I know a lot of broken down old vet types. Well today Billy's birthday
coincided with Veteran's Day which makes sense because everybody calls
him "Viet Nam Billy".
I thought I might buzz him through the thrift store and see if anything
jumped up and bit him on the ass and then I figured I'd go get him his
annual chocolate cake. So I called over and told him to get ready and
I'd be by as soon as the truck warmed up. So I did.
Billy had dressed himself carefully in the same clothes he's been
wearing since....come to think of it, he's been wearing those clothes
since I took him to Walmart to buy them this July 4th. He was looking a
little imbalanced, like the meds were getting him loopy again. So I
piled him into the truck and we bopped over to the thrift store and he
found some cups he thought might be good for drinking out of on the
free pile. Then over to the store for his chocolate cake. He likes
chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. On the way to the store he says
"better make it a small one, I still got half the one left over from
"In the freezer?" I ask.
"Nope" he says.
I don't ask any further questions regarding the deployment and disposition of cakes. I let him pick one out from the bakery section of Frye's. Picked up some of his favorite TV dinners too. I could tell he was starting to pick up a bit because he was eyeballing all the girls in the checkout line.
Billy don't talk much. He totally hides behind this greasy hippy/biker presentation and just kind of stands in the shadows, an expert in making himself invisible. I guess he talks to me as much as anybody, but you never, ever hear about the Viet Nam era. I know about his past before that war, I know his past after it and I know him now. Like many vets, that era is a very small house with a very large closet you never go into.
Just once when one of the young men in the neighbourhood was talking smack about lethal violence, Billy spoke up from the shadows and said "one you kill somebody it changes you forever and you can never go back". It's one of those subtle indicators guys with combat experience often show if you are looking. Billy never stands in the middle of a crowd, never in the light. When he enters a room he looks for every window or door or method of escape and he positions himself right next to one. You'd never know but the guy is still ready for TSHTF.
Driving home from the store we sang Leonard Skynard tunes. That was so much fun we decided to take the back way so we had time to run through what we could remember of the Doobie Brothers. And this all put is in the mood for some doobie and chocolate cake.
We directed the truck in for a proper landing, cranked up a classic rock station and we ate cake, listened to music and got totally baked. Nothing's too good for a combat vet. Not in this house.
It didn't take long, what with the supersmoke and all to put old Viet Nam Billy in a pretty horizontal position on the couch so he took a snooze for a while. Totally racked out on the couch and sawing logs. Out cold. It could have been the smoke or the mountains of narcs, tranqs and pills the VA has him on, but no slight to the VA Hospital here in Prescott AZ, Billy says they treat him like a king.
I guess it was just all
this excitement got to him. Sometimes I wish I could to more. But now he's waked up and eating more cake. I'll hit him with some Backman Turner Overdrive at high volume and see if that don't get his blood moving again.
Neighbors are supposed to drop by later and wish him a happy but unless they get here quick, Billy is gonna be down for the count again. I guess they can just leave him a note.
To all veterans, deep respect and thanks.