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A Word of Explanation
Why had he ever let his enlistment run out? Darien Prose let his head drop back against the grimy plastic of the phone booth, curling himself deeper into his worn out flight jacket. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know his wife was going to leave him, but he didn’t
think she would sell off his stuff and run off to Barbados with Captain Fantastic so
soon. But that was life.
Corporal Fisher would have said you can’t catch everything, but he was a SEAL, an ex-SEAL, anyways, and he was supposed to. That was probably why Corporal Fisher was dead.
Now Darien was sleeping in a phone booth, just one more homeless veteran roaming the streets in search of a meal. Of course, he was a captain, with a full pension to look forward to, and he never expected to come home to an empty house.
He expected to come home and find his wife gone, sure. But not everything else.
Checking and savings accounts drained, credit cards maxed out, and a woman who simply slipped off the grid. Terminal leave up, no more base housing, and a request for
reinstatement working its way through a ponderous bureaucracy that the nation would be better off without. And former Navy SEAL Captain Darien Prose, sleeping in a phone booth that smelled like [use your imagination].
But that was life.
He could have crashed with someone from his unit. That was the logical thing to do in the middle of February in the God forsaken city, but all of them were home, celebrating their return in their own ways. The retirement party was over. The Captain could take care of himself.
But if that was true, why was he out of the navy for not even a day and already a
homeless deadbeat? He did what was necessary for the SEALs, but outside of work he never went a day without shaving his entire adult life. There was a certain look, a certain character that was expected of a military officer on or off duty.
Captain Prose had been the embodiment of it. He kept his hair buzzed and he never cursed in front of a lady or a superior. He stayed in shape no matter how old he got.
How the mighty hath fallen, Corporal Fisher would have said. He was always quoting B.S. That was probably why he was dead.
His constant stream of stories would have been welcome tonight, though. Corporal Fisher hadn’t been a bad SEAL, just a huge BSer, like the rest of the new blood. He would have made an officer one day, once he got how glorious war was out of his head and once he got his head out of his ass. But in war, good men died, and that was life. Old men came home to no homes and ended up fending off homeless men from disgusting phone booths because they had nowhere else to go. That was also life. Homeless men lost their favorite haunts when newer, younger homeless men appeared in the area. And that, too, was life.
But now it was snowing, and that was just cruel. Darien felt the $50 bill crumpled in his fist. It could probably buy him a couple nights at some roach infested no-tell motel if he didn’t eat, or it could get him a few days of food if he bought one item off the dollar menu at McDonalds for the next month, at least until he got back on his feet.
And he would get back on his feet, somehow, so he was better off than the bum pushing a creaking cart past the phone booth. Darien watched him for a minute, the scruffy beard collecting snow, the bent shoulders, the patched, heavy coat. The army-issue hat covering his greasy, tangled hair. Darien watched for a moment as the man pushed through the driving snow and wind.
He stood up and opened the flimsy plastic door. “Hey. Hey, sir! Wait up a minute!”