Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
A bit of fiction
Let me know if you like it.....
01 November 2009, Georgetown, D.C.
“Someday, after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire…The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the Earth."
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Within the ancient landscape of my third-story apartment, above the rants and raves of the drunken law students glimmering, maneuvering, and debating in the hopes of some promotion of status, several miles from the Lawn where Martin Luther King Jr. summoned his speech redefining racial relations, miles away from where my friends slept in their graves deep inside Robert E. Lee’s former plantation now known as Arlington Cemetery, I sat contemplating who I am, where I’ve been, and how it would end. In my plush 3,500 square foot townhome, rumored to have been a residence of John Adams Jr. visiting his father, decorated by D.C.’s finest contemporaries, miles from my brothers fighting in Zaganiyah, some Podunk town along the Diyala River Valley in Iraq, I sat in my Sunday’s best- Army Class A’s depicting my Sergeant First Class rank.
Stephanie slept under the comfort of her 1200-thread linens- the best that money could afford. Years had passed since she last touched me so I knew that this moment would not be disturbed with her awakening from her slumber. I gazed at her sleeping like an angel contemplating shopping the next day. She would only prosper after I finished my final mission. I struggled through this one for a long time- my peers hating the wealth, my fast promotions, and the awards the command bestowed upon me, all the while my wife detesting every minute of my service. I tried my best to balance it, but I knew that none of them would ever truly understand. She would never divorce me lest she face the contempt of leaving a war hero.
I figured that I would never love again. On the emotional landscape, I went mute.
The betrayal and deception that followed tore away my soul. Stephanie was a Daddy’s girl that came with expectations. She had only married me for my prestige and money. She assumed that the Army was a simple distraction before I returned back to the real world of finance, country clubs, and wealth. For the longest of times, I thought that if I only loved her more, then she would understand. That reasoning was foolish. When I met her, I realized everything about her, but I loved her regardless. As I surveyed my will, I knew that she would be well taken care of…Nothing else mattered anymore. All was well. We lost too many men. I could not go on.
Everything was in order- dress right dress in perfect accord…
On my left sleeve, three gambits protruded along my elbow indicating my nine years of service. On my right sleeve, nine hash marks indicated the 54 months of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan that I served. On my left chest, medals of valor and service and the Purple Heart with three stars lined my heart. On my right chest, a foreign jump medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, and my beloved regimental crest adorned. I was from the 5th squadron, 73rd regiment- a small recon element of the famed 82nd Airborne Division. Men amongst men that drew heritage from the Spartans of Thermopylae. Around my neck, the United States Medal of Honor was draped for conspicuous actions of valor above and beyond the duty prescribed of an enlisted man of my rank and grade. Coley’s vintage .45 rested in my mouth. Upon his graduation from West Point in 1996, I bought it for him as a memento.
My thoughts raced from the far past to present. As I scanned the documents on my desk,I pressed play on the CD player. It began with Audioslaves’ Shadow on the Sun, a tribute to my company. I thought of CPT Jim Smalls, 1SG Royce Manus and the others that perished on our third rigged house- that ####ing house that some general decided to give me some ####ing award over. 1SG Manus had a bad feeling about it, but he deferred to the captain. CPT Smalls was never wrong- except this time. God, I loved that man; I loved Shadow Troop. I missed them all…Why did they have to die???
As Audioslave faded, in the background, Dave Matthew’s Band jammed on his thought of Rhyme and Reason,
Oh well oh well so here we stand
But we stand for nothing
My heart calls to me in my sleep
Now can I turn to it
Cause I'm all locked up in this
Dark place -- and I do not know
I'm as good as dead
My head aches -- warped and tied up
I need to kill this pain
My head won't leave my head alone
And I don't believe it will
'Til I'm dead and gone
My head won't leave my head alone
And I don't believe it will
'Til I'm six feet underground
How long I'm tied up
My mind in knots -- My stomach reels
In concern for what I might do or
What I've done
It's got me living in fear
Well I know these voices must
Be my soul
I've had enough
I've had enough
Of being alone
I've got no place to go.
I felt nothing and everything all at once. I soaked in the passion of the violin, bass, and lyrics. I pulled back the hammer. I let everything go- all the pain, hurt, violence and passion. It was time to end it all. I felt the cold breeze flow from the open door of the balcony. The wind travelling off the Potomac let me know that this was real. It was all real; it was now. The time was right.
