The Veteran

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of a homeless Vietnam veteran and a prostitute who find redemption in each other.

Submitted: August 06, 2013

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Submitted: August 06, 2013

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The Veteran and the Street Walker

 

by Matthew Bissonnette

 

 

 

 

1970's Los Angelas.

During an unusually cool summer's evening as thunder rumbled far to the North and a storm loomed to the horizon, Ashley Fairchild walked along the sidewalk in one of the poorer districts of this metropolis; a quasi red light district and she strolled slowly beneath gaudy neon signs for businesses such as store for dirty magazines and a theater for pornographic films. She was a young woman with raven hair down to her shoulders with deathly pail skin and dark, haunting eyes; she had on a red miniskirt and leather jacket with heavy makeup on her face. She passed by several pedestrians, a man in a trench coat who seemed to be looking at her and a homeless woman, dressed in filthy clothing, pushing a shopping cart full of cans along the sidewalk.

Ashley then stopped and looked up into the sky just as rain lightly fell from the sky. She then continued to walk when she came to a chain link fence behind which was an empty parking lot. And that was when she saw the homeless veteran.

Sitting on the sidewalk resting his back against the fence was a man around her age. He had on a dirty camouflage jacket and green pants with army boots on. He had a very muscular build and had dirty blonde hair which was unkempt and a mangy beard on his face. She noticed that several army medals where on the chest of his jacket.

She stopped in front of him and looked down. “Don't you have somewhere to go, somewhere out of the rain?”

He looked at her momentarily then looked away and was silent.

She shrugged then walked on and did not notice as the man in the trench coat ran up behind her and grabbed her arm. She spun around to face the man, a guy in dirty clothes beneath the coat and also balding; who was sweating profusely.

She backed away and asked, “what do you want?”

The guy replied, “how much for sex?”

She frowned and told him, “why do you think I'm a prostitute?”

“Come on, you look like a whore. Now how much?”

True, Ashley had been selling herself on this very street for more then three years. But in that time she had learned how to read potential costumers and she had a knack for knowing the ones who might be dangerous; the guy in the trench coat had shifty eyes and seemed overly excited.

Ashley said calmly, “sorry, can't help you.”

He then grabbed her arm again and reached into a pocket of his coat and pulled out a switchblade, her eyes locked on the blade when it popped out from the hilt. The man in the trench coat grinned and taunted, “I actually prefer it if the fight. Now follow me into that alley or I'll slit your throat.”

Ashley was still looking at the blade and failed to notice that the veteran and gotten up and was approaching she and her attacker. When he was right behind the man with the knife he said in a deep, raspy voice, “let her go.”

The man in the trench coat let her go and turned around. Once he was facing the homeless veteran, the veteran grabbed the guy's wrist of the hand holding the knife and twisted, there was a low snapping noise, the noise of his wrist breaking and the attacker yelled out in pain as he dropped the knife. Ashley watched as the veteran then grabbed the man's collar and punched him in the face with his free hand then dropped the unconscious man to the ground.

Ashley was shocked by the sudden intervention and asked, “why did you help me?”

The veteran looked at her and replied, “seems you needed help miss.”

She then looked closely at him and her jaw then hung open and she was silent for a moment but then said, “wait, is your name Chris Remington?”

He squinted as he looked at her. “How did you know my name?”

She used the sleeve of her coat to wipe some of her makeup off her face then looked at him. “It's Ashley Fairchild. We went to high school together, back in Idaho.”

His expression did not change but he turned and started to walk away then said, “sorry to see your choice of profession Ashley.”

Ashley then looked down at the unconscious would be attacker and back at Chris. “Do you have somewhere to stay, out of the rain?”

He stopped and looked over his shoulder at her. “Since you asked, no I don't.”

She then walked up to him and he turned so now they where facing each other. She smiled and said, “since you helped me Chris, let me give you a couch to sleep on for at least tonight.”

He seemed to think for a moment then asked, “why, you don't even know me?”

She nodded. “We grew up together, and I think you need a place that is warm and dry.”

Then suddenly the rain fell much more intensely and he looked at her and said, “OK, I appreciate the gesture.”

She then walked away as Chris followed and a bursts of lighting bombarded the street with momentary flashes of light.

 

The following morning.

