As promised! Merry Christmas everyone! Here's a bit of Blood is Thicker Than Water that ended on the cutting room floor! I hope you enjoy!!
Jonathan Greene lay awake, staring at the ceiling in his fiancée’s house. It was the first year he was not celebrating his father’s birthday in Ireland. Patrick Senior, his father, had died nearly a year ago at fifty-three years old, from severe lung cancer. All of those years smoking had caught up with him. Jon swore off smoking regularly at his father’s funeral. But right now, he desperately needed a cigarette.
Jon breathed deeply and turned to look at the clock.
Dear God, he thought. This is the slowest night of my life.
Even with his fiancée’s family, who treated him like their own, the pain of his father’s passing was almost too much to bear. They had been very close. He would go so far as to call his dad his best friend. He could only hope and pray that he and his son would be as close as the previous generation.
The rain that had been threatening all day finally started, and Jon heard the pellets hit his window. El Paso had gone nearly a month without rain, and even though that was normal for Texas, the ranch hands were talking earlier that they needed rain soon or everything would be so dry that the grazing ground could catch fire.
Jon tried to keep his body from going rigid when he heard the sound of the raindrops. The thunder rolled and the lightning struck. Jon instinctively reached for his gun, only to realize that he was not in Vietnam and the sound of bombs and the light from the explosion was not an enemy insurgent attack. He shook his head, trying to block out the screams he could hear, and for a moment, he was back in the jungles of Vietnam, looking into an onslaught of enemy troops just as scared as he was.
He remembered Mat dropping to his side.
“Well,” he remembered Mat saying, “this couldn’t get any worse.”
“You know my dad says to never say that,” Jon replied. “There is always something else.”
Mat laughed his crazy “let’s kill them all” laugh as fire lit his eyes.
Their friend Eric Stewart dropped next to them.
“Well, boys,” he said, “isn’t this nice? All that’s missing is a cup of Vietnamese coffee.”
They all ducked as they saw a missile fly over them and explode beyond them. Someone screamed.
Jon aimed his gun and shot it. The other two saw a man hidden behind a tree too close for comfort drop.
They looked over at him. He just glanced at them.
“Thanks,” Eric said.
“No problem,” Jon replied.
“Move move move!”
They heard their orders. Mat, Eric and Jon looked at each other. There used to be a fourth, Greg, but he didn’t make it. Jon and he had grown up together, and it was Jon who convinced him to enlist, something he wouldn’t ever forget.
The three now nodded to each other.
“Well, boys,” Eric said, “It’s been an honor.”
“Same here,” Mat replied.
“Semper Fi,” Jon answered.
They all breathed and got up. They rushed the enemy, their buddies dropping next to them, bombs exploding, limbs ripping off, blood-curdling screams, gunshots, pain, hate…war.
Jon opened his eyes and gasped. He was safe in his room in Texas. The rain still pelted his window. He breathed. He had broken into a sweat and twisted the sheets. Gasping for breath, he tried to calm down. He kept repeating his code phrase that the military shrink had given him for situations like that. It worked. When his breathing was under control, he wiped the beads of sweat that rolled down his forehead and tried to keep his mind off of the rain.
He thought about his future wife and smirk crossed his lips. Suddenly, lightning struck hard and someone screamed. Jon sat straight up in bed.
There was a lot of commotion in the hallway. Jon stood and grabbed his shirt from the chair in the corner. He pulled on a pair of jeans and unlocked the door. As he looked out, three of Mat’s four sisters ran past him as well as several of the ranch hands. Carol ran out of her room, saw Jon, and ran straight to him.
“What’s happening, baby?” he asked.
“The barn’s been struck with lightning. It’s on fire,” she said. “Daddy’s gone to get the horses out.”
“Where’s Mat?” Jon asked.
“He went to help,” Carol answered.
“Where is your mother?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
Jon put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “Baby,” Jon said gently, “I need you to go find your mother and stay with her. Make sure you both stay away from the barn.”
Jon kissed her quickly and rushed out down the hall. Hearing her yelling after him, he knew he couldn’t stop. He ran down the stairs and pulled on a pair of boots he had by the door and rushed out into the torrential downpour.
He saw the barn. It was engulfed in flames. Most of the ranch hands were getting the hose ready to spray. Two had run out of the barn with four horses and saddles. It looked like there was nothing they could do. The men working were trying to prevent the fire from spreading to the house.
Mat stood a little farther away.
Jon ran over to him. “Mat,” he called. “Where’s your dad?”
Mat stood frozen. Jon put a hand on his best friend’s shoulder. Mat didn’t do anything. Jon tried to shake him. Still, he didn’t respond. Jon finally slapped him.
Mat looked back at him. “Ow,” he said.
“Mat, focus!” Jon cried over the noise. “Where is your dad?”
Mat’s eyes turned to the fire and pointed. “I couldn’t go,” he said.
Jon knew that Mat had gone through a lot in Vietnam, but so did he. Jon didn't freeze when there was a job to do.
Jon heard the sisters coming out of the house and turned back to his best friend.
“Mat,” he said again, “do me a favor. Keep my fiancée away. Go protect your sisters and mother.”
Mat nodded and the look he gave was a mixture of relief and apology.
For a brief moment, Jon and Carol’s eyes locked. He hoped, in that moment, she could read how much he loved her. Carol screamed his name and Mat held her back when she saw Jon turn and run into the barn.
