DISCLAIMER: This story is based on the television series Tour of Duty which aired from 1987 through 1990, distributed by New World Entertainment. All characters belong to the creators and/or producers of the show and were brought to life by Stephen Caffrey (Lt. Goldman), Terence Knox (Sgt. Anderson) and Tony Becker (Cpl. Percell). No money is being made with this story and it may not be posted, published or archived without permission. Although care has been taken in the attention to military protocol, certain artistic licenses have been made for the sake of readability.
This story is rated: PG
Written by: Erin
TOUR OF DUTY: Memories and Wishes
Sergeant Zeke Anderson instinctively woke just before dawn as he had become so accustomed to do. He sat up on his bed and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. This morning he was more tired than usual. He looked to his watch. The luminous hands read 0530. Zeke laughed to himself and attributed his weary feeling to the six straight hours of sleep he had gotten. Hell, that's two more than usual.
The Sergeant grabbed his boots and pulled them on. Right boot first, left boot second. He tied them tightly and stood up feeling the bones in his back crack as he leaned back gently to stretch. The base was quiet for the moment, but he knew that the hustle of the day would be starting soon as other Sergeants rose to awaken their men and the commanding officers huddled to initiate plans for the day.
Zeke looked around at his empty hooch. The bed on the other side of the room had been stripped of the bedding and the mattress lay there naked on the springs. Anderson thought about how he hadn't had the time to get to know his roommate, Sergeant Ryan Fisher. They had only crossed paths for a few minutes once or twice between duties and humping the boonies in the few short weeks they had lived together. Zeke looked at the empty nail on the wall where the young solider had kept a framed picture of his wife and little boy.
Even today, having one more year in the service, one more year into the Vietnam War and one more year into his life it still took a little piece of his heart to learn of the man's death and to know the pain the family would have to endure. Would Katie and Carol ever feel that pain?
Refusing to fall any deeper into his thoughts Zeke took a drink of warm water from his canteen. The distinct taste of plastic filled his mouth as he wandered to his desk.
His desk chair was still pulled out from the night before when Zeke had sat there mending the holes in his socks. When the large man sat he found the wooden chair to be unusually hard as he reached for the daily duty roster paper he needed to fill out for the men. Yesterday was May 26 and today…May 27.
Zeke stared at the date. It was familiar to him, but meant nothing even though it should have. Every year this date had come and gone without much celebration. Sarge sat back in his chair remembering his favorite birthday, one of the few times the date had been actually celebrated.
Carol returned late in the afternoon from the grocery store where she worked part time as a cashier. Zeke heard the door to their small government issued apartment creak open. Carol bounded in, her long silky hair tussled by the wind, her smile was wide and her arms were full. Zeke jumped up from the couch where he had been resting following his double shift on base patrol.
"Zeke!" Carol shouted with enthusiasm. "I am so glad you are home." She gathered both grocery bags in one hand and threw her free arm around her husband kissing him delicately on the lips.
Sarge paused for a moment in his thought, remembering how soft her lips could be against his.
"Happy Birthday Zeke!" Carol caressed the side of Zeke's cheek, with her slender fingers, making the goose bumps tingle up his spine. "I have a surprise for you."
A smile slid across Zeke's face as Carol grabbed his hand and pulled him into the kitchen. He stopped short of the room and leaned against the doorframe. His hands were shoved in the pockets his fatigue pants as he watched his wife set the paper bag on the table and begin digging threw the kitchen drawer. After a slight search she pulled out a matchbook.
"What's the surprise?" Zeke asked, confused by her find.
"You'll see." Carol reached into the paper bag and pulled out a bakery purchased double layer chocolate cake sprinkled with candles and the inscription.
Happy Birthday Zeke.
"Aw Carol, now you didn't have to go and do that." Zeke stepped close to the table. Outwardly he was playing it cool, while inside he was overwhelmed. Never in his life had he been given a cake with his name on it.
"Yes I did Zeke!" Carol smiled up at him as she lite the small candles. "This is your first birthday as my husband and I want it to be special." Carol finished with the candles and sung a slightly off key serenade of happy birthday.
