He knew he was supposed to stay at home while he was on quarters but he needed a bed and groceries, and wanted a TV. Joe called the credit union on post and got his account balance and cancelled Pam’s ATM card. He knew if she tried to use it and couldn’t, she wouldn’t hesitate to call him.

His first stop was a pawn shop a few blocks from the apartment complex where he got a TV. Next was the furniture store. He bought a queen sized bed and frame and a couple of night stands and made arraignments to have everything delivered at 2 that afternoon. Then the Kmart for sheets, blanket, and pillows followed by grocery shopping. He had never realized just how time consuming buying groceries could be. Last stop, liquor store. Fifth of Jack and some Stoly. Long weekend so may as well get good and ripped. No one around to tell him he couldn’t. Besides, once First Sergeant knew he was living off post as an E-3 he’d make Joe move into the barracks.

It felt good to be able to do for himself but he was missing his girls badly. Other than field training exercises, he’d never been away from them this long before and it was taking a toll on him.

Once back to the apartment Joe put everything away and began hooking the TV to the cable box. He was interrupted when the delivery guys showed up. By 3 that afternoon he was finished with what he had set out to do. He started watching television but was thinking about his life and specifically his kids. Elizabeth and Sarah had been the center of his world and now they were gone. He tried again to call his in-laws house and as expected he got no answer. Joe decided to suck it up and call his mom. But first another vicodin washed down with a few shots of Jack. He was gonna need it. She answered on the third ring.

“Hello?”

“Hey mom.”

“What’s wrong son?”

“Well hi, love you too mom. Why does something have to be wrong?”

“Joseph, I may not have been a June Cleaver but I know my kids. I can tell by the way you talk or walk if something is wrong. I can tell by your voice, you’re either drunk or there’s something wrong.”

“Honestly mom, a little of both. Pam took the girls, left and went home. Long story, but I don’t think she’s coming back.”

“And drinking will fix that?”

“Mom, damn! I just wanted to ask if you’d call her mom and dads number and see if anyone would talk to you and tell you what’s going on. But never mind.”

“I can do that. Give me the number and I’ll see what I can find out. Just don’t get your hopes up. I told you when you were dating her not to trust that bunch.”

“Mom please, enough with the personal commentary! I just need to know what her intentions are. No more, no less. Ok?”

“Ok.”

“Thank you. How is everyone there?”

Joes mother caught him up on everything. He was able to give her the phone number eventually and they said their goodbyes. He did love his mom but the woman could talk for hours about nothing. He made his way to the kitchen and grabbed the Jack and a shotglass and settled in for some T.V.

The phone woke him a few hours later.

“Hello?”

“Why doesn’t my ATM card work Joe?”

“Really? You pack everything and leave while I’m restricted to post, and this is why you finally call me? Why’d you do it Pam? Did Kenny talk you in to doing that?”

“After what you did to him how can I ever trust you again?”

“I’ve never laid a finger on you in anger Pam. And never would, you know that. Where’s the girls? I want to talk to them.”

“I don’t know what you would or wouldn’t do anymore Joe. I have to look out for me and the kids. They’re out with mom and daddy having dinner.”

Daddy. Never dad, or my father. Always daddy. The owner of a major construction company, and majority owner in several other ventures in and around Nashville, daddy.

“So do you mind telling me what exactly you intend to do? About us?”

“I think you already know.”

“No, I don’t. Say it Pam.”

“I’m not coming back.”

“I figured that much. What else?”

“A divorce Joe, I want a divorce. There, now are you happy?”

“Not really but fine, I’ll find a lawyer. I’ll send you two hundred dollars each pay period for now starting on the first. In return I want to come see the girls. I’ll personally bring the money on the first.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“The money or seeing my kids?”

“Coming to visit. Give it some time.”

“Why, so you and everyone there can brainwash them?”

“Give it a rest Joe. I’ve got to go.”

“Whatever Pam. Tell the girls I love them. Bye Kenny, bye Pam.”

