Copyright© 2021 by Charly Young
Just before Quinn mustered out, the Gunny suggested (strongly) he sign up with the VA as soon as he got home to get help to deal with the PTSD that was sure to come. He had limited success with the VA’s program. His fault he knew—for the process to work you had to share your thoughts, experiences and feelings—something he was willing to do, but couldn’t. As soon as they heard what he had to say, they’d be locking him up and throwing away the key.
Nobody alive had experienced what he’d been through.
He had agreed to attend the poker game because that was something a regular guy would do—play poker with his buddies twice a month. He wanted to be a regular guy. He was grateful that they had invited him. The game was as close as he could come to being back with his platoon.
He arrived at the Gunny’s combination garage and workshop to find Billy and the Nun in the middle of an argument.
Billy O’Day, a former grunt from the 10th Mountain, had some serious burn scars, a prosthetic hand and a bubbly irreverent outlook on life. He had no censor between his mouth and his brain. If a thought popped into his head, he said it.
He had named Captain Mary Agnes O’Malley, the Nun, because of a seventh-grade teacher he’d had at St Mary’s Catholic School in Philadelphia with that exact name.
Mary Agnes was no nun however, a fifty something retired CSH operating room nurse, she was profane and profoundly cynical. Mary Agnes put up with the name good naturedly; she gave as good as she got. She was also a lesbian—a source of endless fascination for Billy.
“Gunny, for Christ’s sake, go get me a ruler,” she said. “I can see there was too much Mr. Rogers in this boy’s childhood. He’s not okay by any stretch, but two good whacks across the knuckles on his good hand might make him fit for polite society.”
Billy jerked his right hand behind his back and grinned at her.
“What’s going on, Barbie,” Quinn whispered. Warrant officer Barbara Sessions was a burn scarred former medivac chopper pilot. Billie had named her Barbie over her vociferous objections. He had stopped slinging Ken jokes after Barbie had pulled a knife out of her boot and threatened to cut off an ear after he had offered to help find her a Ken one too many times. Quinn pulled her up short before things got out of control. Barbie, a serious weightlifter, could wring Billy’s neck like a chicken, as she often threatened too.
“Hey Doc, ‘bout time you showed up. Dumb ass here found out next Saturday is Mary Agnes’ birthday. So he’s been going on and on about how we should all take her to Honey’s and buy her some beer and table dances as a birthday present.”
Quinn settled down to his spot at the end of the table that was closest to the door. If he was in a room full of people, he needed to be close to the exit. He’d learned that the particular lesson way after an embarrassing date in one of Seattle’s fancy restaurants.
The LT called Billie and Barbie, the twins, maybe because they were both carrying burn scars, or more likely because they were both bat-shit crazy. Excitable, LT called them with his understated southern drawl.
The LT was a big solid black guy, a medically discharged Texas A&M graduate from the 4th Stryker Brigade. He had almost made it through his second deployment when a bit of hot shrapnel from an IED sliced through his cheek and right eye. He was due for a prosthetic eye, so he wore a patch. Billy called him the Pirate (behind his back).
Mulcahy was The Gunny, a marine with a prosthetic foot. The eldest of the group, he’d almost made his twenty before he got wounded. He was a proto-typical gunny—he projected an effortless calm leadership.
Quinn was Navy, an HM2 corpsman. He figured he was the lucky one. He’d come through four deployments with the second of the sixth marines without a scratch. There was no doubt in his mind that he was the craziest of the bunch. While the others suffered PTSD from the combat they’d experienced, Quinn’s had roots that stretched farther back. Billy had tried to name him Doc Quinn, Medicine Woman. But he only did it once. Quinn had zero ego, but he’d earned the Doc title. Months into his first deployment, when the gunnery sergeant finally called for Doc Quinn instead of that f•©king squid, Quinn felt like they’d awarded him the Navy Cross.