From last time ...
"Mackey, find a gas station, will you? I need the ladies."
"Sure. First one I find."
And now ...
Mackey sat in the Jeep and waited for Sarah to come out of the 'Ladies'. He tried to calm the mild tremble in his hand as it lay on the steering wheel. He was still coming down from the adrenalin high of the shooting. It had been years since he'd felt 'The Rush' and it surprised him when it hit. He hadn't felt it since Saipan, and Saipan was a long time ago. It had scared him then, and it scared him now. It tasted too good.
"That was the best 50 cents I've ever spent."
Sarah had come out of restroom and plopped herself in the seat. She startled Mackey when she did.
"What were you thinking about? You almost jumped out of the seat."
"Nothing. Just reliving some old memories. We'd better get moving. Billy will be wondering where the hell we are."
"Do you mind if I sleep?"
Sarah looked a bit haggard, and Mackey thought sleep might not be a bad idea.
"No, Sarah, you go right ahead."
Mackey pulled out of the station driveway and headed west, toward the highway that would take them back to Ma's, and the Diner, and the gravel road the would lead to the line shack.
As he drove, Mackey's mind went back to the events of the day, and then further back, to WWII and Guadalcanal and Jake Bertrett. He remembered the day Bertrett left Guadalcanal. Jake was covered in bandages and lay on a litter, waiting to be loaded into the mike boat that would take him out to the hospital ship.
"Gimme a smoke, will ya, Sarge?"
"Sure, Jake. Here, I just lit this."
"Thanks, Sarge. Ahh. That's good."
"You take it easy, Jake. You're gonna be okay, and you're goin' home."
"I don't wanna go home, Sergeant Mackey. Just let them fix me up and put me back out there."
"Can't do it, Jake. The Doc says you're done. They're never gonna get all the scrap out of you - you're gonna carry pieces of that mine inside you forever. They're gonna Med you out and there ain't nuthin' you or me or anybody can do about it."
"That's crap. I've got work to do."
"No, Jake, you're done. When you get back to Hawaii they're probably gonna give you the Silver Star. Just take it, take the Medical Discharge and go home, Jake. You've done enough."
"But Donnellan died ...."
"Yes, he did, Jake. In your arms, I know. But there's nothing you can do anymore. I put Donnellan's stuff in his seabag and tied it to yours, so when you get back on your feet, you take his stuff to his folks, okay? Will you do that, Jake? Will you do that for Donnellan?"
"I don't know, Sarge. How do I face his folks?"
"He was your spotter, Jake, you owe him that much."
"Okay. I'll do it, Sarge. As soon as I get on my feet. But Sarge? Will you do me a favor?"
"Sure, Jake. What do ya need?"
"Ship my rifle home, will ya?"
"I'll see what I can do, Jake. I don't know if they'll allow it. But I'll try."
Mackey glanced back over his shoulder at the end of the tube sticking out from under the camouflage netting. Inside that tube was Jake's rifle. The one he shipped to Jake from Guadalcanal, all those years ago.
The trembling in his hand stopped. He glanced at the sleeping Sarah.
This is right, Jake. She's a good woman and this is right.