Danny drove down the familiar dirt road. He pulled the truck into the old gravel driveway, the wind coming in the window. He pushed open the door and stepped out. Percell shut the door and took a second to smell the familiar place. Reaching for the old Army duffel bag, he heard the screen door slam.
When he turned, he saw a beautiful woman standing on the steps. She wore jeans and a baggy flannel shirt, one that he himself owned. The woman stood oblivious to him, she was facing the setting sun. Her face shined from the sun's rays. Her blonde hair was pulled up into a ponytail, reaching to her waist, a few strands framing her face.
Percell couldn't help but keep looking at her. "Hello," Percell said, startling her.
"Oh my god! How long have you been…SHIT! You're…you're …God…" She stuttered.
Danny laughed, "Not I'm not God." He smiled at her and continued, "I'm Danny Percell are you are?"
She looked down at the shirt that she was wearing and brushed the loose ends of hair from her face. "Dammit" She whispered.
Danny stood, watching her move nervously. "Is my ma home?"
"Huh?" She said, glancing at him. "Oh, ya. Ya! She's in the house, baking..I was headed towards the stable. Oh..Jeez..where are my manners. I'm Holly and I work here. Your mom doesn't know you're here does she? She said that you had another two months."
Danny smiled, a twinkle in his big blue eyes. "I told her that my tour was extended for another two months. I wanted to surprise her."
Danny walked into the house, and Holly walked to the stables, but heard Danny's mother scream with delight. Holly smiled and laughed lightly to herself. Amy fed the animals, she petted them, and gave each an apple that she had brought from the house. Percell walked in, cowboy boots, hat, jeans, and a flannel shirt on. "Prettiest things, aren't they?" He asked as he walked up to his horse, Nips/ "Gorgeous." Beth murmured. "Hey, about before, sorry I acted like a jackass. You scared the heck outta me, and your mom said you wouldn't be home for two months."
It's good to be home. He thought. "It's ok, my ma was very surprised to."
There was a few moments of silence. "Can I ask a question? " She looked at him, and he nodded. "What…umm…What was it like over there? If it's too hard, I'll shut up."
He smiled at her as he continued to pet his horse. "It's ok. It doesn't really bother me to talk about it, not anymore at least, when you're over there, everything is so hard. I had my ups and downs, but my friend's were a big part of it." He stood quiet for a few minutes, then cleared his throat and asked, "So…how long have you been workin' on the ranch, my mom never mentioned anything about you in the letters she sent me."
"About 4 months now I guess. After you left, and your sister was in school, she got really lonely, and bogged down with all the work, I saw her ad in the paper, and decided that this wouldn't be that bad of a place to work, after a month or so, she asked me if I wanted to into the guest house down at the other end of the ranch, as long as I kept an eye on the land down there." She glanced down at her shirt again, "Hey, I'm sorry that I'm wearin' your shirt. Your horse was suckin on my shirt all morning, he got mad at me, because I didn't get a chance to ride him yesterday. I'll take your shirt and wash it. Oh, and I'm sorry that I rode Nips, but you're mom said that he needed his exercise, and that he might miss people. I hope it was ok."
Danny smiled, "Ya, I want to thank you for it, if he doesn't get ridden often enough, he is one cranky horse.
Two weeks later…
Holly walked out of the barn and saw Danny walking to his truck. "Hey! Are you going somewhere?" She asked as she brushed off her blue jeans.
He stopped walking, "Ya, I gotta get some stuff in town."
"Do you think that I could catch a ride with you, I don't have a car yet." She climbed into his truck, then exclaimed, "Shit! I mean, I haven't gotten paid yet." She started to climb back out, mad because she couldn't go with Danny.
"Hey, It's ok, I'll pay for it. You can pay me back when you have some extra cash."
She smiled, "That would be so awesome!" She started to climb back out, mad because she couldn't go with Danny.
"Hey, It's ok, I'll pay for it. You can pay me back when you have some extra cash."
She smiled, "That would be so awesome!"
She hoped out of Danny's truck and walked with him into the grocery/hardware store. "Wow, it's sure been awhile" Percell remarked, running his hand across his face.
She stopped and looked at him, "If you every need anything or want to talk, I'd be happy to listen. He nodded and smiled at her.
Percell grabbed her elbow, a shopping basket and went into the first aisle. As they walked up and down the aisle many of his high school buddies welcomed him home, while other people gave him weird looks, while others just stared. Danny didn't seem too bothered by all the nasty looks. But when they came to the ice cream he stopped. "Want some?" Percell asked.
She looked at him and grinned from ear to ear. "Hell ya! I love ice cream!"
"Chocolate?" He asked. They bought all the food and 4 gallons of white paint.
Percell put the grocery's into the pickup box and opened Holly's door. As the bumped along the grace road, a strained silence fell between Holly and Danny.
Amy glanced at Percell when she felt him look at her. "Hey look," Holly said, "Thanks for being so awesome to me. I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate it."
