*Author’s Note: The medical board is obviously fictitious. The proceedings and timelines aren’t accurate, but they’re ‘close enough for government work’. 🙂
“You’re lucky. It was a clean break. I’d say you’ll be out of the cast in four weeks. From there we’ll reassess and see how long you’ll need to be in a splint.”
“So…no more jumping out of perfectly good airplanes?”
The Navy doctor laughed and said, “No. None. At least not for a couple of months.”
He waited then looked at the young Marine lieutenant and said, “And the next time you do, try not to fuck it up, okay?”
The Marine laughed even though breaking his ankle on the last jump of his training wasn’t funny. By virtue of completing this final jump at night (or what turned out to be very early in the morning), he’d earned the right to wear the coveted gold jump wings awarded to Marines who were in an ANGLICO unit which stood for Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. He was assigned to 2nd ANGLICO at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and had somehow been blessed by the gods to get that very coveted assignment within two months of having been promoted to first lieutenant.
“I’ll do my best, sir,” was the sheepish reply.
“I’ll send your prescription to the pharmacy, and a corpsman will hook you up with some crutches. And I’m giving you a no-duty chit for 10 days.”
“Wait. No duty? Sir, can’t it be light duty so I can at least go to work?”
“Oh, sure. Why didn’t I think of that? I’m only a medical doctor who went through medical school, residency and specialty training, so what do I know, right?” the Navy Lieutenant, the equivalent of a Marine captain, said as he slapped the junior officer on the shoulder. “Just stay off that ankle as much as you can.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” the younger officer said, feeling like a fool for asking such a stupid question. Then again, anything that might keep him away from the job he loved was something he couldn’t stand, and a no-duty chit fit the bill. And it meant he’d be taking copious amounts of shit from Marines of every rank for being a non-hacker. Enlisted Marines would be careful in the way they got their digs in, but no one escaped, and 1stLt Dan Knight wouldn’t be an exception to the rule.
Just as the doc said, a young corpsman came in with the crutches a couple of minutes later and made sure they were the proper size.
“Okay, Lieutenant. You’re good to go. Just stop by the pharmacy on your way out. Oh. And be sure to take this to your unit.”
He handed him the dreaded no-duty chit, a true badge of shame for any officer, then walked out to take care of the next patient.
“Just freakin’ great,” Dan said as he carefully folded it up before putting it in his wallet then giving the crutches a first go.
He got back to the main lobby then looked at the signs until he saw ‘Pharmacy’ and an arrow pointing him in the right direction. He already felt a growing sense of shame as he hobbled down the shiny tile floor, hoping he wouldn’t run into anyone he knew. Then again, if everyone in the unit didn’t already know, they would by tomorrow morning. Still, not having to deal with anyone in person for now would be pretty nice.
He finally made it to the lobby of the pharmacy and realized he’d never used it before as he got behind two other people ahead of him who were waiting there turn to get a ticket.
“Just like the barber shop,” Dan mused to himself as he looked at the machine to see how it worked.
The first person was an active-duty Marine who held his ID card under an infrared reader until it beeped then followed the menu prompts on the screen in front of him until it spit out a ticket with a number on it with the number indicating where he was in the queue. It looked simple enough, so he watched as the other person in front of him got ready to do the same thing.
This person was most likely a dependent as it was a woman who looked to be in her early 30s. She had a son with her, and as she got out her ID card, she couldn’t get the reader to take it. She had it turned upside down, but Dan didn’t want to embarrass her.
“Mom. Let me try,” her son said. “I know how to do it.”
He took it and turned it over, but it still didn’t work.
“Hold on,” the boy said before turning it back over again. He wasn’t lining up the bar code on the back with the red light, but Dan didn’t want to embarrass the boy, either.
“Maybe we should ask someone,” his mother said as she looked behind her to see how many people she was holding up. Seeing Dan, she smiled then made her case.
“Sorry. We’ve never done this,” she said to the young Marine on crutches, a helpless look on her face.
“May I help?” he asked.
The boy turned around and as soon as he saw they gold jump wings, his eyes got big as he said, “Cool!”
The wings had been pinned on by the unit commander as two other Marines helped him stand up after everyone had completed the jump, broken ankle and all.
Dan smiled at the woman then asked her son, “Can I maybe give it a whirl?”
The boy handed ataköy escort him his mom’s ID card without asking, so Dan looked at her to get her approval.
