The Sorrow of War
Summary: Darry, Soda, and Pony, knew what it was like to be at war with people they barely knew. For as long as they could remember the three of them had been fighting the clash of social classes in their own city. However, nothing can prepare them for the sorrow of war when Darry is drafted to Vietnam in one of the most controversial wars in American history. Darry is forced to leave Soda and Pony behind in a broken foster home and venture into the savagery over seas. Meanwhile America is experiencing a rash social upheaval, drawing teens by the dozens to the anti-war demonstrations of the counterculture. Will Pony and Soda become contaminated after losing their last brick of stability? And will Darry live to see the peace-pleading insanity?
Note: Rated T for language and drug use in later chapters.
I wasn't sure what to think, or say, or do, when the bus drove off that carried my brother away. With Mom and Dad and Johnny and Dallas it was all so sudden we didn't have time to think about it. It wasn't like this. This was worse. This we knew about and couldn't prepare for. It was cruel and unusual punishment. And for what? What had we done this time?
Pony turned pleading eyes to me and I gave him the best It'll-be-okay-I-promise smile I could offer. He quickly looked back down at his shoes telling me he didn't buy it. I didn't buy it either. War wasn't for people like Darry. Darry was twenty years old with too much to handle as it was. After Mom and Dad died Darry had done everything in his power to make sure we weren't taken from him. And for what?
The social worker cleared his throat sympathetically and looked at us with knowing eyes. I knew what he wanted. He wanted me to understand that he was trying to understand what it must feel like to lose another person. He wanted us to know that life went on and he had places to go and people to see and things to do. Oddly, I understood this.
"Got everything Pone?" I asked unnecessarily. Darry had helped the two of us load our things into the second vehicle before he left. Our lawyer, Mr. Lee, had pulled as many strings possible to ensure that Pony and I were in the same home. It wasn't easy considering how over populated the foster care system was, but after explaining our 'circumstances' a family had finally decided to take us in together. Pony and I had only met them once before Darry had to leave. Including Pony and I, they had eight foster kids.
"Yeah. It's all in there," He answered, turning on his heel abruptly and walking to the car. He sent me one last pleading look before opening the door to the backseat and climbing in. I felt like a failure. If only I was a few years older, then Pony and I could stay at our house and I could keep my job at the DX. Things would be better then. Not good, but better.
"You ready Sodapop?" The social worker asked, smoothing down his tie patiently. I nodded curtly before following the same motions my brother had. Before I could enter the car though, the man placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
"Mrs. James will drive you to your new…temporary house," He informed me, gesturing to the lady in the driver's seat. "I'll be right behind you guys with your things. Just, ah, call me if you need anything," He said, handing me a business card before walking towards the vehicle with our luggage in it. I stared down at the card emotionlessly, taking notice of the name.
Mr. J. P. McMurphy
Special Investigator for Child Protective Services
Office Phone: 985-6087
I noticed that he didn't say we were going to our new home, and for that I liked him. I hastily shoved the card into my back pocket and climbed into the car beside my brother.
I snuck one last glance at my brothers through the bus window, thinking how I must be the worst brother in the world for leaving them like this. They didn't deserve this. Pony was still getting over Johnny's death, and Soda wasn't completely recovered from Sandy. Silently I began to list all the reason why the life of Darrel Curtis sucked. I stopped somewhere around reason twenty-four when the sudden desire to stop the bus and run back to my brothers overcame me. I didn't want to leave them. I missed them. And I had only been away for…thirty-three minutes.
I was a twenty-year old kid who knew nothing about the war or Vietnam or fighting. Up until they had dragged me to basic training, I had never even shot a gun before. I never needed to. All the while I made sure to hide how much the sound of a firing gun bothered me to my brothers. I didn't need them worrying about things like that. Still, the bullets through the air…the sound of metal penetrating through human flesh…it reminded me of Dallas.
For a complete twenty seconds I was sure I was going to be sick. I had thought about telling the bus driver to pull over so I wouldn't make a fool of myself by throwing up all over the bus floor. But then the feeling past and I was left alone with my thoughts again. I made a promise to Dallas right then that I would never shoot another person. Not ever. No matter what.
I wanted nothing more than to fall into a dreamless sleep, but all I could think about was Pony and Soda's faces as I drove away. They were losing another person right when things were starting to look up. Pony and I had promised to stop fighting and his grades were up to par and Soda was almost seventeen. He was trying to talk me into letting him ride at Buck's for his birthday which I had told him would happen when hell froze over. I only hoped he listened to me. The last thing I needed was for him to get hurt while I was away.
The bus stopped to let on more anxious soldiers, both drafted and otherwise, and the rallies outside were getting stronger the closer we got the big cities. I had heard a lot about the protests and activists, but living in a small town sheltered us from those types of things. A beer bottle hit the bus window and shattered on impact. Guys with long, greasy, hair and girls with heavy peace-sign necklaces ranted and raved.
At least my brothers are away from this, I thought. This…is absolute madness.
This story is inspired by the book, The Sorrow of War, by Bao Ninh. Comments/questions/reviews are much appreciated.