When she had finished Zeke leaned toward the cake. He marveled at the beautiful colors of the candles and flame. Only twice before had his birthday been celebrated with candles on a cake. "I already have everything I ever wished for…" Zeke shrugged with a boyish grin.
"Oh come on Zeke there are lots of things you could wish for." Carol encouraged with a large smile accented by her high cheek bones .
Zeke recited his wish to himself, breathed deeply and extinguished all of the candles at once. Carol cheered his success and moved along side of him. He slender body touched against his. "Zeke, I have another surprise for you." Carol looked at her husband, they were about the same height so their eyes met each other.
"I have something to tell you too." Zeke added. "You first."
"I'm pregnant Zeke!" Carol's eyes danced with excitement. "We're going to have a baby!"
Zeke's smile drifted from his face as an unexplainable fear sank into his body. How could he be a father? He didn't know anything about being a parent, he wasn't ready for this, but he could see it was important to his new wife He muscled up a nervous response. "Carol that's great." He grabbed his wife and hugged her, using the private time where his face was hidden from her to let the grin fall away as he privately panicked from the news.
"You're not happy are you?" Carol asked into her husband's ear as he held her tightly.
"Well now, it's not that I'm not happy, I'm not saying that." Zeke struggled with his word as he noticed the disappointment in the eyes of the new mother. "I just never thought about it, that's all."
Carol understood her husband's apprehension. She knew he never had a family, but believed he wanted one. "Don't worry Zeke, you'll be a fine dad."
Her confidence in him made his feelings of fear turn to guilt as he realized how happy she was and he wasn't able to be happy with her.
Carol pulled away and went to the cupboard to get plates and silverware to serve the cake. She knew it would take Zeke a long time to get used to the idea of having a baby and she was willing to give him time. "So what's your big news?"
Zeke paused as he watched her slender fingers guide the knife through the soft pastry. "My unit has been called up. We are going to Vietnam." His smile of pride and excitement met her suddenly frightened glare. In an instant Zeke had turned his best birthday ever, into a nightmare.
Sarge looked around the hootch as his eyes welled up with tears. He hated his birthday and he was disappointed in himself for not caring enough about Carol and his only daughter, Katie. Zeke Anderson cursed himself as he realized he wasn't even sure when Katie's birthday was. He sure seemed to have a knack of messing up all the good things in his life.
Zeke noticed the early morning sun had illuminated the room enough that the tiny desk lamp was no longer needed. He flipped the switch off and began the duty roster.
PFC Percell – Perimeter duty, south gate
Spec 4 Taylor – Perimeter duty, south gate
PFC Ruiz – KP
Spec 4 Johnson – KP
Private Hiser – Latrine….
Sergeant Anderson rose from his chair picking his hat up from the edge of the desk and his weapon from the modest coat rack, pushed open the screen door and tacked the roster up on the board outside. He shuffled down the wooden steps onto the road. As expected the traffic of soldiers and vehicles outside had greatly increased in the few minutes that he had spent preparing for the day.
As Zeke turned the corner on the way to wake his troops he noticed a man of Lieutenant Goldman's stature and appearance far ahead carrying a large box and moving in the direction of the men's barracks.
"LT!" The man did not respond. Zeke's curiosity peaked and he quickened his pace.
The familiar stranger glanced over his shoulder and disappeared in between two buildings before Sarge could make a positive ID. That's odd.
When the Sergeant reached the barracks door he pause to listen for the men. Not a sound came from within, just as he had suspected. He didn't blame the men for not waking on their own. They had spent a tough three weeks in the bush recently and they could use the rest.
Zeke grabbed the handle of the screen door pulling it open and jumped into the barracks ready to wake his sleeping beauties. As his feet landed inside the barracks and his eyes struggled to adjust to the change in light he heard the group of men yell out. "SURPRISE!"
His vision gave way to his men standing dressed and ready for the day. Lieutenant Goldman stood in the middle of the men holding a large frosted cake with all the candles and an inscription… Happy Birthday Sarge.
As the men broke out into song the Sergeant smiled.
As the song ended and the candles were almost burnt to nubs the Lieutenant yelled out. "Make a wish Sergeant, and that's an order!"
The familiar boyish grinned streamed across Zeke's face at he looked at Lt Goldman standing amongst his men, his family. He closed his eyes, breathed deeply and wished…