Danny smiled at her, "It was my pleasure. I should thank you for being so nice and stickin around and helping on the ranch. I know it's a lot of work and takes a lot outta ya."
Rain poured outside and around Holly as she opened the door to the house, and slipped off her mud caked shoes and the phone rang. It rang again and she picked it up. "Hello? Percell residence?"
"Ya. Hi. Is Danny there?"
"Yes he is. Can I ask who is speaking?" She asked and she dropped the keys on the table, and washed her hands in the sink.
"Ya, just tell him it's Ru."
Holly's eyes lit up and she almost screamed into the phone. "YA! Just hold on a second!" She dropped the phone onto the table and ran outside to the barn where Danny was.
Two weeks before she had washed Danny's shirt that she had used, she was going to return it to his room, when she saw a picture and it had the names written on it. Sarge, Lt., Mckay, Taylor, Doc, and Ru. She hadn't known which one was Ru.
She quickly pulled open the barn door, and breathlessly she yelled, "Danny, come quick!"
He stood up and looked at her and saw her flushed cheeks, and he could hear her gasping for air. Percell dropped his pail and ran to her, "Oh my god! Is it my mother? Father!"
"No! No. It's a friend of yours. He told me to tell you that it's Ru!" He looked at her and ran to the house. He grabbed the phone, "Ru?"
"Hey Percell, man, how you doin? Man, it's been awhile. You shoulda called."
"Ya, it has been a long time. I was going to. I've just been really busy, and I wasn't sure if I would have known what to say." He swallowed hard, his emotions creeping up on him. It finally hit him how much he missed his buddies. He tried not to think about them too much while he was at home, because it just made him feel empty."
There was a pause, then Ruiz spoke up, "Hey man, I know. Sometimes I don't even feel like I fit in here anymore, sometimes I wish that I could go back. But I did have a reason for calling other than to talk. I've got some bad news, though."
Danny was quiet, and slowly looked at Holly, "What is it?"
"Sarge. It's Sarge, he was wounded. "
"Oh my God!" Danny said, barely audible. "Is he…? Is he gonna be ok? When did it happen?" Holly walked over to Danny and put her hand on his arm, squeezing it, making him know that she was there.
"Danny, him, Taylor and the Lt. took a whole group of newbies out on patrol. A newbie thought it was VC coming through, he shot, and it was Sarge and a small patrol looking for a place to cross a river. It him in the side. Taylor called about 10 minutes ago." There was a pause.
"They're pretty sure that he's gonna be ok, but they're not 100 percent sure. Look Danny, the main reason that I was callin' was, Sarge was always there for us, do you think that we should go and be there for him. They're going to transfer him to the hospital in Saigon, a GI hospital."
"Ya, I think we should go." Danny shivered as the thought about an injured Sarge.
"Danny, I called Johnson, and he wants to go to, because him and Sarge go way back. Taylor said that the Lieutenant called around and from Berlin there's a small flight of GI's going to Tan Son Nhut."
Danny broke in, "I'll call and make reservations about the plane tickets. There's someone that I want to bring with though, if that's ok with you, and I'm sure that Johnson wouldn't mind." He winked at Holly and she smiled, a curious look on her face. "I'll get four tickets. I know it's not the best place to take her, but I think it'd help Sarge if she was there. I'll call you back with the information in like 20 minutes, k?"
They both said their goodbyes and hung up. Holly looked at Danny, "ME?" He shook his head yes. "You wanna take me to Vietnam? But I have to work, and we can't leave your mom here all alone."
He smiled at her, "I know that you've done a lot of studyin' about Vietnam, and you always listen to me when I tell you little things about there, we'll be there a week tops, and I'll keep you safe."
She squealed, "I'd love to!" She hugged him tightly.
"I'll talk to my mom, but first I'm gonna call and make airline reservations."
Danny called the airlines and got two plane tickets leaving from Montana to New York and he made a quick call to Johnson who reserved a plane ticket from Alabama to New York.
Danny called Ruiz, "Hey. I got two tickets from here to New York, and Johnson got one from him to you. His flight leaves in two hours, and ours leaves in three. We'll get there about 11:30 or so, you wanna meet us at the airport at our terminal. Johnson said that'd be the best place to meet. We'll fly to Berlin, but hey wait a minute, how are we gonnna get onto that flight that goes to Vietnam?"
He began to swear lightly, realizing that they missed the biggest part of the problem."
Danny laughed, "Hey man, I had told Taylor to have the Lt. call me back, and he did, and he talked with a friend who got us four seats on that flight."
Danny sighed a relief. "Well thank god! Then I'll see you at like 9:30 or so. Bye."
Holly looked at him, "Do we have a way to get there?"
"Yep, My old Lt. hooked us up. We gotta leave here by 2:00 this afternoon. That means two hours. Let's go talk to my mom."
They both went outside to the stables and Danny's mom said that she could go, just bring back some gifts and to be extra careful and give her best wishes to Zeke. Danny and Holly walked back to the house, "Well, I'm gonna go get my clothes and stuff, usually I take my horse home, but do you think that I could borrow your truck, and do you think we could leave a little earlier, and stop at the clothes store for like 10 minutes."
