From Tales Out Of Court
by John Davis Collins.....© 2001 by John F. Clennan, All Rights Reserved
We were in the car, Charlie and I, driving home late at night. The headlights cut a swath in the darkened highway. There was silence in the car, but 14 year-old Charlie wasn’t asleep. He was still boiling from the grueling hockey game, preceded by a bitterly consisted skills competition. I was pretty sure Charlie had smashed his goalie stick beyond repair. “And I tossed that rotten medal right in the trash,” Charlie broke the silence.
“Not very wise.” I sighed. Charlie had lost the skills competition by a point, but the rink manager had found a medal and invented an excuse to bestow it as he winked at me. I had paid for the next season timely. “Didn’t you,” Charlie asked. As Charlie looked away into the inkblot darkness, “even get a medal you didn’t really deserve?” The car’s swish down the highway broke the stillness of the night.
Military Police Blotter was published by the legendary Bill Loepkey's Inditer Dot Com of Canada.
Against advancing illness and frustration which the legal system imposed, Bill Loepkey promoted literature and culture on the internet. It is no small recognition that his countrymen have hono[u]red Bill in their Bibliotek Nationale.
Medals isn't strictly speaking a military justice story but was included in the military police blotter as it pertained to veterans.
“Yep, sure did.” I exclaimed, I tapped the steering wheel for emphasis. “And I did want to throw it out, but I didn’t.”
Intrigued, Charlie turned to me with a sly smile, “What for, baseball?” “In baseball, at your age,” I replied with a smile, “medals are for sportsmanship. I can’t say I was any more of a good sport than you are. Not a good sport ergo no medal – for baseball.”
Charlie chuckled to himself. To the beat of the tires turning against the roadbed.
Charlie from a young age had been a strong skater, but his rival in the competition had easily won the first event, a race between goalies. Charlie said that his rival wore undersized pads and player skates. Charlie explained that with the smaller pads, his opponent could execute the cross-cuts closer and hold the edge on the turns.
“Some grapes?” I thought. Heck I don’t know.
“If not baseball, what did you get a medal for?” Charlie asked.
“From the Army for the war in Granada in 1983.” I replied.
The hum of the tires and the gentle sway of the car in motion late at night are a soothing sound inspiring quiet contemplation. At the rink, after the game, I waited around with some of the other parents until the last of them had departed and I was left alone with a cleaning man, who after stacking discarded newspapers and washing the floors at least twice, leaned on his mop and checked his watch.
Was the cleaner lifting an eye patch to check his watch? I tried to shake myself to sense. Don’t ask questions of one-eyed cleaning men with the name “Julie” printed on their utility shirts! I decided to check on Charlie instead.
Down in the locker room Charlie was dressed with his bag packed. I felt the paddle of the goalie stick. Baseball bats withstood more. Charlie sat on a bench clutching the medal in his hand, the ribbon spread around his fingers. As the car passed darkened hamlets, Charlie said, “You got a medal for Granada? Where’s that? What exactly did you do?”
“Absolutely nothing.” I responded firmly.
I had snuck a peak in the locker room’s garbage pail. There was two beer cans, older kids brought ‘em; they all must have had a swig. I noticed the labels. “Tory lemonade?” I asked. There was no response. I glanced at Charlie. “If the playing fields of Eaton made the victory at Waterloo, then…” The scowl on his face suggested that this might not be the moment for a lecture on drinking.
The car surged forward as we passed. The highway cut a clear path through the blue-green darkness of the pine barrens.
Charlie was about ready to grab his bag when I signaled him to retrieve his hat from the peg above the bench. “MAWK” was the legend on the cap, a nickname adopted by Charlie and his teammates. I dreaded learning what the acronym might have stood for. “M _ _ _ ing Awkward Teen?”
By comparison, my nickname in the service mildly amalgamized Crew Cut and Curly. I had to keep my hair extra short to keep it from sprouting curls.
“Nothing?” Charlie asked as we whisked home.
“I drank beer on the beach and passed out under palm trees,” I snickered, “somewhere in Florida out of touch with the world. I didn’t know there had been a war until I was released from active duty.”
“You got a medal for drinking beer and sleeping under palm trees?” Charlie queried.
“Worse, when I got home, I had to give a speech to the Chamber of Commerce. I knew nothing about the war,” I replied. “I went to the library to read the back newspapers I missed.”
“You know nothing. You just got up there and babbled.” Charlie laughed. “About what? How you got the medal?”
I remember the bright colors of the ribbon knotted in the fingers of Charlie’s clinched fist. He probably trashed the medal when I told him to grab his bag.
The car bounced along over pits and craters in the road.
“So you told,” Charlie snorted, “the Chamber of Commerce the truth.”
“I was so full of what I read in the papers. I didn’t know how to explain I hadn’t fought any war. I had been at a beer blast in Florida.”
“You stood there like a stone dummy?” Charlie chided.
“ – Until,” I thought carefully, “the President of the Chamber suggested ‘Perhaps our war hero would rather not say.’”
“And you agreed and let the issue drop.” That haughty sophomoric grin sprouted on Charlie’s lips, distorted in a reflection on the windshield.
“No,” I replied, “silently thanking God, I prayed I’d never drink again and I accepted the honor offered – rather than give offense by disputing it.”
We reached a smooth level roadbed with only the hum of motor to break the silence.
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