Out of Nowhere

Contributor: Chris Sharp

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When U.S. Marine Sergeant Ozzie Oldfield and his ruined leg came back from Afghanistan, he thought of the wounded limb as a little stranger on the plane. The little stranger wasn’t there for good times or fine conversation or entertainment, though. In Ozzie’s younger years, his legs working together earned him years of pure pleasure in most of the running sports. But now he felt stopped from even running toward a tennis ball.
The IED came out of nowhere and turned into pain the second it got into the right leg. Three men with Ozzie had been less wounded as their reinforced Cougar armored monster was determined to stay intact no matter what. Everyone inside was lucky, just extremely fortunate young guys. Ozzie was simply happy for all of them,
After being discharged and moving back into his father’s duplex, Ozzie settled into walking around with a cane. A new life followed with nearly a year of taking operations and physical therapy. In the end of all that, his black cane became “my most reliable helpmate.” When Ozzie articulated such thoughts to himself, he brought his cane into bed with him, and started sleeping with his hand on it. It was one of those things he could do now that “no one was watching.”
Ozzie found himself sharing almost exactly the bachelorhood of his father. The two were left alone after Ozzie’s brother moved out into a new life. Years before, the mother moved to Heaven on the momentum of cancer spreading from her chest. Now the father called Ozzie “Sarge” and was clinging to a son as the last hope of a family life.
“I can help you into a good workout club, Sarge, to stay enriched during days when not much else is happening here. I’ll get a three-month membership for you.”
“You don’t have to do that, Dad.”
“Get some new nourishment into your life,” the old man went on, oblivious to any idea but his own as he went out again.
Then, whenever Ozzie had the place to himself, he started with his daily walking exercises. He practiced lining his right leg up with his cane when he stepped, to minimize both the weight and the pain on the leg. He would rather practice inside than in the town, after he had been such a two-legged sports star at one time.
But there was too much quietness in the old duplex since Ozzie got back. That was corrected to a degree when he struck up his old friendship with the guitar of his high school days. The guitar had always put music in the center of quietness.
His goal was still to use three strings to create good, silvery chords. The pick couldn’t do it, so he threw it into the garbage and used his fingers. The fingers also fell short, but they came closer. He came a little nearer every week to creating true silvery chords.
He was happy enough with his progress to keep his cane off his bed, to be replaced at night with the guitar.
One Sunday morning the father asked Ozzie if he wanted to attend church with him. Ozzie hadn’t even heard of his father ever attending church.
“That’s all right, Dad. No thanks.”
“The reason I ask, this church has put together a group of guitar singers for its music.”
“No, Dad. I’m good.”
The next morning, Ozzie decided to walk off the feeling that his isolation was driving his father into even accepting God.
He walked for nearly a mile, hobbling on his cane with every step. He arrived at the shopping mall where his neighborhood bought practically everything it used.
Even with a cane, after a time he would begin walking with the full weight of his pain going through his right leg. People looked at him as if discovering a celebrity, staring right at the pain in his face, the grimaces and winces that he wondered could be turned into practiced rock ‘n roll snickers.
A young woman who could have been a high school classmate in flip-flops and bright-tempered ready-to-wear walked right at him, as if stepping through her bedroom, like the cars around her were just bedroom furniture.
“Good morning,” he said to her.
He stopped.
“Could you please accept on faith my taking you to lunch today?” he asked.
“Just out of nowhere, huh? I don’t think so.”
“I just have a hunkering to go to a good restaurant today, that one there.” He pointed to a place that looked good.
“Have you by chance been in the service?”
“Yes. Why?”
She pushed her hand to him, away from his cane. “Thank you,” she said, “for your service to our country.”
He shook her hand. “My service is over,” he said. “Today I’m out and about to organize a band.” He was telling her the most current truth he knew. He was already forming his most serious thoughts about organizing a musical group. It would use all the VA money the government sent him while he started making an income from live-action performances and thoughts of beauty.
She looked straight into his eyes. At the same moment he felt something happen like a pack of paparazzi at an Ozzie Oldfield rock concert trying to capture her expression for future editions.
Some years later, when a fellow jammer asked how he had met his wife, Ozzie said she was like an IED that came out of nowhere and then she got stuck to him.

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Chris Sharp has several short stories in the archives of Linguistic Erosion, Yesteryear Fiction and Weirdyear. His most popular Internet fiction is listed in Google: Short stories by Chris Sharp
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