Sergeant First Class Brian Carson saluted the flag, as morning reveille echoed across the base, sounding the beginning of a new U.S. Army day at Fort Taylor. Under the monotonous sound of the bugle Brian can’t help but to think about the events of the past six months. As he stared across the open fields at the other units formations, he focused on the spot where Phillip, his long time friend should be standing, taking the morning reports and presenting the mission for the day. It all seemed so unreal, like a continuation of a dream. His friend since junior high was no longer a part of his everyday life. Since their first meeting, they had only spent a few years separated. They had enlisted in the Army together after high school. They were sent to different bases after their enlistment, due to the needs of the Army, and now had finally ended up stationed on the same base. Once again, after only a few months of being together, they would be separated by need, this time not the Army’s. As the bugle fades to silence, Brian collects his thoughts and continued with the routine of the morning.
“Order Arms!” he commanded, after dropping his salute and facing the formation. “Today,” Brian pauses as if he had forgotten what he was going to say, “Today,” another pause.
“Sergeant Jamison take charge, I’ll be back.”
“You a’right Sergeant?” Jamison whispered, slightly puzzled by the difference in customary actions of the morning.
“Yeah, just one of those days I guess.” Jamison knew what was going on. It was still the most prevalent gossip amongst the base population. He knew it was tearing at Brian because he and Phillip were so close. They were like brothers and it was obvious to those who spent countless hours with Brian that he was still in shock. “A’right ladies lets do some PT!” Jamison chuckled as the group stands like zombies in the early sunrise, preparing for a morning run.
* * *
“Hey, you up?” Brian asked, as if he cared.
“Would it matter? Yeah I’ve been up for a while.” A male voice said out of the telephone.
“I can’t shake it.” Brian admitted.
“Shake what?” the voice replied.
“Phil! I just can’t shake that shit!” Brian said a little frustrated. “You are full of shit Chris if you try to say you don’t think about what happened.”
“There’s not a whole lot we can do to change what happened,” Chris said with a tone of denial in his voice, “you think we made him like that?”
“Nah, I think he just finally got desperate. I’ll talk to you later.”
Brian slowly hung up the phone, took a deep breath and laid his head down on his desk. “Sergeant Carson, Sergeant Carson, are you okay Sergeant?” a voice called as Brian raised his head from the desk.
“Specialist Richards?” Brian said while rubbing his eyes to help clear his vision.
“Roger Sergeant!” Specialist Richards responded, a little confused.
“Are you okay?”“Yeah, you guys do PT already?” Brian asked angrily.
“Roger Sergeant, we ran four miles or so and we did some push-ups and sit-ups for about fifteen minutes.”“What time is it? There is no way I was asleep for an hour. What are you doing here anyway?”
“I just came to grab my paperwork for my ROTC packet, did the commander sign it Sergeant?”
Brian looked at Specialist Richards as if he couldn’t recall where or what he was talking about. After thinking about it for a moment, Brian responded, “Oh, I got it right here.” Brian opened his desk drawer and reached in for the papers. As he pulled the papers out, he saw clippings from newspaper articles. “Here.” Brian said disconcertedly.
Specialist Richards recognized Brian’s incoherent behavior and decided he should leave as quickly as he had come in.“Thanks Sergeant.” Specialist Richards turned and left the room slamming the door behind him. Brian stared into the newspaper clippings as if they were transparent. His eyes confess reproach for the role he and Chris had played in the self-indulgent choices they allowed Phillip to make. It seemed that this one event had sparked a national phenomenon. The public was recognizing adultery as if it had become the new incurable virus. It reminded him of all that has changed so many lives. The full page pictures of Phillip highlight the main story on the front pages of so many newspapers and magazine. The Stars and Stripes newspaper, along with USA Today, Time magazine, and so many others covered every inch of Phillip’s life. They explored his past, delicately depicting a man that made women vulnerable and made himself a desperate criminal. He was not exactly sure how they found out some of the things they printed. There were things that only he, Chris and Phillip had known. As Brian began to read the first headline he recalled the morning he heard the female reporter on the Early Morning Show talk about the breaking stories.“U.S. Army Sergeant arrested for murder. Sergeant First Class Phillip Montgomery arrested today at his home in connection with the murder of…….”
