Chapter 25: Dog Tags

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The Great Gatsby was flipped opened.  I had been reading it on the porch for school.  It was a nice day outside, but the white clouds were getting a little darker and I hoped it was because the sun was going down.  I was smoking a cigarette while I read about Myrtle’s murder.  Flipping to another page, my mind raced; I was thinking about if it was going to rain and what was for dinner, so after about a page and a half I realized that I had no idea what was happening in the story.  I was rereading the passage again, but as I started to read, a black car drove down the street.  The car was jet black and the windows were heavily darkened.  Everyone knows who drives those cars and it pulled up right next to the curb of the house.  It was a military car.

My heart dropped and my chest got heavy.  I threw down the book then it landed on the wooden planks of the porch and I ran to meet the officer.  I tossed the cigarette aside in the grass as the officer approached me in the walkway.  We met face to face; the man had a blonde crew cut and was very muscular.  He had many badges and awards on his shirt, so I knew this wasn’t good.  It’s never good when a decorated officer drives up to your house.  I was begging and begging for it not to be related to the war.  I was begging anyone who’d listen.

“Do you know where Darrel Curtis is?” the officer asked.  He had dark shades over his eyes and was wearing his army hat.

“No, can I help you?” I answered getting even more anxious.  I knew exactly what this was about.

“I need to speak to the guardian of Sodapop Patrick Curtis.  Do you know where I could find him?” He said.

My eyes stung and started to fill with tears that I held back. “I’m his fiancé,” I paused then quickly added, “Sodapop’s.”

He looked down at a yellow envelope and pulled out a paper.  He read off it, “On behalf of the United States Army, we give our deepest grievances to the family of Sodapop Patrick Curtis who was pronounced ‘Missing in Action’ as of the twenty-ninth of November.” He finished and looked up at me.

I couldn’t hold it back any longer and started crying to myself.  The officer gave his deepest sympathy in his eyes.  He spoke up after a long period of silence and sobs, “Now we don’t know if he is still alive, but it’s been missing for two months.  If he hasn’t returned yet, then we doubt he ever will.  I’m sorry.”

I sniffled wiping my nose on the sleeve of my sweater, “That just means he’s missing.  He could still be out there somewhere, right?  I mean, what if he was taken as a prisoner?” I asked.

“Ma’am, a group of men, including your fiancé took a perimeter around the mountains and they all went missing.” He said as I interrupted him.

“How many?”

“About twenty.  They didn’t have enough supplies to last them more than a month, they would’ve died by now.  We would’ve already known if the enemy took any prisoners or captives and there hasn’t been any activity in that category in a long time.  I know this isn’t exactly what you wanted to hear.”  He finished up his business and pulled out a smaller envelope out of his pocket and handed it to me.  My face was dried with old tears and running on fresh ones.  “He left this to you at the camp, it had your name on it.  Colly Davis right?” 

I took the package, “Steve!” I shouted to him as he started to walk away, “Steve Randle, is he still alive?”

He took out his sheet and nodded, “I’m sorry about your loss.” With that he drove off.

As he drove off I opened the envelope with shaking hands.  Raindrops soiled certain spots on the package.  There was a necklace inside, just a necklace, nothing else.  No note or anything.  I dumped it into my hand.  It was Soda’s dog tags.  It was like he knew he was going to go missing or he knew he was going to die.  Was it the real reason? 

I felt my knees go weak with this idea and I fell to the ground as the rain pounded down.  The dog tags were wrapped tightly in my left hand that was held over my heart.  I was hunched over on the ground begging that this was only a dream.  I couldn’t control myself, my emotions; everything just came pouring out.  I was in pain and agony.  Soda was supposedly dead and I was the only one that knew now.  I just couldn’t imagine how Pony was going to deal with it.  Now, everything I feared that was going to happen happened.  It felt like I was lying there on my knees, clenching the necklace just crying for hours in the rain.  

Darry came around the corner with his roofing tools hanging off his body.  He looked the same.  He had the same weary, tired face, but this time this it had a little more pain.  I looked up at him with my red eyes, tear literally dripping down my face.  All he did was look down at me, shook his head, and then walked inside. 

The next couple of nights, the three of us were sitting at the table pushing around our food.  None of us were hungry which was a first.  Ponyboy got up early from the table to go do homework.  I stayed behind to wash the dishes while Darry cleaned the table.  We worked in silence for a while. 

“I know you’re upset about this whole ‘Missing in Action’ crap, but that doesn’t mean you can drop all your responsibilities and focus on something you can’t change.” Darry said.

“I’m as responsible as I was before! I still go to work and school and do chores here! You can’t tell me crap!”  I said and things got loud quickly.

“You can’t stop living because you lost someone.  It’s not an excuse to be hung up on this.” He stated. 

“That’s easy for you to say; from the way you present yourself, it’s like you don’t even have a heart or emotions!  Were you as stiff about your parents death like you are about Soda’s?” I argued with him.

“I loved my parents more than anyone and you have no right to talk about them like that.  You don’t think in upset about Soda being dead?  Well missy, think again; this world does not revolve around you.  I am letting you live here because of Sodapop and now I can easily kick you out of this house.” He yelled at me.

“Then what’s a gang for then? Huh!”

He dragged his hands through his scalp and dug his elbow onto the table.  After a while he started, “You think I don’t have a heart?  I cried just as much as Soda did when Ponyboy and Johnny went missing.   I need to be the backbone for what’s left of this family.  You wouldn’t understand.” 

“I’m sorry.  I’m just bitter I guess.  I mean, how do you think I feel now that I can’t marry the one person that I belong with?” I said to him.

“We should go to bed.  Just don’t let this ruin your life.” He said to me then walked to his room.  Before he closed the door he said his last apology.  

I laid in bed that night thinking about where in the entire universal Sodapop would be.  Would he be a star or just floating in the galaxy or lying right next to me?  I couldn’t sleep at all that night; I don’t think any of us did. 

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