Heart Beat Hill

By Brian Law 

It was just by chance that she caught a glimpse of her father leaving in his friend Ed’s old car. On any normal Sunday morning at five o’clock, she'd be snuggled-up in bed, but something caused her to get up and look out her bedroom window. And there she saw her father climbing into the back of that old Chevy along with his old marine buddies. She knew exactly what was going on as she sat down and dialed 911.  

“911. What’s your emergency?”  

“You know me, I’m Marge Jameson over on Maple Street. I call every year about this time around Christmas about my Dad, Fred. He’s at it again, I’m afraid,” she explained apologetically to the operator. “I just saw him drive away from my house with his old friends. They’re headed for the hill again.” She told the operator the make, model and license plate number of Ed’s old car and the direction it had headed.  

“Hi, Marge,” the operator replied. “Okay, I’ll alert the police about the vehicle. Any idea at all where they might be going this year?”  

Marge told her she thought it was going to be the hill behind the old high school and then added, “I’m leaving right away. I’ll be there in about twenty minutes or so. One of Fred’s friends in the car just got out of the hospital and Fred’s been having some heart problems, too. So, pass that on, please,” the daughter advised and then hung up. She looked around for her bathrobe, threw it on and went downstairs for a cup of coffee before leaving.  

Sipping her coffee as she struggled to get into her jeans, she glanced over at the photographs on the fireplace mantle. There they were, all the annual photos of her Dad and his friends standing proudly at the foot of some hill. Sadly, she knew that each successive photo had fewer friends in it and last year’s photo only had the four who went away together in the car this morning. The hill was thinning the herd, she thought darkly. How many would survive today’s ordeal and still be alive for the post-run photo opportunity?  

They had all been in the same marine platoon in Vietnam, had all assaulted Hill 47 when ordered and only twelve survived that action. And when they got home, and in memory of their fallen brethren, they agreed to reenact the taking of Hill 47 each year until they were all gone.  

They used to charge the same hill each year until one of the guys died in the process and the local authorities caught on to what was happening. So they had to choose a different hill each year and keep it a secret. This year’s hill was the one behind the old high school.  

By the time Marge got there, the police had already arrived but too late to prevent the remaining platoon members from making a run up the hill. As she got out of her car, she saw her father leaning against the police car, clearly out of breath and in pain. And close by, on the ground, covered in a policeman’s jacket, lay Ed.  

She rushed to her father’s side as he looked up, grimaced and gasped, “Hey, you bring a camera by any chance?”  

End  

2/8/20

1 comment

  • Silver Gladstar
    Silver Gladstar ptld
    Gosh it took me a long time to figure out how to post comments. Anyway your story, great as usual, left me with some odd feelings. I haven't been public about the fact that I'm a Vietnam veteran but having said that I must say, war affects people differently. I could not imagine a bloody battle as an honorable memorial, then I realized that these guys were not really memorializing anything. They were all suffering survival guilt and to assuage this they keep fighting until finally their guilt is expiated by dying in battle, as their brothers in arms have already done. Wow. This is a profound thing. Thank you.

    Gosh it took me a long time to figure out how to post comments. Anyway your story, great as usual, left me with some odd feelings. I haven't been public about the fact that I'm a Vietnam veteran but having said that I must say, war affects people differently. I could not imagine a bloody battle as an honorable memorial, then I realized that these guys were not really memorializing anything. They were all suffering survival guilt and to assuage this they keep fighting until finally their guilt is expiated by dying in battle, as their brothers in arms have already done. Wow. This is a profound thing. Thank you.

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