As I began to pull on the trigger, just three pounds of pressure, the doorbell chimed. God Damn it. Nothing was to be finalized tonight. Steph stirred from the doorbell, and I scrambled to hide the gun. I was not prepared for the news.
Joshua answered the door…It was weird. We used to be best friends. The last time we spoke, his right hand broke my jaw from a hook as he refused to follow the new commander’s orders.
“Audio is dead.”
Everything changed….My world shifted again…
************************************************** ************************************************** **********
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
It is funny how life plays itself out. After so many years of war, all that I've seen, all that I've done, all that I've become, I no longer felt that I deserved to be loved. I thought that God abandoned me for my transgressions. In tortured times, in the low moments of our life, it is often easier to simply quit rather than resolve to overcome- at least for me. I was never accustomed to failure. Personally, the pain, hurt, betrayal, and loss consumes and can only be managed in a dark, seedy hotel room drowning the memories in some emotional abyss treading absently down the Sierra Nevada River. Drinking provided my only relief. In these moments, I no longer have to feel. How did it come to this? What have I become? At the age 35, when 30 is supposed to be the new 20, I felt 70 years old, and I wanted nothing more than to end it all. The Army still had grand plans for me as the War on Terror rages on perpetually, but I could not fathom leaving my room. I was simply tired of killing, but I was so damn good at killing. In retrospect, I was born to kill.
For many years, I lived by the mantra that just one more drink I can remember and just one more drink I can forget. Just one more drink, and I'll be gone...Regardless, I'm still here.
As I attempt to step out of this dilemma, I will share my story. This story is that of life. Life ebbs and flows in a sometimes quiet, sometimes chaotic wave crashing into the shore and then withdrawing again into the great sea of the universe in continual pattern. In the middle, emotions of hope, love, death, and despair churn in perpetual cycle. In darker times, as the wave peaks and crashes, life can be hard. In other times, life can be sheer joy. Regardless of the intensity of one's individual wave, life is exciting. This is my story of redemption and retribution. This story is how I learned how to truly live.
I suppose that God looks down below from heaven lovingly smiling at mankind's inherent inability to comprehend his creation. For far too long, I was angry at Yaweh because I confused his smile for a smirk. I thought that he was chuckling at my fate. I was too stubborn. I had no idea how much he loved me.
Sometimes life whispers in such sweet breaths compartmentalized until the time that we need them. Sometimes, we live too loud to hear the words. Occasionally, these words crash into us in times that we do not choose. Maybe it is Jesus carrying us through the darkest nights. Maybe it is angels at the gates. Maybe it just is.
It wasn't always this way. It was never supposed to be this way. Many moons ago, it was much simpler. My name is Daniel Michael Beers. My friends call me Danny. On September 10, 2001, I had everything- family, friends, and wealth- the American Dream, I had it all.
It seemed surreal. My deep roots were much more humble. My great-grandfather was a coal miner from West Virginia just shy of the Ohio border. Living in the most meager of circumstances, a life of trailer parks, ancient American-built trucks, drive-in movie theaters, and countless fast-food outlets, my grandfather packed up and moved to Charlotte to start a new life. He settled in the country next to a popular amusement park called Carowinds along the South Carolina border. In this time before the greed of the 1980's, folks lived peacefully with acres of land, spending what they earned and never contemplating a credit card, fearing the God of Abraham from the Southern Baptist interpretation, and otherwise content. Divorce was unheard of, church was a three times a week affair, and life was good. In some ways, each family lived out the pursuit of happiness promised by our forefathers. In other ways, each family concealed and dealt with internal problems such as pregnancy outside of marriage, adultery, and spousal abuse. These transgressions were but a whisper within the community- gossip amongst the gossipers. Each family dealt with their problems internally. Even with its misgivings and shortcomings, short of utopia, country life in North Carolina suited the Beers family well.
When it came to machines, Papaw (my nickname for my grandfather) had healing hands. He could fix anything- cars, washing machines, microwave ovens. You name it, he could fix it. He quickly established a profitable small business as the local handyman. As I stated before, in the art of fixing machines, he had healing hands. In his relationships with people, he was inexplicably mute.