“Yes, please! If you don’t mind, that would be very nice of you,” she said, a smile on her very pretty face.
He took it, turned it the right way, then held it steady at the same height the first guy had held his. The machine beeped and spat out another ticket. The noise scared the woman and she yelped while taking a step back.
Her son laughed, and her mom said, “It scared me!” before turning to Dan who was holding her card out for her to take.
“Thank you so much!” she said as she took it then told her son they needed to go find a seat.
Dan scanned his in about two seconds and pulled his ticket out then took a look around. The place was packed, and so he took the only open seat he could find and waited. After watching for less than a minute, he could see that he’d be called up once as a part of the process then told to sit back down and wait.
The first call came in about five minutes. He made his way to Window
, showed his ID card and ticket then got half the ticket back and was told to take a seat by the civilian in the booth, just as he’d expected.
The information board said the wait was 45 minutes which probably meant at least an hour, but there was nothing he could do about that. He was in uniform, and active duty in uniform had priority, but so were a ton of other sailors and Marines who had priority over dependents and retirees.
When he went to sit back down, his old seat was occupied, but someone got up who was sitting next to the boy whose mom he’d helped, and he waved Dan over to sit next to him. Just as he did, his mom got called up for her first round and told her son to save her seat as she got up without noticing the young Marine who’d scanned her ID.
“Okay, Mom!” he replied as Dan sat down and got out his iPhone to kill some time.
He opened an app for a mystery puzzle game called ‘The Room 3’ and continued where he’d left off and started searching for the next clue to get to the next room to eventually escape.
“That’s really cool,” the boy said unaware he was being rude by leaning over and looking.
Dan was aware but didn’t mind. The game had the best graphics he’d ever seen on any app and knew it was a magnet for any boy that age, or for a lot of men his age and older.
“Oh, hey. Yeah, these are great. Do you like puzzle games like this?”
“Uh-huh,” the boy said as he leaned in closer. “What do you have to do?”
Dan patiently explained how the game worked and what was required to keep moving on.
“Do you get any help?” the boy asked.
“Yes. See this question mark in the upper left corner? When it lights up, it’ll give you a clue. The first one is usually vague then you get one that’s better, and finally they pretty much tell you where to look. But you can turn off hints if you’re brave enough.”
“So it’s like Myst,” the boy said.
“Ah, so you are a gamer,” Dan replied, surprised a boy that young had heard of a game that came out many years ago. But there was a new version of it, so perhaps he’d seen it or even played it.
The boy beamed then said his dad used to play Myst.
“Oh, okay. Yeah, that was before my time, too.”
“But they remade it,” the boy told him. “And it’s almost as nice as this game as far as the graphics.”
His mom came back, and when she saw him leaning over, said, “If my son is bothering you, please tell me, okay?”
Dan smiled at her and assured her he wasn’t.
“He’s a real connoisseur,” Dan told her.
When she laughed, the boy asked what that meant.
“It means you’re kind of like an expert,” his mom explained.
“Oh!” was all he said, a happy smile on his face before turning back to the man in uniform.
“Here. You want to play?” he asked the boy before remembering he should probably ask his mother. “If it’s okay with your mom.”
“Believe it or not, he forgot his phone at the house,” she said as she looked over her son. “That’s surprising because I often feel like it’s been surgically attached to his hands!”
“Mom!” the boy complained before asking, “so…can I?”
“Yes you…may,” she replied, correcting his grammar.
But because her son was so excited to play the game with the amazing graphics, he didn’t hear anything she said after the word ‘yes’.
“Cool!” he said as he took Dan’s phone.
“What do you tell the nice man?”
The boy looked up then kind of sheepishly said, “Thank you.”
“No problem. Have fun.”
“I haven’t been to a base pharmacy in…gee…several years,” the woman said as she looked at the flat screen monitors hung every few feet that had all the numbers of them. “Do you know why some numbers start with ‘C’ and some with ‘E’ or other letters?”
He leaned over to talk around the boy then said, “Hey, buddy. Could we switch seats?”
Without looking up or saying a word, the boy stood up, waited, then sat in the other seat as Dan avcılar escort slid over and sat next to the pretty blonde.
“Sorry. My name’s Charlotte,” the woman told him, a warm smile on her face.
“Hi, Charlotte. I’m Dan.”
“Thank you again for helping me out. The card reader thing is new to me. They didn’t have that the last time I was at a base pharmacy.”
“Same here,” Dan replied. “Well, the new part anyway.”