As Sergeant First Class Phillip Montgomery drove to Fort Taylor, he listened to the radio and sang a few versus of songs familiar to him. He was in one of his better moods that morning. His two closes friends, or, as he would put it in conversations, his two only friends, were going to be living in Fort Taylor, Arizona area. Chris Jackson had moved there a few months earlier. The advertising firm he worked for had transferred him to Arizona to run their west coast regional office. Phillip had known Chris for seventeen years. Throughout junior high and high school they were really close. There probably weren’t any or very few secrets between them. After Phillip joined the military and Chris went away to school, adult life took its toll on their friendship. Not breaking the friendship completely, but making it difficult for the two of them to share all their experiences like they were accustomed to doing. Today was the day the last of the group would be joining them once again. Brian Carson was going to be stationed with one of the maintenance company’s as the Platoon Sergeant. Although the three of them trusted and admired one another Phillip was the self-proclaimed balance of the trio. Brian and Chris were friends but they didn’t get along as well if the two of them were together and Phillip was not involved. As Phillip arrived at the main gate of the base and showed his ID card to the security, he thought about the upcoming four day weekend and the celebrating he was going to do with his friends.The morning formation and reports were conducted as usual. Monday’s were always an indoor physical fitness day. Usually Phillip’s platoon went to the gym to do some weight lifting or play a few games of basketball. Phillip wasn’t quite up for basketball this morning. He was feeling overly anxious and felt a good cardiovascular workout would burn off some of the adrenaline. There were always at least one or two nice looking women in the cardio room in the mornings. Many of them were the wives or daughters of some GI on base. Some were civilian contractors or Department of Defense employees, but they were all connected to the military somehow. It was not very often that Phillip would see a new face. It was a small base and Phillip had been there for four of his twelve years in the army. This was not the only reason he knew many of the women. In the confines of a military post full of men, at some point in the day the conversations between the male troops would be about the women. The women of the present, the past, the young, and the old, even the not so attractive would find their niche with the over sexed bunch. Phillip also knew some of the women from his own endeavors. He hadn’t ever been unfaithful to his wife, unless you consider flirting and lustful thoughts cheating. Most women found Phillip attractive, with some speaking more highly of him then others. Phillip presumed, using a few unexplored advances by female admires as evidence, that some of women would find a way to look past the ring on his finger. He always made it clear he was married, if not to protect his wife, to protect himself from the man he was before he got married.As he entered the cardio room the hum of treadmills, stationary bikes, and stair climbers, rang in his ears like the distinct sound of an orchestra tuning their instruments. You could almost hear the music on the radio after a few minutes in the room. There were some mornings where all the treadmills were occupied. Maybe it was Phillip’s lucky day. There were two treadmills in the corner of the room that were available. Now he focused his hope on the machines functioning correctly. It felt like walking into a crowded movie theatre and the only seats left are the broken ones. Phillip began his run, slowly at first, preparing himself as if he was trying to find his rhythm with the machine. After about three minutes he and the machine were like veteran dance partners, in sync and on tune. That’s when she walked in. The new face or at least someone Phillip had not seen or heard described to him before. She appeared at first glance to be the stereotypical blond haired, hazel eyed, curvy and voluptuous woman repeatedly seen in Hollywood. Phillip was rarely attracted to that type of woman, often choosing a woman with beauty that was more subtle, innocent, and unaltered.
“Excuse me, do you know if this works?” A woman’s voice said, pointing to the treadmill next to Phillip.