Joe wasn’t entirely sure that Kenny was listening in but it would be like him to do so. Or having the conversation recorded. And just like that his life came crashing down around him again. Fuck the shot glass. Joe turned the bottle of Jack up and started the labor day weekend early.

*******************************************************************

Friday started out as dreary as his mood. Joe gave some thought to making some coffee even though it was almost ten. Instead he grabbed the bottle and took two good swallows. He unassed the couch long enough to use the bathroom. He returned to the living room, stood there and yelled to no one.

“Fuck you fucking BITCH!”

Immediately he wished he hadn’t. His jaw began to ache. It was, in his condition a dull throb. But enough of an excuse to take a vicodin and a shot.

“Rain, pills, and booze! I know what I’m doing today. Fuck you bitch, and your mom, and daddy, and Kenny, and Nashville. You can ALL suck my nut sack. Here’s to ya fuckers!”

*******************************************************************

Lenore was busy. The Friday before any holiday always was at the commissary and PX. At lunch she decided since no one else would she’d try calling Joe but it only rang. So she called home.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Ruby. You or Leon heard from Joe?”

“I spoke to Leon earlier and he didn’t mention anything and he hasn’t called here. I’m sure he’s fine.”

“Yeah I guess. I tried to call and it just rang. I was kinda wondering.”

“I’ll have Leon try again when he gets home. What time you getting off work?”

“I don’t know, it’s a mad house today. Gotta go. I’ll see you later.”

“Ok, bye. Be safe.”

“Bye.”

As Lenore hung the phone up she got a nagging feeling in the center of here gut. Something was off but she didn’t know what.

Normally she wouldn’t turn down the opportunity for overtime but that afternoon when she was asked she refused. Telling her manager she had a list of things to do and since she had Saturday off, she wanted to get a jump on it all.

When she got to the apartment complex she felt stupid. Joe was after all a grown man. She was afraid he’d see her showing up as her chasing him. Or worse yet, her being nosey or intrusive. She backed out of the parking spot and was about to pull out of the complex when she reversed her decision once again. She was going to make sure he was ok before she left.

At the apartment door she could just make out some sound, probably TV. Lenore hesitated, then knocked. No movement, no ‘come in’, or, ‘who is it’. Just… TV?

“Joe? It’s Lenore.”

Nothing. She looked back out to the parking lot. Yeah, there sat his car. Slightly louder this time…

“Joe?”

Now she began to worry. Turning the knob, the door opened. She stuck her head in and only saw the couch and TV.

“Joe? You here?”

No reply at all. Taking a chance she stepped inside and walked to the television and turned it down. The silence was eerie.

“Joe, are you alright?”

Lenore closed the front door and went to the kitchen. Nothing. As she started down the hallway she heard water splashing. Knocking on the bathroom door she called his name again, sure that he would respond. No answer. Speaking to herself.

“Well Lenore, you’ve come this far…”

She opened the bathroom door not knowing what to expect. There, in the tub, in all his glory, laid Joe. She saw the bottle of Jack, mostly empty, on the floor. He began sliding down further into the water and that’s when she saw an empty pill bottle next to the sink and knew what he was trying to do. Lenore dropped her purse went to the side of the tub and pulled Joe up by his hair.

“Heeeeyyyy. Wha tha fug man!”

“I should be asking you that, asshole!”

“Who you callin azzhole, man?”

“You, jerk face!”

Joe finally opened his eyes and looked right her. The look on his face was one of complete confusion.

“L’nore?”

“Well I sure as hell ain’t Santa Claus!”

“Nah you ain’t. Cause he ain got no nize big boobiez.”

Joe stood as he howled at his own joke. Lenore couldn’t help but take in his entire body. As far as she was concerned she was standing in front of a god. She had wanted to see him nude for some time now but she never imagined this. His broad shoulders and semi hairy chest V’ing down to his waist. His toned legs were so nice. But her gaze kept going to his manhood. She’d only seen one that thick in her entire life, and that was in a porno. She could feel herself getting aroused.

“Hey sweehard. My ice er ri here.”

“I know where your eyes are. You’re fucked up.”

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