He didn’t tell her he’d never used a military pharmacy before.
“Wait. Seriously?” she asked.
“Um, yes. I’ve never used the pharmacy before,” he reluctantly admitted, his relative lack of time in the military always on his mind.
She looked at his foot then asked what happened.
“If you don’t mind telling me.”
“It’s a little embarrassing, but I uh, I broke it when I landed.”
“Landed?” she asked, her brown furrowed indicating she didn’t understand.
“Parachute jump. My last one to finish qualifying for the gold wings.”
He looked down to just above his left breast pocket and so did Charlotte.
“Those are very pretty,” she said before apologizing a half second later. “Sorry. That is not what I meant.”
Dan chuckled and told her it was fine.
“They uh, they are kind of pretty, aren’t they,” he told her as the pain medication he’d been given began kicking in.
She laughed and said they looked very nice.
“May I ask what they mean? I see they look like a parachute, but is there something…unique about them?”
Dan spent a couple of minutes explaining what ANGLICO was, how he got assigned there, what had to be done to earn the coveted wings of gold, then told her as much about the only other Marines who could wear them—Force Recon—as he knew.
“My husband was a Navy corpsman, and I should know a lot more about the military, but I’m afraid I still can’t really tell a petty officer from an admiral,” Charlotte admitted.
“I’ve only been on active duty for 26 months myself, so I’m no expert,” Dan told her.
He’d gone to the Naval Academy, but even so, there was a ton more he didn’t know, even about the Marine Corps, than he did know, let alone the other services. Admitting it was painful, but the code he lived by didn’t allow him to lie, cheat, or steal.
“Is your husband retired?” Dan asked, not sure if she could be that old. Then again, he might be older than her, so it wasn’t out of the question.
“Oh. No. He…”
She leaned closer then said, “He was killed in Afghanistan in 2012.”
She looked to make sure her son wasn’t listening then even more quietly said, “By an IED.”
“I…I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s okay. Thank you, though. We were stationed at Camp Pendleton, but I’m originally from Jacksonville…North Carolina,” she said making sure he knew she didn’t mean Florida.
Jacksonville advertised itself as the home of Camp Lejeune, and had been a Marine town forever.
“We just moved back, and to my extreme surprise, we got assigned to the base hospital for primary care. Wyatt has asthma, so this is our first visit to a base in…I guess that would be eight years or so. We got our primary care off base in California, and that’s what I expected here, too.”
“Oh, okay. I understand. And Wyatt is your son’s name, right?”
“Yes. And you said ‘Dan’, right?”
“Yes. Dan Knight.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you…”
She looked at the silver bars on his collar then shrugged.
Dan laughed and said, “Lieutenant. But please call me Dan.”
He smiled then also said, “Just not…LOO-ten-ent Dan, okay?”
Had he not done the southern accent like Forest Gump, Charlotte wouldn’t have got it. But that gave it away, and she promised she wouldn’t even as she laughed.
“Mom! Look!” Wyatt called out.
“What’s going on, honey?” she asked as she leaned in front of Dan to see.
Her son held out the phone and explained how he’d just found some object he needed to turn on a power source in the game.
“Oh. Nice!” she said, having no idea what that meant.
“This game is SO cool!” he told her as he went back to playing it.
“I apologize if I’m contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” Dan said, making sure Wyatt couldn’t hear.
Charlotte laughed immediately and told him she might have to turn him in.
“But on the other hand, he doesn’t have any friends here yet, so I’m happy to let him do something he enjoys.”
She paused then looked at Dan again and said, “So thank you for letting him use your phone. He can’t seem to live without it. I…I swear he’s addicted!”
“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m kind of addicted myself.”
She laughed again then said, “That’s understandable, right? I mean, you grew up with cell phones and the like, didn’t you?”
“Hey, wait a second. I think you just called me a kid,” Dan teased, pretending to be offended.
“What? No! I did not. I promise,” Charlotte assured him immediately.
She glanced at him then said, “If I did, that’s not what I meant at all.”
Dan beylikdüzü escort could tell she felt bad for saying it even though it was true. He couldn’t ever remember a time when there wasn’t a cell phone in his home growing up, so he chuckled then told her he took no offense.
“None of us chooses when we’re born, right?” Dan said with a smile. “Or who our parents are, for that matter.”
Charlotte was enjoying talking with him and laughed again.
“I won’t call you Lieutenant Dan, but I may have to start calling you Captain Obvious.”
