Everyone knew. As Cpl. Anthony Sullivan looked around at the faces of his fellow Marines it was clear. He knelt next to the Marine laying in the sand. The face looked normal despite being severely wounded. Sullivan tapped the Marine’s helmet and said “Wat kind of mess did you get yourself into Patterson?”
Patterson smiled at him. His eyes showed he knew his time was limited. “You know me Sullivan, gotta have some type of fuckin’ drama,” he responded.
“We’re going to get you the fuck outta’ here man. It’s all good, Marine, ya’know,” Sullivan said. “You were brave! You should have seen yourself. Look at me! Look me in the eyes fucker!
Patterson’s head turned slowly towards him, his eyes glaring into Sullivan’s. “What’s up Sullivan?”
“You saved lives mother fucker! Know this!” Sullivan explained emphatically while he pointed to the Marines around him. “Please understand what you just did man. Look at these guys around you. They are here only ’cause of you. You hear me Patterson!” He nodded while Sullivan continued, “because of you! You are everything a Marine wants next to him in battle. You fuckin’ delivered man. Thank you. Semper Fi.”
The kid-faced Patterson gave him a little smile before pain flashed across his face. He reached for Sullivan’s hand and looked directly at him, “You know what to do Sullivan, right man?”
“Yea’ I know, man. Consider it mission accomplished brother.”
Patterson smiled again.
“Hey Sullivan, you need to move back man, we need more room ok?” Corpsman Joseph sternly requested.
“No problem, Doc.” He stood up and stepped back, looking one last time at Patterson and said, “see ya’, man.”
Patterson’s eyes glanced upward at him. He lifted his bloody hand and waved while mouthing the words “thank you.” He died the next day, Nov.11, 2004.
Sullivan was awakened from his day-dream by a loud horn honking continuously. He looked into the rearview mirror to see a lady behind waving her hands and her mouthing, not a song, but a few select swear words in his direction. He turned left onto a small residential street and stopped at the curb in front of 3219. He put the rental car in park. He took a deep breath and turned right to look at the old white house. “I am here,” he whispered to himself. He sighed, then reached over to the passenger seat and grabbed his book bag. He stepped out of the car and placed the bag on the roof and adjusted his shirt. He glanced at the house again. She was standing in the doorway. He reached to the roof and grabbed the bag and slung it on his left shoulder. He walked up the walkway leading to the front door. As he got closer the lump in his throat grew. He tried to maintain composure. He was here. Here in New Orleans – 443 miles from his home in Huntsville, 7100 miles from Fullujah, Iraq – where his journey started 268 days ago.
“Mrs. Bernard, I presume,” Sullivan said, extending his right hand to hers. “Nice to meet you I am Anthony Sullivan.”
“The pleasure is mine, Anthony, I am Arlene Bernard, Michael’s mama. Welcome to New Orleans. Come inside please.”
“Thank you ma’am,” he said as he followed her into the front living room.
“Have a seat, Anthony, please,” she said. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
“No thanks ma’am, I am fine. Thank you.”
Sullivan stood in front of a cushioned chair and took a deep breath. After she sat down on the couch, he seated himself. They were only feet apart. He placed the book bag next to a statue of a woman holding her baby, on the coffee table in front of them. They sat in silence for a few seconds. Then he said, “Thank you for taking my call yesterday and for inviting me here today, I appreciate it. I am sure this must a be difficult time for you.”
“I’m glad you are here. Everything has been difficult since my son died. It’s tough seeing you because I know you were there with him at the time. You saw him as he …”
Sullivan reached out and took her hand. She couldn’t muster any more words. She reached for a kleenex next to her and wiped her tears. She extended the box to him, “You want one?” she asked.
He cleared his throat, “Thank you ma’am.” He looked around the room and saw pictures of her son in various stages of his life. His eyes stopped two larger ones hanging side-by-side. One was his high school graduation picture, the other his boot camp picture. It was the first time he saw Patterson as a civilian. He only knew Patterson the Marine, not the son.
The room was emotionally charged. Sullivan’s mind was spinning with flashes of Patterson on the sand those many months ago. To know his mother was a few feet away was difficult to comprehend. “Mrs. Bernard, I spent countless hours on what I would say at this very moment,” he said. “Truth be told, I don’t know where to begin. As you know, I am here at the request of your son. He asked me on many occasions to do this favor for him. I gave him my word. He detailed how he wanted it done and I have followed it to a tee. I don’t know what your reaction will be. I have something in the bag for you from him. Before I pull it out I want to tell you that he was a great American. Without going into the details, I watched him save lives. Including mine that day. Perhaps in time you will want to know more. But for now, please know he was a hero to many of his Marine brothers. Their lives extended because of his bravery. You raised a great young man, Mrs. Bernard.”
Sullivan reached for his bag on the coffee table. He placed it on the floor at his feet. Then he reached inside and pulled out a large, dirty, plastic-ziplock bag, wrapped with a rubber band. He stood up and slowly placed it on the coffee table. “It is my honor to present to you with the journal of PFC Patterson. I am proud that it made it back to you as he requested. It is home.”
Read more of The Journal of PFC Patterson
This is a work of fiction. Written for yeah write the speakeasy #98.
Story must begin with the sentence “Everyone knew. It must include a reference to this photo.