Tell Me a Story

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Calvin slammed his fist onto the tiny galley table.

"Ya mind?" said Lionel. "Some of us are tryin' not to choke on our own tongues while we swallow."

"Sorry, it's just—"

"You want to go home," his friend replied. "You and every other guy in here."

Calvin ran a hand through his cropped hair. The guy just didn't understand. Every muscle in his body was tense. He barely slept at night. And he'd just gotten a letter. A beautiful letter with two beautiful pictures wrapped inside it. "My wife just had a baby. My baby. My son, and I can't be there. Damn it." He slammed his fist again.

"Would you stop it, please?" Lionel said, shaking his head and banging his own fist albeit a bit less harshly. "You've got a healthy kid. Teddi came through it okay. You should be happy."

"I need to see my family."

"So do half the guys in here." He shoveled some beans into his mouth then bit heartily into his cheese sandwich.

"You're real sympathetic, you know that?"

"No one told you to run home and get married on your furlough."

"Say that again and the only sandwich you'll be eating will be made of knuckle."

"Okay, okay, sheesh," Lionel said, putting down his fork and holding up his hands. "Why don't we concentrate on more interesting things?"

"Such as?"

"Can't really think of anything at the moment, but it'll come to me."

"Well, when it does, let me know," he said, pushing out of his seat. "I'm going to grab a shower."

"Good luck with that."

***

To his surprise, Calvin found the shower room empty. It was never empty during the day, but he was more than grateful. Of course, the shower experience on a ship was never pleasant. But time alone with one's thoughts was always welcomed.

He threw the towel he had wrapped around his middle onto one of the metal benches close to the door. Stepping into the thin tin tub that kept the water from rushing out into the changing room and down the halls, he turned on the little nozzle that promised some semblance of cleanliness would follow.

God, he really missed her, he thought as the water poured over him. He found it hard to imagine her anywhere close. His world at sea, traveling from here to there, delivering goods and weapons and soldiers and escorting destroyers was far removed from life in Brookhurst. And he didn't want her anywhere near this massive hunk of metal, heading back to England, escorting a fleet of ships from Puerto Rico. It was dangerous, even though at times he let himself forget that it was. And now the baby had come. He was grateful they were both in Brookhurst, away from all this. Still, his ache to return had grown tenfold. He wanted to be a part of his family's life. He wanted to help them with whatever little daily problems they were having. He wanted to answer his wife's questions and help her rock his baby to sleep. Really, there was nothing he could do about it. The only choice he had was to wait it out. It could be months. It could be years. He was just going to have to find a way to make it through without going insane.

He shut off the shower, grabbed his towel and moved into the little room off to the side to change. When he got back to his bunk, he unwrapped the pictures from Teddi's last letter, written three weeks ago from the hospital. His baby had been born three weeks ago, and he just found out. He brushed away a tear angrily as he pulled out his roll of tape and ripped off piece by piece with his teeth, sticking the pictures and the letter onto the wall beside his bunk. He kissed the tips of his fingers then touched Teddi's then the baby's picture. He blinked several times before falling back on his thin mattress, covering his eyes with the back of his arm. He only had a couple of hours before he had to be back on duty. Maybe his dreams would be better than they had been in the last couple of days now that he'd seen little Matthew's picture. Maybe his mind could conjure up something pleasant to replenish him. God knew he needed it.

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