“There wasn’t a sign or anything when I came up.” Phillip said. Phillip slowed his treadmill down slightly so he could engage in conversation without making an ass of himself by fumbling around on the machine. “They usually put signs up if they don’t work,” he said confidently, “try it.” As the new beauty stepped on the treadmill Phillip found himself observing her. He tried relentlessly to maintain his composure and focus on his exercise. Now that he had spent a few more moments studying her he realized she hadn’t been the make-up laden, high maintenance, doctored beauty he assumed. Her face was as innocent as the girl next door and her lustrous eyes emitted an energy that grasped at a man’s heart making him long to fulfill her every need. Her smooth, perfectly tanned skin radiated purity like the skin of a baby. Phillip tried to appear disinterested. He watched her as she jogged slowly on the treadmill. The contour and definition of her tight, athletic legs and ass awaken a burning lust within him. A lust that he wished could remain hidden, a lust that he had kept locked away for many years. She was definitely young, but how young, Phillip looked away ashamed. Phillip grimaced. The thought of lusting after an adolescent disgusted him immensely.
“Did you say something?” The woman inquired.
“Is it working?” Phillip said quickly.
“I think so, thanks.” Once again, Phillip’s attentions turn to consuming as many eyefuls of the poetic design of this new beauty as she jogged next to him. The prevailing lust that lingered in his veins began to irritate him. He was no longer able to focus on running so he reached for the speed controls on the treadmill, slowly bringing it to a walking pace and then to a stop.
“Have a nice day.” Phillip said to the woman, with his head down like a scorned child. The woman turned to respond but he was already at a distance to far for her to be heard unless she spoke above the normal tone for a casual meeting and Phillip had no intention of looking back. She smiled, feeling a sense of great accomplishment and continued her steady pace on the treadmill.Exiting the cardio room, Phillip noticed a few members of his platoon still on the basketball court. He didn’t feel so well after the treadmill scene. Women, to Phillip were like alcohol to an alcoholic, drug to a drug addict, or cigarettes to a smoker, his passions were pure but animalistic. They drove him, often times right into trouble. It was his internal struggle could not be explain simply. His wife and kids were his world, but he fought with himself. Phillip’s mother would often attribute the same primeval instincts to Phillip’s father, whom he had not known. He hoped his dedication to his family, especially his wife, would numb these intense desires in his sons. He closed his eyes and stretched, meditating, to release the negative vibe he had created inside himself. Feeling more relaxed he called to the group on the court.
“Throw me the ball chumps.” He challenged.
“Come on Sergeant, you ain’t got a shot!” one of the men said laughing as he threw the ball to Phillip.“And you’re too old!” another member of the group said, exciting the group to laughter. Phillip threw the ball up, “Smash, nothing but the bottom!” he bellowed as the shot dove into the hoop with a swishing sound behind it, “Now give me some push-ups.” He ordered jokingly.
“Ah, that’s jacked up Sergeant!” the group yelled as they move to start push-ups.
Walking to his car, Phillip collected himself. He was still feeling the ill effects of his earlier encounter with the new beauty. He felt crazy at times, desperately talking to himself or the person inside him that desired to chase the temptation. During the drive home Phillip found himself deep in thought about life. He had been married for six years and during that time he could not remember a moment he felt like Tracy was not the woman he wanted as his wife. It was also hard to recall many moments that involved other women, in which Phillip hadn’t wanted to be with them. Not to have them as his own forever, but to just have them for the moment. To indulge in the idyllic vastness that makes a woman desirable. Phillip loved Tracy because she didn’t judge him. She was his strongest supporter and without her he had no ambition. He could tell her most every thought and need and she still accepted him. He was flawed and she had known this, but she devoted herself to him anyway. She was the only woman that had fought to be with Phillip even when he was at his worse. They met while Phillip was stationed in Washington. She was an instructor’s aid at a three day seminar he had attended. They would talk, of course, about the lessons discussed in the class, but they would also talk about life and where each of them felt they were going. Her mother and father were immigrants from the Dominican Republic. They moved to the U.S. for more opportunities for themselves as well as their children. They instilled every admirable trait an individual could have in their children’s lives. Beyond that they were together, a household where the family was traditional. A mother and a father showing their family what the union of family and bond of marriage was supposed to be. They ate dinner at