Ashley lived in a small apartment a few blocks from the area of the previous nights events, just a large room with a kitchenette. A bed beside a window and a couch in front of a black and white television, there was a table in the small kitchen which Ashley sat at; two plates of scrambled eggs on the table. There was a door to a bathroom and the sound of running water came from beyond the door. Then Chris walked out of the bathroom, his beard shaven off and wearing a white t-shirt.

Ashley said, “I made us breakfast.”

He then walked to the table and sat at it. Then they ate in silence for awhile until she spoke up.

“Can I ask Chris, why did you join the army?”

He looked at her for a moment then down at his food. “I was drafted, since my parents couldn't afford to send me to college. At lot of poor kids ended up in Nam.”

She said, “you know, seems everyone has an opinion about that thing in Vietnam.”

He asked, “have you seen some of the things happening there on the news?”

“Not really.”

“People think hell waits for us in some mythical afterlife, but I found hell and it is that country. I was there for four years, and some of the things I saw, some of the things I did, I still have nightmares ever night.”

She frowned and said, “I noticed you yelled a couple of times last night while you slept. Why are you homeless and why did you end up in L.A. Chris?”

“I went to a funeral for a friend from the war around here, and I just never left. And I can't hold down a job, I don't know why, those four years changed me into a man who seems to really not be able to do anything. Since I came home, every time I make it work things just fall apart.”

Ashley looked at him. “I remember you in school, toughest guy around.”

He then looked at her for a moment then looked down at his plate. “Sorry if I am a little blunt, but why did you end up turning tricks on the street Ashley? Though we barely knew each other way back when, it seems you could have gone to school and gotten a career, been something better.”

She sighed then explained, “after high school, I came to this city to be in movies but discovered like a lot of young people that those dreams are unattainable, this town is full of aspiring starlets who end up in the dark underside of this town. A year later I was destitute and then I met a guy who is now my pimp. At first he said he loved me, but I realized I'm just one of many lost women who he muscles the money they earn away from them. I owe him a lot of money actually.”

Chris asked, “why don't you go back home?”

Ashley seemed saddened. “My pimp said if I left without paying him, he would track me down and kill me.”

Chris tightened his grip on the fork he held and grunted. “I guess we both are the ones who did not get to live the American dream but got to experience the American nightmare.”

“Why don't you go home Chris, back to your parents?”

“I did the first year I was back. When I told my father about what we where doing in Vietnam was wrong and how the government sickens me; well since he has fond memories of his time in World War 2, he told me to leave and never come back; he said he did not want a son who was talking like some long haired spoiled brat.”

Ashley smiled. “So your dad does not like hippies.”

Chris looked at her and seemed troubled. “A ran into a few my first week back stateside, they called me things like baby killer and murderer.”

Ashley looked at him. “What do they know, they weren't there.”

Chris looked away from her. “Their right. I've seen some men who manned the mounted machine gun in helicopters shoot down unarmed women and children and enjoy doing it, actually enjoy shooting little kids as they tried to run away.”

Ashley said, “I guess it is true what they say, war is hell.”

“My squad came upon a village just after American jets dropped white phosphorous on that place, it is a chemical which burns through the skin and burns right down to the bone. I held a little Vietnamese girl as I watched her skin melt, I can still hear her screaming and crying when it is silent.” Chris then seemed troubled and went on. “Most of the guys over there, just poor kids who where forced to fight in that immoral war, but other guys, they enjoyed killing; it did not matter who. I watched this one guy in my squad shoot an old man and crush his head apart with the but of his rifle. I killed men, but unlike some other men, I did not enjoy it, it made my stomach sick.”

Ashley then reached across the table and put her hand on Chris's hand and said, “it was not your fault.”

Chris then suddenly got up. “Ashley, thanks for the hospitality and letting me clean myself up, but I should go. You said I could have your couch for one night.”

She then smiled as she looked at him. “Chris, please stay.”

“Why, we barely knew each other even back in Idaho?”

She told him, “because you need a friend, and I need a friend to.”

He looked blankly at her. “Are you sure?”

She nodded. “Chris, just say yes.”

Chris was silent for a moment then said yes.

 

A few months later.

Autumn had come and the oppressive heat of summer had subsided as the cooler months just before winter chilled the land and dusk was to the East. The run down part of town where Ashley lived was full of activity just before night. Cars filled the streets and people walked on the sidewalks amongst run down tenements and dilapidated homes. Ashley walked down the sidewalk, dressed in a black dress, and seemed to be walking quickly, she seemed on the verge of tears.

