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  Gene's Perspective 

A short story
The Drummer Plays On
by Gene Johns

May 18, 2001

Doug sat quietly at the end of the bed, almost dressed. He would soon slip on his socks and shoes and make way to the kitchen for his morning cup of coffee. His wife was still asleep after the two of them had been up well into the early hours of the morning, waiting for a phone call.

Two months earlier Doug and Betty had watched their son drive away headed for a destination unknown. All they knew was their son, Tom an army reservist, had been called to active duty. He had been ordered to report to his reserve unit and be prepared to depart for an overseas mission, destination classified.

Tom was an enthusiastic young man ready to take on the world. He had recently started attending classes at the local community college and played the drums in a local rock band. Although Doug and Betty weren’t thrilled with the type of music Tom was involved in, they supported his desires. After all, the boys in the band were all friends from Tom’s childhood and Tom still played the drums at their Church on Sunday morning.

Surprisingly, Tom and his four-member band all decided a year ago to enlist in the Army Reserve together. They went through basic training together and assigned to the same reserve unit. Tom and his friends were all called to active duty at the same time and deployed together.

On his way to the kitchen, Doug went out the front door to retrieve the morning paper. As usual, Doug had a mission of his own each morning—looking for the morning paper. The paperboy never threw or placed it in the same place, and this morning the paper was out in the middle of the front yard and a little damp from the morning dew.

He got to the kitchen table and unfolded the local newspaper. The bold print headline reinforced the reality of what Doug and Betty had learned last night. Doug's legs grew weak, and he gently lowered himself onto the dining room table chair. The headline read, "Three local men killed during a training mission preparing for deployment." An Army Reserve plane had crashed on a training mission. Three of four local men on board killed with one survivor.                 

Doug and Betty had received word last night from the Army that his son and others had gone down in a plane crash during a training mission in Nevada. At that time the fate of Tom was unknown. So Doug and Betty waited tearfully and in fear to hear some news. Finally, about 3:00 a.m. the phone rang.

It had been a long night for Doug and Betty. The horrible news of last night and waiting for word on the fate of their son took them on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Doug was thankful his wife as still asleep. She needed the rest and Doug needed some time to himself. His thoughts were of his son and his son’s friends.

Doug sipped coffee from the coffee mug his son had bought him years ago for a Father's Day gift. It brought him warmth to his body after the coldness of the tragedy he learned about last night. Doug was sad but thankful to know, his son the drummer, plays on.