the same time every night all at the table with no interruption and no added entertainment outside of their communication with one another. Tracy was disciplined, loyal, and sought out to help those who needed it most, often volunteering to raise funds or organize donations for many charities. She was only nineteen, but it was obvious to Phillip she had greatness in her future. He was twenty-three and indecisive about the path his life would take him next. He was a Specialist in the Army and that was not a difficult rank to attain. The only other accomplishment he could claim was uncharacteristic ability to entice a wide range of women. Unlike Tracy’s family, Phillip’s consisted of a mother and a younger brother. His grandparents and aunts played a prevalent role in his youth but as time past so did the need for them to put distance between the families, in search of better jobs and living conditions. His mother worked ten to twelve hours a day and his father was no where to be found. Phillip was raised with no male role model, no man to question, a portrait of him, his brother and mother burned into his memories like a brand. Although his mother had married a couple of times there was no structure provided by these men. In fact their lives had been much like his, men trying to teach a man how to be a man without really knowing themselves. Tracy was out of his league. If she wasn’t, he definitely did not want to corrupt her with his unorthodox lifestyle. He knew he needed someone like her to help him grow into the man he never saw. He knew she could help him slow down and focus on accomplishing something more. This made her even more attractive. The women Phillip had dated before were empty and most importantly they never fought to help him move toward a more substantial relationship. After they started dating, the sin inside him would not stay buried and he tried to force her away for her sake. Tracy would become his stone, an unyielding foundation that wouldn’t allow him to do anything less than fight for the bond that they shared. When Phillip arrived at home, Tracy and the boys were on their way out for daily errands.
“Does Brian get in tonight or tomorrow?” Tracy asked.
“Are you and Chris going to go get him?”
“Probably, I haven’t talked to Chris yet, but we told Brian we‘d be there.”
“Are you guys going out?
“Probably not until Friday.”
“Well I’ll see you later baby, I love you.” Tracy said as she kissed Phillip.
“I love you too,” Phillip responded as he hugged Tracy tightly, “be careful.” Phillip returned to work after showering and having a small bite for breakfast. The rest of Monday proceeded as all Monday’s had. Phillip came home after the gym, showered and was back on his way to the office. Phillip was the Operations Sergeant for the Commander of the base. He and the General had a relationship that was reserved for officers. They had talked many times about things man to man, occasionally the General would call Phillip by his first name. Of course, Phillip always used rank. He admired the General and had full respect for what he had accomplished in his career. Lieutenant General O’Leary was a good man. He was honest and believed in listening to his soldiers. Monday’s were the days Phillip would write the General’s briefing for the units on base. He would meet with the General and take notes. This morning the General’s demeanor was quite different. He had seemed a little restless and overwhelmed. Phillip had never seen General O’Leary this way. Phillip began to feel overwhelmed himself. It was contagious, but Phillip had not known why.
“Sir, are you thinking about something,” Phillip fumbled through the words, “what I mean Sir is, is everything okay?”
“Do you have any girls Sergeant?” the General asked, leaving Phillip’s question without response.
“Not yet Sir.” Phillip responded, still waiting for the answer to his question.
“I have two boys.”
“My girl is my heart Sergeant, but she is a…let’s just say a piece of work.” The General proclaimed while looking out of the window. Phillip finally caught on to what the General’s problem may be.
“A piece of work Sir?” Phillip questioned.
“So much like me, but in a woman’s body. She is smart, charismatic, easy to talk to, and wild as all hell,” The General smiled, “and it doesn’t help that she is a looker Sergeant, and she knows it. Her mother passed away a few years back and it kind of forced her to grow up faster. Me and Paris used to fight a lot when her mother was around. Now we are the best of friends. I don’t know why that is though. Her mother was our mediator. Now the damn girl just drives me fuckin crazy. Pardon the French, nothing against my enlisted man but, she parades herself around here sometimes and these young soldiers go to hootin and hollerin. They don’t know she’s my daughter. Shoot hardly anybody does. I guess it is good for her that way. I just don’t want her in any trouble, you see Sergeant.”
Phillip had never seen the General like this. He could feel a sense of relief, but realized it is the same way he felt about his boys. No parent could stand for their child to end up in a bad situation. “Roger, Sir,” Phillip responded in low tone, “will there be anything more for the report Sir?”
