One Teenager

Jimmy snuck down the stairs leading to the basement garage. He had to sneak because the wooden steps were worn thin in the middle and creaky—easily heard from the floor above where his parents were sitting, although dad was asleep in an oversized chair while his mom sat in another oversized chair knitting in a trance like state—her fingers moved quickly but she didn’t appear to look at where they were going. It was 1960 and he was 14, hooked on rock and roll music. The station wagon radio was his goal. He didn’t want his parents to know he had taken the car keys.

                He closed the door between the basement and the garage to insure no music escaped from the wagon and into the house. Jimmy opened the car door quietly and quickly put the key in the ignition and turned it to the left to the accessory position. He turned the dial until he found his song, the number one selling record in the country, Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry.” The record was so hot that some radio stations like the one he had on would play Lee’s song back to back. He hoped he was listening to the first go around, such was his teenage mindset.

                It was close to 8 p.m., the usual time for the number one song to be played. Jimmy was proud of his timing. When the repeat of “I’m Sorry” was finished, he turned off the radio, took the keys out and headed to the steps, only, this time the basement door didn’t open. He tried all the keys on the chain, but none fit.  He was locked in the garage.

                Five years later tears welled up in Jimmy’s eyes as he crouched in the darkness of a Vietnam jungle, an M-16 cradled to his chest. This was no trip to the station wagon, but that was what he was thinking about while waiting for the platoon sergeant’s orders.

                He whispered,” I’m Sorry” as if it were a prayer. His parents often joked about the night they retrieved their son from the garage. He asked God for the chance to hear that story one more time back home.

                Suddenly the vines were slapped loudly by enemy fire. Jimmy readied himself—all thoughts of the night in the garage were gone. He lay on his stomach… 

                Fact: 11,465 teenagers in the U.S. military were killed in the Vietnam War–no record of how many were Brenda Lee fans.

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