Betsy Carter
Chapter 15

Copyright© 2022 by Lazlo Zalezac

Alice was seated at the kitchen table drinking coffee with her visitor. He was a good looking young man dressed in a Marine uniform, with the insignia of a Corporal on it. He had that haunted look of ever present awareness of his surroundings, common to individuals leaving an active war zone. Alice was very familiar with how to deal with men in that state of mind, having experienced a lifetime of greeting soldiers just returned from war. The young man was her youngest son, George.

George said, “It’s becoming a war of attrition. They’re losing people, and we’re losing support.

“Since their ability to recruit new supporters based on religion was destroyed, they can’t replenish their forces with the ease of the past. Since their goals have transitioned from religious grounds, to political conquest, they’ve also had to become more visible.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Alice asked.

“Yes and no. It’s a whole lot easier to identify the enemy, but we’re talking about forces composed of very experienced fighters who are desperate. That makes them very dangerous,” George replied.

“Are we making progress in calming the world down?”

“Like I said, it is a war of attrition. Their forces are reducing in size. Political support for our forces is waning so we can’t put as many people in the field. The situation would be a lot less dangerous if we had a few more boots on the ground. We could put an end to all of these revolutionary armies in a short time,” George said.

Alice said, “It’s always politics.”

“Yes, it is,” George said.

Charlie, wearing long pants, walked into the room. She stopped upon seeing the uniform and said, “Hey, Marine!”

“Hello.”

“Third Division, Third Regiment,” Charlie said. She smiled and added, “Second Battalion.”

“First Battalion,” George said pointing to his patch.

“I was in the Second,” Charlie said.

The two started trading the typical questions to establish their bona fides, “Do you know so and so?” and “Were you in such and such a place?” It didn’t take them long to establish a half dozen mutual acquaintances and that they had rotated through the same places but at different times.

George asked, “So what are you doing here?”

“Lost a foot,” Charlie answered.

“Sorry to hear that.”

“It could have been worse,” Charlie said.

“What are you doing here?”

“We’ve just about got a handle on the situation in the Philippines, so they’re pulling a bunch of us out to send over to Pakistan,” George answered.

Charlie swore, “They couldn’t let you finish the job before pulling you out?”

“They’ve got a couple thousand left, so we only need a couple thousand to fight them,” George said.

Charlie said, “Damn politicians. Pardon my French, Alice.”

“I’ve used the word damn on more than one occasion,” Alice said.

“I wasn’t apologizing for saying damn. I was apologizing for saying politicians,” Charlie said.

George laughed at that. Alice chuckled. It was pretty obvious all three agreed on their assessment of the current political climate.

Charlie said, “In a way, I’m kind of sad to be out of the corps. I miss some of it. Not the chicken shit stuff you have to put up with sometimes, but I miss the people.”

“I know what you mean,” George said.

“So are you career?” Charlie asked.

George looked a little uncomfortable about answering that particular question. After glancing over at his mother, he answered, “I don’t know. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Congress is trying to get rid of the Marine Corps by killing off all of the Marines. The last budget cut left us short of air cover. I don’t know what to do.”

“I’m proud you’re a Marine,” Alice said. “I hate to say that I agree with your assessment. Your brothers have said the same kinds of things to me.”

Charlie said, “Damn politicians.”

“Yeah,” Alice said.

About to head to the beach, Betsy bounced into the room. As normal, she was nude in anticipation of running straight to the water, and swimming. She stopped upon seeing George.

“You must be George!”

“You must be Betsy,” George said averting his eyes.

“Boy! Don’t you look good in that uniform,” Betsy said.

George didn’t know how to respond to that. He was half tempted to say that she looked good in her outfit, but bit his tongue. His mother, amused by the situation, was grinning at him.

“Thank you,” he said.

“You’re welcome,” Betsy said. She turned to Alice and said, “We’re having another guest drop in this afternoon.”

“Who?”

“Penny.”

With Betsy having another guest, Alice realized that they were out of beds. It was pretty clear that her son would have to head back to the base. She had hoped to spend a little more time with him.

“We’re out of rooms,” Alice said glancing at her son.