"Sure, here's my keys, treat my baby good. And if you wanna stop, make sure that you're here by 1:15." She waved goodbye, hoped into the truck and went down the road to her house.
45 minutes later, Holly pulled up in Danny's truck back at the ranch. She walked into the house, "Danny. I'm ready! Got my passport and everything!" Danny come walking out of his room, "I'm ready too. We gotta get going if you wanna stop at the store quick. Let's go say bye to my mom." They both walked out the door, Danny through his stuff into the back of his truck, then walked with Holly to the barn to say goodbye.
Danny and Holly stopped at the clothing store quick before they went to the airport. Danny helped her pick out some clothes to take with. "I know what the weather is like over there. This stuff will keep you as covered as possible, but as cool as possible."
She paid for their stuff.
On the plane
Danny and Holly had made it to the airport with no problem at all. "Danny?"
Holly had her head resting against the back of the seat in the airplane, "You never really said anything about the guys that you were with. If I'm going to meet them, I gotta know at least a little something about them. If you don't mind talking about it."
Danny smiled thinking about the guys, "No, I don't mind talking about them at all. Let's see where to begin. Ok, let's start with Ru. I've been the closest with him out of the whole bunch. We were newbies together. He was the machine gunner. He's really religious in his own little way, and he's the best friend that I've ever had.
Johnson was always the leader out of the guys. He always kept it cool. Never lost his head. He extended his tour a little while to stay with us guys, then he went home and he's been doing really good with everyone.
Now Taylor. Marcus Taylor is one of the sneakest guys that I have ever met, he used to take as much money from everyone as he could. He's a great guy and will do anything for you.
Now Lt. He's one of kind. He started with our platoon about the same time that me and Ru did, and even I could see that if he didn't straighten his act up, he was gonna end up goin home in a body bag. But as time went on, he turned out to be one of the best men that I have ever met. He helped me a lot while I was going through a rough time.
Then there's Sarge. Sarge is the best man that I have ever met. He would do anything for the men under his command. He can tell what's wrong before you even open your mouth, and jesus he was unstoppable, I never thought it would be him with a bullet in him." Danny grew quiet as he thought about Sarge.
"Danny, it's ok. Didn't Ru say that he was going to be fine? And he'll be a lot better when you two show up. He'll be fine." Holly took his hand in hers and gently squeezed it. "I know this isn't exactly how you ever thought you'd go back there, but I'm looking forward to meeting the men that you lived with for over a year."
"That's alright. If Sarge's gonna be fine, than this is a perfect time to go back. It's hard to be back home again and not having those guys there with me to help me through it."
Holly and Danny, Ruiz, and Johnson caught the plane to Vietnam, and the plane landing without any troubles. "Holly, I'm going to warn you. When they open that door the heat'll drive you crazy. I'm just giving you a little warning so that you can prepare a little." The stewardess wished all the men good luck before she opened the door.
As everyone filed out, Holly looked at Danny and saw the confused and almost scared look on his face. "Danny, you okay?"
He looked at her, swallowed and nodded. "Just a lotta memories comin back is all. Sarge has no idea that we're coming." She put her hand on his shoulder and rubbed it softly.
She followed Danny out of the plane, then walked beside him while he walked down the dusty path, to the chopper that was going to take them to Camp Barnett.
After the helicopter landed, Danny helped Holly off and they began walking. The four passed buildings and more buildings. Finally the three men stopped in front of a hootch. "Danny?" He just stood there. "Danny? You ok?"
He turned to her, "Hmm? Ya I'm fine, but this is my hootch. This is where I stayed." Each man gave the other two a knowing stare.
She smiled inwardly, now knowing a huge part of Danny's tour of duty. "Well, don't stand out there. Let's go inside. I'm kinda excited."
Ruiz walked to the door and pulled it open. He slowly stepped inside. No one was around. "Taylor and the newbies must be on a mission." The three made themselves comfortable on the empty cots.
Danny looked at Holly, "Well, you might as well sit down, because it could be awhile."
Three hours later the door opened and in stepped Taylor. "TAYLOR!" Ruiz yelled. The men all gathered into a circle, hugging each other.
The team's back together. She thought.
After they had all said their hellos, Danny broke away from the group, and went to Holly. "Come on, I wanna introduce you to Taylor."
She got up and shyly walked to Taylor. "Taylor, I'd like you to meet Holly, Holly, this is Taylor." She smiled as Taylor stepped closer and hugged her.
"Well, it's good to meet you. Danny's been writing about you lately." Danny blushed. "Oh, I guess you didn't know. Sorry Danny." Taylor grinned and shrugged.
Johnson said, "Well, where's Sarge. It's been a lot longer since I've seen him, and I miss him."
Taylor said, "Ya, he doesn't look like the same Sarge, cause he's laid up, but he's still got the personality. He's roping in a buncha nurses. Let me show ya where he is, and I made sure that there were enough beds for you guys to stay here in.