Note: This post was written by me from a writing prompt in my Vet Center PTSD peer support group. The Prompt was “Dreams”.
When his daughter told him she wanted to go fishing, he didn’t know if he was dreaming or not. She was supposed to be dead, but he didn’t want her dead.
“How am I going to teach you to fish when I’ve never done it?” he asked. “I don’t own a fishing rod.”
“Look, Dad, I’m not going to be around much longer.” Amie was nine. “Everything the doctors tried has failed. The treatments have been worse than the Leukemia.” She covered her bald head with the spread fingers of both hands. “I hate being bald. I want my hair back. I want to live my final months without the treatment pain, and I want to start by learning how to fish together. Then we can go skydiving or go skiing in South America when it’s summer here.”
“I’ve never skied,” he replied.
“We’ll learn together,” she said and took his hand in both of hers. “This is going to be fun and you’ll have pleasant memories of us doing things together after I’m gone. That’s what I want.”
Warm tears flooded his eyes. He didn’t want to lose her too. He’d already lost his wife to a hit-and-run driver when they’d been out riding bicycles together as a family. He’d witnessed it happen. He’d also seen the car’s license plate before the driver sped off, but he didn’t report that to the police. He wanted to execute the murderer himself, and he knew who’d help him. They were all in the same Marine Corps unit and had been deployed together several times to Iraq and then Afghanistan.
Wait, how could they help him? They’d all been killed in the same ambush in Afghanistan where he’d been taken prisoner by terrorists.
“Don’t go, Dad!” Amie said. “You can’t leave. We have to go fishing again.”
But her voice faded and was gone, and he opened his eyes to darkness. The air was frigid and stuffy. He tried to straighten his legs but couldn’t because the space he was in was to small. He explored it with his hands. It seemed he was in a rusty metal box that was about a foot high, two feet wide and five feet long. He tried to scream but his tongue was swollen, his throat raw, and his lips scabbed. His rectum also hurt and then he remembered how they had stripped him naked, and tied him face down to a metal rack before taking turns sodomizing him.
He heard metal screech and then the top of the metal box opened letting in blinding light. He blinked but couldn’t clear his vision. He felt rough hands grab him and drag him from the cramped box. He was slapped. He was punched. He felt blood running from his nose. He wanted to fight back, to resist, but he was too weak.
Then they were tying him to a metal lattice and lowering him into a pit full of a brown slop that smelled like shit. Once his body was immersed, he had to lean his head back as far as possible to keep his mouth out of the crap so he could breathe.
“Dad, Dad,” he heard Amie’s voice say. “Do you hear me? It’s okay. I’m right here with you. I’m not dead. You were rescued. You’re in a military hospital. You aren’t a prisoner anymore, and leukemia didn’t get me. Remember? And I’m not nine. I’m twenty. We’re going to get through this together. I want you back, Dad. You’re all the family I have.”
He hoped Amie’s voice was real.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.
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Powerful story, Lloyd. It makes my heart ache. Good job.