Little Mickey’s Monkey
Vietnam made him an old man way too young. The Agent Orange that had rained down on him had ravaged his body; the whiskey that kept the nightmares at bay had ravaged his mind. His doctor seemed to think that daily walks would benefit both, and even though he didn’t buy it, he figured it couldn’t hurt. So, he walked.
After a month or so, he started venturing beyond the borders of their little piece of land, encountering neighbors, always ready with a smile. One Thursday afternoon, he struck up a conversation with one such neighbor. Many coincidences were discovered: The two discovered they had both served at the same time, and had taken their R&R at the same location. They both went by Mike; but he was a navy man, his neighbor, a marine.
It became a routine, this stop on his daily journey. They would have a cup of coffee, smoke a Marlboro Red, and recall the lighter moments of their time at war.
One such afternoon, he brought up a soldier, somewhat infamous back in the day for taking possession of one of the monkeys local to the area and making a pet out of it. The man was a marine, so he thought his new friend may have heard of him. He recounted tales of monkey mischief — stolen shiny objects, disappearing caps, and other monkeyshines — with fond laughter.
Then he grew somber.
“Little Mickey and his monkey, we called them. Killed that last year in an air strike. R&R was never quite the same after that.”
There was no reply, and the silence — mistaken as one of respect for the dead — stretched long enough that he looked up to see his new friend quietly crying.
“Mike, that was me. I’m Mickey. And you’re right, the monkey was killed that day. But I survived.”
They hugged as their usual coffee date became an unexpected, and long overdue, reunion.
After that day, he started walking a different route. He died a few years later, having never seen Mickey again.
*This is a true story — Just one of many stories about my father that tell us no matter how much time passes after a boy is sent to war and expected to come back a man; no matter whether peace is “declared”, the war is never really over. I know it was never over for my dad.