Bag Lady & the Retired Marine Ch. 02bySusanJillParker©
Dave hates noise. Wanting the noise to stop and wanting everything to be quiet, Dave just wanted some peace.
As if her scream was meant for only him to hear and as if the woman's distant scream was amplified and played through a speaker in his ear, her scream was deafening. Assaulting his senses, Dave came to action. With the vision of a marching band and a parade, with him in his dress blues, and with her scream playing his song in the background, he was ready to do battle.
'From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. We fight our country's battles in the air, on land, and sea. First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean. We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.'
Not even trying to be quiet, there were four of them in an alley yelling, swearing, and making a lot of noise. Usually not having to repeat himself to get his message across, especially whenever referring to himself in the third person, Dave hates noise. It was after hours and they were downtown where even the police didn't dare respond unless they had plenty of backup, dogs, and were dressed in riot gear. Unable to sleep again, his nightly routine since retiring from the Marine Corps, Dave was out for an early morning walk again.
With the night and the early morning hours filled with all kinds of nocturnal wildlife, he couldn't count the number of skunks, bats, rats, opossums, owls, stray cats, dirty dogs, and unfaithful husbands and wives that he's seen when walking around his neighborhood at these odd hours. When people should be home sleeping they were out at all hours doing whatever. Once in a while he'd even see a single mother walking with her young children. A world in motion there was always someone doing something and at this hour not much of it was legal.
He wished he could run but running attracted too much attention, especially when running at this hour through a residential neighborhood. With all the break-ins and home invasions, after surviving three wars and nine deployments, with his luck he'd be shot running by someone's house. Best he kept a low profile by lurking in the shadows in the way of a Ninja warrior hiding before surprising its enemy. Always seeing someone before they saw him, if he didn't want someone to see him, they wouldn't. The element of surprise kept him alive.
Usually, as long as he stayed off the main street it was quiet at this hour and he enjoyed being alone with his thoughts. He seldom had a problem or an altercation and if he did, an understatement, he could handle himself in any situation. Yet, because of a main water leak, so as not to wade through flooded streets, he had to alter his direction. Turning and twisting his way without ever knowing the reasons why, as if his life was his fated destiny to be at the right place at the right time, he had to take a detour and walk down the main road for a couple of blocks before cutting back to the relative safety of the residential neighborhood.
Sometimes but not always referring to himself in the third person, understandably not always wrapped too tight after all he's been through, he experiences one if not all of the side effects of being in a war night and day. As if he's a resident in a mental ward in the way that noise unnerves him, worth repeating, Dave hates noise. It doesn't even have to be a big noise but noise goes right through him as if he's being electrocuted. He can't stand loud music. As if it's static noise, even people rudely, loudly, and obnoxiously talking on their cell phones at the bank in line ahead of him unnerves him and assaults his senses enough to make him leave the line. Noise makes him nervous, restless, and jittery. Noise makes him want to beat the crap out of the person creating all of the noise.
"Shut the fuck up! Just shut the fuck up! Stop the noise. Close your hole before I close it for you!"
Those were the thoughts that ran through Dave's mind in the way of a runaway freight train. Even though he'd never talk to someone like that, threaten them, and show them his hand, he'd just hit them to stop the noise.
Running out of the house screaming with his hands over his ears, he'd never be good around a crying baby. That happened to him when he visited his sister after seeing combat action that he'd rather not remember. Never talking about all that he experienced, the memories were attached to him as if they were a second, raw, red, bleeding and painful to the touch skin. Reliving them in his nightly nightmares were bad enough and he'd have those horrible visions for the rest of his life. Back then, just before he retired, he was on leave for some much needed R & R to get his head back on straight after being wounded again in a battle that killed all of his men but him.
Questioning why he was the only one to make it home, wishing that he was dead too, surviving is not all that it's cracked up to be when he's the last man standing. Charging them with a machine gun in each hand and a grenade in his mouth, no doubt, had there been a witness left to testify what he did to fight the enemy and to save his men, he'd be awarded the United States Congressional Medal of Honor. Only there were no witnesses. All the witnesses to his actions were dead. Still his commanding officer put in papers to give him another medal to pin on his chest and that's when he retired.