Jon had been in some sticky situations before, but the barn fire took the cake. He had been in a war zone, bombarded by heavy artillery, with the heat of forest fire on his face. Being trained to deal with certain war zone situations was part of his marine training. That situation, however, he had no training for, no drill sergeant to tell him firsthand what it was like. He was going in blind.
The initial heat singed the hair on his arms. He immediately broke into a sweat. The light was jumpy as the fire raged. Beams creaked, about to break and fall on top of him. Jon’s first feeling was to run out of there, but his other feeling was to rescue his father-in-law. He knew how much it meant to his fiancée for her to have her father walk her down the aisle.
His fear was set aside, and he pushed ahead. “Sir!” he shouted over the roar of the fire. “Sir! Can you hear me?”
Luis Bernardo had yet to tell him to call him Dad, and Jon wasn’t sure if he would even ask. There was only one man who Jon could call dad, and he was…dead.
A horse whinnied and ran past him. Jon jumped out of the way.
“Sir!” he yelled again.
Finally, there was a cough in response. Jon squinted through the ash, smoke, and flames to see a dark silhouette.
Jon moved toward him, dodging a burning ember that fell. Luis grabbed Jon’s forearms and coughed.
“We’ve got to get you out of here, sir!” Jon yelled over the raging fire. “This whole building is going to collapse!”
“Conquistador!” Luis yelled.
“What?” Jon called.
Luis coughed. “I have to get Conquistador!” he said.
“Where is he?” Jon asked.
“Last one on the right,” Luis said.
“Get out of here, Sir, while you still can!” Jon yelled over the noise. He turned and headed towards the horse's stall.
The smoke had increased, and it was hard for him to breathe. So much for not smoking. Jon thought sarcastically as he coughed.
Beams creaked louder and were falling all around him. The fire burned so hot that he could feel the hair on the back of his neck burn. His face burned, and he knew that the damp on his shirt was from sweat not the rain.
It was a bit like what the preacher was saying last Sunday about what hell was going to be like, and Jon was glad that he would never have to know.
Finally, he got to the end of the row. Conquistador was screaming and bucking, trying to get away from the fire. Jon unlatched the stall and pushed the door open. The horse rushed out, and Jon smacked it on its rear, sending it out of the barn.
Jon made his way back towards the front. Luis was slowly making his way to the door.
“Let’s get out of here, sir,” Jon said, “before this whole place caves in on us.”
They were heading out and were two stalls from the door when Jon heard it. The beam that he was afraid of cracked.
“Get down!” he yelled. He pushed Luis down and covered him the best he could. But Luis had moved, and Jon was only able to cover him in a T covering his upper body.
When the beam crashed to the floor, the whole barn groaned.
“Let’s go, sir!” Jon yelled.
“Jon,” Luis said, “I can’t move. I’m pinned.”
Jon saw in horror that the massive beam had fallen across Luis’s legs and lower back. It was a very heavy piece of wood.
“Get out of here, Jon!” Luis yelled. “This whole place is going to cave any second!”
“I’m not leaving you here!” Jon said.
“Go!” Luis yelled. “That’s an order, Marine! Get out of here! I’m old. I’ve lived my life. You need to go! Get out! You better take care of my daughter or I swear I will haunt you ’til you die!”
If it wasn’t so sordid, Jon might actually have laughed. But there was no way he was going to lose another man who was like a father to him, especially on his father’s birthday, not if he had any strength left in him.
He looked around. There was nothing to hold on to. The ember was smoldering. He looked down at his hands. It only took a second for him to decide. He ripped off his father’s family crest ring on his right ring finger and stuffed it into his jeans pocket. He breathed, bent at the knees, and grabbed the burning ember. It was ungodly heavy, and it immediately burned his hands. It took all his strength to push it off of him.
Without thinking, when Luis was free, Jon picked him up and carried him out of the building.
They cleared the door just as the whole thing caved in. The built-up pressure from the cave-in threw Jon forward and he fell in a heap on top of Luis. He rolled himself off of him and fell in a huff beside him. Luis looked over.
“If it weren’t for you, I would have died, Jon,” he said.
Jon just smiled. “Semper Fi, sir,” he replied.
Luis had served in the marines during World War II.
“Jon,” he began, “do not tell my wife but...I can’t feel my legs…”
Jon’s stomach fell, and he felt he would throw up. “If only I’d gotten to you sooner—”
“Shh,” he said harshly. “You saved my life. Thank you.”
“Jonny!” They heard Carol scream as she ran to him.
The whole family gathered around them. Mat came out of the house and said that the ambulance was on the way.
She was fussing over his burned hands.
“Carol,” Jon said gently as she reached for him, “in my pocket is my family ring. Could you get it for me?”
She nodded and did.
“Hold on to it. You’re the only one I trust.”
She kissed him.
“Now, your father needs your training more than I do. Go to him.”
She looked over at her father and then back at Jon. She kissed him and then went to her dad. Mat walked up and knelt down beside him.
“Jon, I’m so sorry! I panicked,” Mat said.
“It’s okay, Mat. I need you to help me now though,” Jon said.
“Anything,” Mat agreed.
“Don’t let my fiancée see me like this,” he said.
Mat looked down at Jon’s hands and saw that they were very badly burned. His hands were shaking with shock mixed with adrenaline and Jon’s eyes showed that he was in excruciating pain. Mat nodded and Jon buried his head into Mat’s shirt to muffle his scream. Sirens blared in the distance.