“No, just bring it to me to look at later.” The General muttered sorrowfully.
It was clear to Phillip he had no idea who the General’s daughter was. He could think of many young, wild, girls that paraded around the base. He began sorting them out in his mind. He hadn’t seen any pictures in General O’Leary’s office and hadn’t heard any of the guys talking about anyone in particular. As he typed the report he thought about what he would be like if he had a daughter. He wondered if she would break him down like the General’s daughter was doing to the General. Definitely no boys! He thought. It concerned him, to think about the way he treated girls when he was growing up. He wasn’t a liar or abusive or anything, but he just hurt a lot of girls emotionally. They gave him more then he could give to them, even after he told them he wouldn’t be any good at a relationship. He couldn’t imagine his daughter coming home after a guy like him had just passed through. He hoped he could teach his boys more compassion.
When it was finally time for lunch Phillip decided he was going to go home and take a noon nap. He was feeling drained emotionally. It was if his life had become stagnant. Maybe it was just the monotony of the military lifestyle. His hobbies had become old, his job was repetitious, and physically he felt a little unbalanced, almost desperate. He began to silently pray for a moment, asking for protection against any bad judgments he knew he would make. Phillip’s day proceeded slowly after lunch. He had talked to Chris that afternoon about the drive to the airport. Brian’s plane arrived at eight o’clock. Chris was going to pick Phillip up about six o’clock, so they could get there early and get parking. It was only four-thirty, but the first day, and hardest day of the week was over. Phillip passed by the General’s door one last time before proceeding out of the office.
“Will you need anything else for the day Sir? Phillip asked.
“I don’t think so Sergeant,” the General answered, “have a good night!”
“You to Sir.”
At home Tracy was looking through her cook book trying to figure out what to prepare for dinner. Although she had known that Phillip would not give her an answer, she would ask every single night what he wanted for dinner. When Phillip got home and wrestled around with Jamal and Jason, his twin sons, he sat on the couch and waited for Tracy to lean over and ask the famous question. When she finally did, he laughed.
“What is so funny?” Tracy inquired.
“You,” Phillip still smiling at Tracy, “you ask me that question about dinner every night, like I’m gonna have an answer different from any other night.”
“Okay fine, I’ll ask the boy’s.” Tracy rebutted with confidence. “Boy’s what do you want for dinner? Tracy sat as if she was anticipating the meal of the decade from the two five year old boys. Phillip had known better and believed Tracy had known, as usual she was on her own.
“I waaaant……Hamburgers!” Jamal stated firmly.
“No, we want Taco’s mommy!” Jason clarified looking at Jamal seriously. The boys argued amongst themselves for a couple of minutes before Tracy interrupted. She rose from the couch silently and disappeared into the kitchen.
“We’re going to get Brian at seven.” Phillip shouted into the kitchen.
“Are you gonna go out?”
“No, I’m sure he is going to be tired from the trip and the time difference.”
“Where is he coming from again?”
Dinner had come and gone and Phillip kissed Tracy to thank her for the meal. Once again she had prepared a meal far better then the males in the home could have thought up. At five-forty there was a knock at the front door, as it slowly opened Jamal and Jason go running toward it. “Daddy its Uncle Chris!” They both screamed out with joy.
“Hi Chris,” Tracy uttered, “How are you.”
“I’m okay, how about you?” Chris politely responded.
“Good, except for my skinny family doesn’t eat,” Tracy joked, “so if you want some dinner there is plenty left.”
“No, I’m okay, thanks.”
“So what’s going on dude?” Phillip asked as if they hadn’t talked in a while.
“Hey, I met this girl at my job named Jessica.” Chris whispered like a child with a secret.
“You know Chris it doesn’t matter if you talk about women to my husband.” Tracy instructed.
“Yeah, so what’s she about? Is that the one we talked about earlier?” Phillip asked.
“No, I told you about Tamara.”
“Anyway let’s go so we can go get this dude,” Phillip said, “Hey we’re leavin.”
“Be careful.” Tracy uttered.