(Last week: Chartan unarms a distraught man inside a donut shop.)
Chartan with Gina on his arm, stood at the hospital discharge window. “How much do I owe you?” he asked.
The woman behind the glass shuffled some papers, then grinned. “Nothing.”
“I don’t even owe you for the meatloaf?”
“Nothing. Your bill was taken care of.”
“My boss told me a woman covered the expenses—I think her name was Minerva.”
“Who’s Minerva?” asked Gina.
“Someone I used to drive to San Francisco.”
“You must know her well.”
“I don’t really know her at all—let’s go.”
As soon as they went through the revolving door to the outside, they were besieged by a trio of TV reporters. Gina clutched Chartan tightly.
“I don’t intend to make this a habit,” Chartan said loudly.
A woman shouted out, “Were you concerned for your safety when you tackled the gunman?”
He faced the woman who had posed the question. She was shaking slightly—nervous, thought Chartan.
“I didn’t weigh the options—there were none. I didn’t want anyone to be hurt, so I just went after him. I was lucky again.” Gina squeezed his arm harder.
The barrage of questions that followed did not advance the basic information that Chartan had reacted quickly and in doing so, he had saved lives. One reporter linked his heroism to the time he threw hot coffee into the face of the car window bandit. Chartan simply added, “Yes, the 72-bean brew to the rescue.” The reporters laughed while the cameras rolled.
Finally, the woman who had asked him the first question, interjected: “Who is the person with you?”
Chartan paused. He was about to say Gina was his wife, but stopped himself. “This is my bride to be, Gina.”
Skyler Brazil sat on his bed, staring at the war tattoos on both his forearms: skull and crossbones on the left, a serpent coiled around a cross on the right. The art was 40 years old, as vivid as the memories he couldn’t forget.
By his side was the note from Chartan: Please be our best man, maid of honor and our friend this Friday at noon at the city clerk’s office. We’re getting married. Let me know.
He had one hour to get to the wedding. His first order of business was to iron the long sleeve blue shirt he bought yesterday.
Fifteen minutes later Brazil started the short walk to City Hall. He was soon overcome with the sense that an important moment lay ahead. Certainly, for Chartan and Gina it would be a special time, but why would it be significant for him? He had no friends, no mission to carry out. He was alone. Yet, there was something making him take each step with…pride. That was it, pride. Where was the usual anger? The hate? Perhaps, it had been taken over by the joy of being asked to be a wedding witness.
“Cuse me. Got change for a veteran?”
Brazil stopped at the alleyway where a man, maybe his age, held a can and weather beaten cardboard sign: “Help a vet.”
Was he a vet? Did it matter? The man was clearly in bad shape. He handed him a dollar and left without waiting for a response.
His monthly VA disability check assured him that he wouldn’t end up on the street. But what contribution was he making to make life better for others? Nothing at the moment. But something was coming, he could sense it, something that would alter his life’s direction.
(Continued next Sunday)