Maybe Papaw was simply of the old breed that never showed emotion. Maybe the talents that God provided him allowed him to excel in some areas and limited him in others. Regardless, he never talked. I loved him dearly, and as a young child, I spent hours in his workshop learning his trade. In those moments, as he dissected the internal organs of a refrigerator, I watched his eyes brighten as he explained how the generator provided electricity to the cooling agents that in turn lowered the temperature of the entire system. I never understood any of it. It was oblivious to me as trying to understand Einstein's hypothesis on the time-space continium and quantum physics, but I loved every minute of it. I sat entranced as he poured a cup of Maxwell house coffee from his Thermos, the heat escaping in fumes of clouds from the lid as he sipped patiently examining the latest broken machine that some farmer brought to him to fix. I will never really know if I ever understood my grandfather, but I thought that I did.
Maybe he was quietly teaching me everything that I needed to know. I will never know.
Even back then, on the outskirts of Charlotte better known as the boondocks, I remember what he taught me. He took me fishing. I still remember it. I was six years old, and he took me to Lake Wylie to learn his second passion. Lake Wylie sits southeast of Charlotte hugging the border between North and South Carolina. The glossy wake stands in quiet contrast to the hectic metropolitian pace of downtown Charlotte just five miles away as developers, bankers, and other professionals scurry to and fro, back and forth, after the next dollar in the never-ending search of the capatlist utopia. Lake Wylie serves as a metaphor for my grandfather. Calm on the surface, the depths below that seemingly never-end house the chaos and confusion of nature- fish and plants striving in a complex eco-system competing and co-existing in life. I should of paid more attention to Papaw.
Today, like many other areas of the country, Lake Wylie is quickly becoming an upscale suburban enclave of Charlotte with massive multi-million dollar homes enchroaching along the banks. It took several decades of development as the neuvo-rich and northern implants outgrew the more popular Lake Norman northwest of Charlotte. Back then, Wylie was a simplistic redneck weekend getaway from the hard-working life of the blue-collar lower class. I will always remember the lake in its simplicity.
Even at six years old, I preferred downtown Charlotte to that of my family. I wanted it all- the glamour, excitement, and prestige of big city life. I thought that maybe if I grew up to walk sharply in a Brooks Brother's suit downtown then I would have made it. At the time, going fishing with my grandfather seemed lame, but I'll never forget that day. Papaw and I penetrated the calm of the lake in his 12-foot bass boat. I was wearing short Carolina blue shorts and my favorite Panama Jack T-shirt. He was wearing his typical Dungee pants and plaid shirt. As he navigated the small boat through the lake towards the sweet spots that housed the fish, he methodically sipped his coffee from his thermos. His gray hair twinkled in concert as if he was born to be on the water. Papaw did not smile- he sat transfixed staring at the controls of the boat, but he was at peace. I know this for a fact. It was as if every beast and burden of his past was removed as he glistened across the wake. For a brief moment, the weight of the world was off his shoulders. I observed his weighted, darkened eyes lift in relaxation in every yard removed from land. I sat on the front of the boat swallowing a Sundrop, a majestic sugar-caffeine concoction that rivals even Mountain Dew and can only be found in the Carolinas.
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
The wind bristled through my hair, and Papaw turned on the radio. As we moved, he blared Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., and Waylon Jennings- ole school country singers twanging on the down and out luck of the hard working man- drinking, loving, and dying. I hated this music. I preferred the upbeat sounds of Michael Jackson and Madonna. His music reminded me of Hee-Haw. On Sundays, after church, Sunday school, and lunch at Granny's (my mother's grandmother) in Matthews, we would eat supper at Papaw's. I loved the dinner, particularly the pumpkin pie with extra cool whip that my Mamaw (my grandmother) served for dessert, but afterwards, we would be forced to watch Hee-Haw on his archaic technocolorvision television set. I loved Sundays, but I hated Hee Haw-stupid overall wearing farmers telling stupid jokes while Dolly Parton or someone else entertained I know it is hard to hate at the early age of six, but Hee Haw encompassed everything that I despised from my childhood. I was so foolish.