He didn't want a medal pinned on his chest to remind him that his men were dead, that he was alive, and that he killed so many people. More than he could even possibly wear, he already had more than enough medals, ribbons, and stripes on his uniform to decorate the uniforms of a dozen men. He had no idea how many men he single-handily shot in that one battle but he killed a lot, enough to make everything go quiet. He knew it was quiet because he stood in the middle of his kill zone with smoking guns in hand while listening. The only sound he heard was the eeriness of death. He wondered if the men he killed were in their version of Heaven with a thousand virgins because surely alive and alone with his guilty conscience, bad memories, nightly nightmares, and sleepless nights, left alive and living here was his version of Hell.
When he returned home and visited his sister, she had a new born baby that never stopped crying. Too much noise with her two other kids running around her small apartment always yelling and fighting, he couldn't stay there. He gave her enough money to pay her rent and to buy food but he had to leave. He was forced to listen to too many suffering Marines screaming in horrible pain after their limps were blown off by an IED roadside bomb, an improvised explosive device, that maimed and killed so many of his good buddies.
Back then, the pencil pushers and bean counters were giving soldiers vehicles without armored plating and supplying them with guns that jammed. What were they thinking? No doubt, the defense contractors were thinking of all the money they'd make selling inferior armaments to the United States military. Apparently, they didn't care that they were responsible for the deaths and injuries of so many Americans fighting another useless war for power, oil, and money. If it wasn't for Senators Kennedy, Kerry, and McCain forcing Congress and the Pentagon to give his men what they needed to protect themselves and kill the enemy, more of his men would be wounded or dead.
Ever since he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the new term for battle fatigue, having had a few psychotic episodes, sometimes he acted as if he's a crazy man on mind altering drugs, Rambo on steroids with an ecstasy chaser. Even though he's had evidence of having PTSD for years, the military doctors didn't officially diagnose him as having that and didn't tell him that he was so afflicted until he was honorably discharged. How convenient for the military to use him in such a personally damaging way for their benefit.
With all of the fighting and leadership experience he's had, too valuable of an asset to be sidelined, all they cared about was putting him back out on the battlefield. Even though he could claim it and put in for a disability with the Veterans Administration for all the times he was wounded in combat, preferring to leave that money on the table for a veteran who really needed it, not wanting anything more or less than what was coming to him, he retired at fifty-years-old. He gave thirty years of his life to his country and now he just wanted to be left alone in peace and in quiet with his 75% pension along with his pass to the base to buy whatever he needs at discounted prices.
No more bomb blasts, no more rat-a-tat-tat machine gun fire, no more yells for "Medic!", no more waiting for the bomb that you never hear exploding or the bullet that you never hear coming for you, no more war, and no more noise. Just quiet, nothing else but silence enough to hear birds singing and crickets chirping. Just peace and quiet is all that he wants. Is that too much to ask to have after all that he's been through in helping to save his country from terrorism and their citizens from terrorists?
"Can't I have some peace and quiet? Please?"
Actually, the perfect candidate to be living in Montana, Wyoming, the back woods of Maine, or even Vermont, places where there are more animals than people, he should be living in the country rather than in the city because just a truck backfiring causes him to get down on the carpet or the street and grab his weapon. Yet, a city boy, he felt more comfortable in pollution, urban squalor, and over crowdedness than he did in the scenic majesty of mountains, lakes, and expansive scenery. The country was too quiet and, if left to his own devices, he could imagine himself going off the deep end and setting booby traps for anyone who dared trespass on his property. Yeah, best he should be out and about with people than seeing and imagining things that aren't there when living alone with his bad self.
An understatement, Dave not only prefers the quiet, he needs the quiet to stay focused and centered. Quiet keeps him not only balance but also sane. He prefers reading and meditating than to listening to a television blaring endless commercials, annoying infomercials, and drug commercials that lists dozens of side effects. As if he's Master Po of Kung Fu, with his head shaven but his eyes wide open even when they're closed, he needs the deep solace that comes from personal reflection after experiencing such terrible trauma.