During the past month, she had spent time with Chris and soon discovered he was a broken, tormented man; but he treated her with a dignity and respect she had not known in years. She cared for him at first, but now she knew she was falling in love with him; she knew he needed someone to care for and care about him. But she also knew she was trapped in this life; her pimp would never let her leave. So now she was going to tell Chris what she knew she had to tell him.

She arrived at the steps to the tenement where she resided, a three story red brick building. She stopped and looked at the steps to her building. She inhaled then went up the stairs and went in.

 

In her apartment, Chris sat on the couch and watched television; the news was playing. On the screen as a male newscaster; a man in a suit with neatly combed hair and mustache. He spoke as Chris listened.

“Public support for the war continues to decline as our President says he still is looking for a way to make peace, but peace with honor.”

Chris grunted and muttered, “damn hypocrite.”

Then he got up and turned the television off. Then the door opened and Ashley walked in, closing the door behind her, and they mutely looked at each other. This continue for awhile until she spoke up.

“Chris, I think you should go now.”

He nodded and turned away. “I understand, you would feel more comfortable with me gone. It is OK, since I came back from Nam everyone who I get close to eventually says that.”

Then tears began to form in her eyes. “I need you to leave because I am starting to fall in love with you.”

Chris was silent when she turned her back to him and went on.

“But how could you love me, I'm some prostitute who sells herself for money. Some cheap whore who nobody could love, just some trash on the street.”

Chris put his hand on her shoulder. “Ashley, I care deeply for you to.”

She turned and now their faces where inches apart and they looked into each others eyes.

Chris told her. “I don't see a whore, I just see someone else who has had a bad hand dealt to them by life. I see someone who is beautiful but who is also sympathetic. But you need a man who is stable, since the war; no matter how hard I try everything just falls apart. I could not give you the life you deserve, I have nothing to offer you.”

She then kissed him and they then held each other. She said as she shed tears, “you will always have me, I don't care what happens; we deal with it together.”

Then there was a loud knock at the door. She pulled away from his embrace and they both looked at the door. A voice yelled from the other side.

“You better have my money Ashley or you are one dead bitch!”

She looked at him and said, “Oh no, it is Felix, my pimp.”

Then the door was broken open and it swung in after the man outside had kicked it. He, Felix, was a tall burly man in an expensive suit with greased back dark hair and wearing sun glasses. He then entered the apartment and scowled at Chris.

“Who are you buddy?”

Chris just mutely looked at him, his hands clenched into fists. Then Felix looked at Ashley and threatened, “you better have my money or I'll beat you so bad you want be able to walk for a week.”

Ashley replied, “I don't have it.”

Felix grabbed her arm and yelled, “wrong answer you stupid bitch!”

Chris then grabbed Felix's arm and pulled him off Ashley, Chris frowned at the man and said, “touch her again and I'll kill you.”

Felix pulled his hand free of Chris's grip and asked, “you would risk your life for this slut? Do you know how bad I am, just how badly I can hurt you?”

Chris then looked right into his eyes with a stoney expression on his face. “During the war, I killed people, a lot of people. Sometimes with a knife and close enough so I could look into their eyes just as they died. You don't scare me, once you have survived after being thrown into the darkest circle of hell, nothing can scare you.”

Felix seemed to be a little afraid. “Who are you anyways?”

Chris then stepped towards him and said in a deep voice, “she is no longer your property, if you ever even speak to her again; then I'll kill you. And I'm not making an idle threat, I spent four years shedding blood of countless people; so the life of some scum bag who exploits women won't bother me to much.”

Felix then started to walk backwards towards the door. “Fine, she is yours. Bitch is not worth the hassle anyways.”

Felix then left, slamming the door behind him. Ashley then just stared at Chris as he looked at her. He then said, “Ashley, pack up your things.”

She asked, “why?”

“I'm taking you away from here, we are going back home. Far away from this place, and this life.”

She then rushed towards him and then held him. “Promise you'll always be with me.”

He put his arms around her and said, “I can't offer you much, but I promise I'll never be far from you.”

“I love you Chris.”

Then they held each other in silence as outside the window, night began to fall.

 

The End

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Matthew Bissonnette. All rights reserved.

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