“Ouch!” Dan replied, as he put a hand over his heart.
“Are you okay?” Wyatt asked out of nowhere.
Dan and his mom and heard it at the same time. She looked at Dan then laughed. When she laughed, he did, too.
“I’m okay, buddy. Your mom just kind of hit me with a cheap shot.”
“What?” he asked, completely confused.
“Go back to your game, Wyatt,” his mom said as she smiled at Dan again.
Neither Dan nor Charlotte spoke for a couple of minutes, not sure what to say, but both of them wanted to continue their conversation.
“So how are you getting home?” Charlotte asked.
“Oh, yeah. That reminds me. I need to call the duty driver and have him come get me. I got a ride with a friend who lives a block away, and the unit corpsman brought me over here.”
He asked Wyatt if he could borrow his phone, and Wyatt handed it back to him.
“Don’t worry. I’ll only be a minute,” Dan promised. “And it’ll remember where you were.”
He heard the duty clerk at the unit answer the phone and said, “Hey. This is Lieutenant Knight. Can you send the duty driver to the base hospital and have him meet me at the main entrance in about…”
Dan looked at his watch, but before he could answer, the young lance corporal said, “Sir? The CO is using the duty driver right now and won’t be back until 1300.”
It didn’t really matter who was using the CO’s vehicle because he couldn’t order anyone to let him have it. But since it was the ANGLICO commander himself, Dan only smiled and thanked the 19-year old Marine for his help.
“Any luck?” Charlotte asked as Dan handed his phone back to Wyatt.
“No. Looks like I’ll have to give someone a call,” he told her as the automated voice said, “now serving number E371 at Window number 5.”
Dan was A315, and there were still four ‘A’ tickets ahead of him.
“I’m getting close,” Charlotte said as she checked her ticket for the tenth time.
She was E382 meaning she probably had at least another 15 minutes left to wait.
Dan told her she was indeed getting there, then Charlotte surprised him when she said, “I can give you a ride.”
Again, Wyatt perked out of the blue and said, “Can you, Mom?”
She smiled then said to Dan, “I think someone likes you, Lieutenant.”
“He’s a good kid,” Dan told her as he looked at Wyatt who smiled at him then asked his mom again if they could give him a ride.
“Yes. But that’s not up to me,” she told her son while looking at Dan for a response.
“I don’t want to put you out, Charlotte. I have to stop at my unit and drop off my no-d…some paperwork before I can go home.”
“That’s okay. I took the whole day off, and we don’t have anything else to do, and I’m happy to help out,” she told him.
“You’re sure it’s not a bother?”
“Yes. It’s no problem at all.”
“Then…okay. Thank you very much.”
“You’re very welcome,” she said as Wyatt said ‘YES!’ and did a fist pump.
As it worked out, Dan only finished up about two or three minutes before Charlotte as two more Navy pharmacy mates filled windows 7 and 8 and began calling ‘E’ tickets.
“That worked out rather nicely,” Charlotte said as she walked over to Dan after picking up several inhalers for her son.
He laughed and said, “Yeah, it’s almost like someone was looking out for us.”
Charlotte laughed and told him, “Maybe so,” before letting him know which way to walk.
But after a few steps with the crutches she said, “Hold on. Why don’t you go out front, and we’ll go get the car and meet you. Is that okay?”
The front door was just 30-40 feet away, but her car was a good 200 yards from where they were with about 50-75 of the yards being part of the building itself.
“Can I stay with him?” Wyatt asked. It was more like begging, and his mom was going to tell him ‘no’, but Dan put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and Charlotte gave in.
“Okay. But stay with Dan, okay?”
“I will!” Wyatt promised as he beamed from ear to ear.
When they got to the main door, Wyatt ran ahead and opened it for the peg-legged Marine and Dan thanked him.
“You’re welcome!” the boy told him, the smile still glued to his face.
“You’re pretty awesome, Wyatt.”
“Your mom is really nice, too,” Dan told him.
“Not…all…the time,” Wyatt informed him as Dan tried not to laugh.
But the smile on his face disappeared when Wyatt hesitated then added, “But that’s just because she’s so lonely.”
“Why is your mom lonely?” Dan asked as tactfully as he could.
“I don’t know. I think she worries about no one wanting to marry her because of me.”
“Well, yeah. I heard her tell my Grandma once how I’ll be a teenager in a few years, and nobody likes teenagers.”