With a head for math and an appreciation for science, he's self taught in chemistry. More than just knowing how to construct a bomb, he knows how to manufacture Ricin, a deadly poison to kill more than one person at a time. Only, angry enough to kill more than one, he had a list of people he'd like to see dead. Ricin, a weapon of mass destruction in quantities large enough to kill, all someone needed to do was to smell it. Yet, happy just to study chemistry, memorize chemical formulas, and know all the chemical compounds, he preferred the deep introspection of self-improvement tapes, along with the soft sounds of country western music. Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland is his favorite. More than once when alone at night, he's imagined himself with her.
"Dave loves Jennifer Nettles."
Unfortunately, no matter how he insulates his house for quiet, no matter how much medication his takes, no matter how much he meditates, and no matter how many self-improvement tapes and country western music he listens to, it's always the same. The noise that he hears inside hurts his head, infiltrates him, panics him, and attacks him as if the noise is trying to personally piss him off. In the way of a foul stench suddenly appearing in his nose, noise leaks in his home and fills his ears as if it's blood oozing beneath the cracks of his door, dripping from his ceiling, and crawling through the crevices of his windows.
Everywhere he looks, he sees red. Everywhere he looks, he sees blood, the blood of his victims and the blood of his men. His hands are stained forever with their blood. Blood, blood, blood, even when he eats, breathes, and sleeps, he can taste their blood. Too horrific for even him, Mr. macho man, to go through, the memory dead bodies and the stench of burning skin will never leave his nostrils. Feeling as if he's covered in blood, routinely he takes two showers daily and still, he can't get rid of the sight and the smell of blood.
Just when he thinks he's getting a handle on his rage something like this happens, more noise. The noise that's unnoticed by others is deafening to him. Dave hates noise and it's his duty as a Marine to make it quiet. Not as loud as it is in a closed confinement, the noise is better when he's out walking. His one last battle to fight and the biggest war for him to win, it's the noise that draws him right in for him to stop the noise and make it all quiet again. No longer being forced to live with it, Dave confronts it by handling it.
"Dave hates noise. Shhh, be quiet. Don't make a sound. If you make a sound...I'll kill you. After that, after you're dead, they'll be no more noise and you'll be quiet forever."
Even though he didn't like the odds and felt bad for the poor bastard being so beaten, three of them were beating up on one, helpless, homeless man. Even though it wasn't a fair fight, the one being beaten obviously wasn't afraid to defend himself and knew how to handle himself. Keeping a watchful eye while slowly walking by the alleyway, minding his own business, he was about to continue going along his way without stopping to help when he heard it. Having stuck his big nose in someone else's business too many times before, he wasn't going to intercede on someone else's fight again, even an unfair fight, that is, until he heard a woman's voice.
"Stop! Don't! Leave me alone! Help! Please! Someone help me! Rape! Call 911! Rape!"
Yeah, as disturbing as it was unbelievable that three men would beat up on a poor, homeless man, it was even more unbelievable that the one being beaten was a poor, homeless woman. As if he was on a reconnaissance mission and heard a sound, a mere foot passed the alley entrance, he stopped walking and stood frozen to listen. How could three men beat a poor, defenseless, homeless woman? How dare they!
"That was a woman's voice. I'm sure of it. I heard a woman scream for help," he said for no one to hear.
Immediately he remembered how the Taliban treated their women whenever they made too much noise. They'd just shoot them in the head. Problem solved. No more noise. Only, we're not animals. We've civilized and when a woman screams for help, with him being the right man, at the right place, and at the right time, she was lucky that Dave was there to help her.
"Help! Someone please help me! Call 911! Help! Rape!"
"That's not right. That's not fair. That's messed the fuck up. That's just nasty. Those dirty, fucking bastards," he said turning back to the alley. "How dare they make so much fucking noise!"
To be continued...