“Don’t worry about that. I’m sleeping out in the backyard tonight. Penny can use my room,” Betsy said.

Finding it a little difficult to converse with her because of her nudity and constant moving around, George said, “I can sleep out there.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re a special guest,” Betsy said dismissively.

George looked up at her, and then looked away just as quickly when he realized he was staring straight at her breasts. It was really difficult talking to his mother’s boss, when she was standing naked in front of him.

He said, “Really, I’m used...”

Betsy said, “I’m going swimming.”

“But...”

“Enjoy your visit with your mother. She made cookies for you, you know.”

“I know, but...”

There was the sound of a door slamming shut. He looked up and saw that she was gone.

Rubbing his forehead, he said, “I wanted to tell her that sleeping outside is no big deal. Let’s face it, I’m used to sleeping outside. Five days ago, I was sleeping on the ground next to our APC. Sleeping on her lounge chair in the backyard is going to be as good as lying in a bed.”

“She knows that you’re a Marine and that you’re used to some pretty rough conditions,” Alice said.

“I”ll just plan on sleeping outside,” George said giving up.

“You’re Alice’s son. I have a feeling that she’s not going to allow you to sleep outside,” Charlie said quietly.

“I guess I could tell her that I’d rather stay at a hotel,” George said thinking he could probably cover the cost.

Dressed in a very conservative one piece bathing suit, Sally entered the kitchen on her way to the beach. She was supposedly going down there with Betsy, but her friend had charged ahead without her, as usual. She froze upon seeing George seated at the table. It took her a minute to remember that Alice was expecting her son for a visit.

She said, “Oh, hello. You must be George.”

“Yes,” George said.

“I’m Sally.”

“Nice to meet you, Sally,” George said not having a clue who she was or what her role was in this house.

Sally said, “I take it that Betsy has already headed for the beach.”

“She popped in, said she had a guest coming, and then headed off to the beach,” Alice said.

“I know about Penny coming,” Sally said. She looked at George. She asked, “Is he staying here, too?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have enough rooms for everyone?” Sally asked thinking that there was one too many people in the house.

“We don’t. Betsy said that she would sleep in the backyard,” Alice said.

“I told her I could sleep outside, but she refused my offer,” George said.

Sally said, “Of course she refused. You’re Alice’s son. She wouldn’t throw you out of the house.”

“I’m a Marine. I can handle it,” George said.

“It’s not that. You’re a special guest. You’re Alice’s son,” Sally said not knowing how to explain it better than that.

Alice shook her head.

“Maybe I ought to go back to the big island, then nobody would have to sleep outside,” Sally said thinking that she was the least important person at the house.

Alice said, “I don’t think that’s what Betsy would want.”

Thinking there was a reasonable way out of this situation, George said, “How about I sleep on the floor in your room, Mom?”

“That would be fine with me,” Alice said.

Shaking her head in the negative, Sally said, “Betsy wouldn’t be happy about that.”

Charlie had been looking at George while the conversation had been taking place. Once a Marine, always a Marine. She was still a Marine.

She said, “Hey, Marine. Do you want to bunk with me for a night or two?”

Alice stared at Charlie wondering if she was offering more than just a place to sleep. Sally looked at George wondering how a man could possibly resist an offer like that. George was busy looking at Charlie trying to decide if she was serious in making her offer. Charlie was staring George in the eye until the light went off in his head.

“So, Marine, what do you say?”

“Semper Fi!”

“Oorah!”

“What’s that mean?” Sally asked looking blankly at Alice hoping that she could explain to her what just happened.

“Problem solved, Marine style,” Alice said with a large grin.

“You’re Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise. Let’s move. Four minutes,” George said with a grin.

Trying to look stern, Charlie said, “It’s more like four hours before I get off work.”

“I stand corrected,” George said looking at Charlie.

Sally said, “That’s a line from a movie, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. Living in a house with four Marines, I saw that movie a hundred times,” Alice said.

Sally frowned trying to put all of the pieces together. It slowly came to her. She said, “I get it. You’re going to her place to sleep so that no one has to sleep out in the backyard!”

 
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