The boat finally stopped in some lonesome shallow of a hole. The trees cowered with their branches sagging towards the Earth. Green everywhere as their foliage penetrated the landscape. Below, the murky gray of the lake. Above, the sky darkened from pale to dark blue. Why are we stopping here? All that persist here are mosquitoes. No fish could possibly live here. Papaw turned the radio off.
"Danny, grab your line," Papaw demanded.
"Yes, sir." I replied with good southern indoctrination overcoming my internal thoughts. What a moron. I knew better than to debate with an elder lest I earn a whooping.
I grabbed my prized Snoopy pole (it's a talking dog from the Charlie Brown Peanuts' cartoon- probably before your time), Papaw helped me add a tadpole for bait, and he showed me how to cast. I followed suit, holding the button strong, reaching back with the pole, tossing forward, and letting go of the button. The bait and hook soared about ten feet and plopped in the water. I began to reel in my line. I brought it all the way back to the boat. After minutes of scrambling, nothing. I hated this fishing crap.
"Papaw, this is boring." I exclaimed as I considered being back home playing Frogger on my cousin's Colecovision.
"Simmer down son; let the fish come to you." Papaw replied.
I cast the line another thirty or so times. I was so pissed at this wasted Saturday with this old man who did not speak and knew nothing. I began to reel in my line in anger- this simple man with no drive and no ambition. Suddenly, the line fought back. Initially, I almost lost my pole in the confusion. I reset my feet, and tugged harder. I had a bite, and I refused to lose it. I dug in, and I reeled with all of my might. Papaw moved to the front of the boat. As I reeled. his calloused, conditioned hands ran the length of my line into the depths of the water. I could feel the fish fighting vigorously. Suddenly, Papaw's right hand emerged from water with fish in hand.
"Boy, it's your first catch. Good work." He pulled the fish into the boat. It was the only moment in my entire life that I saw him beam with pride. His smile stretched from ear to ear.
Later on, Papaw would attempt to show me how to fire a weapon. On his back porch, he set up the targets. He instructed me on the use of his .45. He loaded the weapon. He placed it into my hands expertly demonstrating where the right hand, left hand, and each finger should sit.
"Danny, it is simple. Position, Aim, and pull . Don't be scared." he proclaimed.
I followed his instructions. I found my target, and I zeroed in. With slight pressure to the trigger, the .45 rocked back hard, and I fell to the floor.
"Dead on, son. Good work." he exclaimed. It was only the second time that I ever saw him smile.
He made me fire over and over again. Each time, I hit bull's eye.
I was only eight. I envisioned my bullets killing other men. I hated the thought.
"Papaw, I hate you." I yelled as I ran back inside to my Mamaw's comfort. Those were the last words that I ever voiced to my Papaw. A week later, we were packed up and headed to Raleigh to follow my father's dreams of commercial development.
To this day, I'm not sure if I'm mad at my Papaw for showing me how to shoot or because I was good at shooting.
Oh God, how I wish it was different. Why could I not comprehend? Papaw was simply trying to teach me about life. I thought that I wanted the whole world, and in those moments, he was trying to give me the whole world. I was too stubborn to listen. Only later in life would I find his instruction to be instrumental in my survival. I've never missed a target. I was always a damb good shot.
Papaw died April 15,1999. I was a month away from finishing my M.B.A. at the Harvard Business School in Massachusetts, and his death came as a shock. The shock was not so much in the fact that he died quietly in his sleep. He was getting older and older, and it seemed fitting that he would die quietly as he lived his life. I was confused when I learned that the funeral and burial would take place in Washington, DC. My grandfather had never been to DC. Why would he be buried there?
What the ####? My life was going so well, and then I visited Arlington and learned that my Papaw was a hero.
"CPT Daniel Albert Beers, for actions in combat, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and and Purple Heart with 3 Oak Leaf clusters....Sir, thy duty is done; be thou at peace." the Major declared in Arlington.
Apparently my Papaw was a World War II hero- something about flying aircraft in the Battle of the Bulge, Pelipeu, Iwa Jima, and the siege of Japan, . At his grave sight, I listened callously. "If what he did was so important, why did he never tell me," I thought. I placed the flowers accordingly, and I walked away angry.
I went back to Boston and continued along my journey towards success. I had no idea.
9/11 changed everything.
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