<bgsound src="hearse.mid" LOOP="1"> A night of magic.A night of mischif

A Gift From the Heart

    2000
by

RUTH WILLERTH



Our Captain reminded me of a ghost. His hair was black, but his skin was pale, even when he was dressed in civilian clothing. I lived in a room in Army barracks set aside for enlisted personnel. There was a knock at the door. I opened it.

"Hello sir." I said. "Won't you come in."

The Captain smiled, and followed me in. The reason he really reminded me of a ghost was that every weekend he would visit, dressed in light colored sweats, but didn't say anything. Like a ghost he was there. He was paying attention, but he was silent. Like a ghost he was not suppose to be here. It violated Army tradition. Officers were not to mingle with enlisted personnel.

I scooped up the bottom half of uniform left on the floor from the night before. "Excuse the mess, Sir. Even though you seem to be a regular visitor, I never expect you."

The Captain smiled, but made no comment. If his purpose was official, like to inspect our quarters, my roommate and I would have been written up weeks ago.

"Can I offer you anything Sir?" I asked. "Coffee is fresh. There is cold beer in the fridge."

My coffee pot had to be hidden during inspections. Even though the coffee maker was brand new, Army regulations classified the coffee maker as a fire hazard. For some unknown reason, each room came furnished with refrigerators. However, the rules forbid us to store anything in them except for a six pack of beer.

The Captain looked at me with no expression on his face.

"A cold cut perhaps." I persisted. "I know you don't drink anything that I do, because your Mormon, but it would be impolite not to offer you anything." I paused for an answer. "The cold cuts aren't bad, just scrape the ice off the top and they'll taste all right."

"I'm not refusing your offer because I am a Mormon, but because you are enlisted, and I am an officer." the Captain explained gently. "I feel it would be wrong to take food and drink from my soldiers."

I waited to see if he would say anything else. There was silence. It looked like I'd carry on another monolog until the Captain excused himself and left me alone.

"Still working on the same stereo that I've been working on all month. Should have it out of here this week though. The Sergeant blew more than the entire right channel. It looks like he took out an amplifier or two as well. I can't go much further on this. Everything is chard inside. So you don't have to worry about seeing this box full of scrap much longer." I paused trying to think of something more to say.

"I'm not worried about the stereo you've been working on, messing up the room." the Captain said.

"You're not?" The surprise on my face must have been a sight to see, because for the first time since the Captain had started making these strange visits he started to talk to me.

"Do you know why I keep visiting you?" The Captain asked, laughing at the same time.

"No Sir." I shook my head. "But, I am more than curious."

"I have a question that I want to ask." The Captain explained.

"You don't have to visit someone for a month and half, just to ask them a question!" I objected.

"I wanted to know you better, before I asked." The Captain answered.

"What is the question?" I asked.

"When I was first assigned to this unit, there was a strange object on your dresser." The Captain explained. "I ordered you to throw it away."

"I did as you ordered." I answered quickly. "I threw the Gummy Bear Picnic out the day you ordered me to."

"That is not my question." The Captain said evenly. "Though it is comforting to know that object isn't hidden somewhere, ready to pop up when I least expect it. What I want to know is why that object was in your room. What did you call that thing?"

"The Gummy Bear Picnic--that's what I called it for the lack of a better name." I said slowly, as I tried to remember. "That was long ago. You waited this long to ask a question about it?"

The Captain just looked back at me with a blank look on his face.

"I was told the sculpture offended you."

"Did the sculpture have any religious significance?" The Captain asked.

"More than likely, but not to me." I waited for another question, but the Captain was silent. "I can't blame you for being offended. That thing scared me too."

"You were scared of that repulsive sculpture?" The Captain exploded.

"Yes."

"Then why did you keep it?" The Captain bellowed.

"Because it was a gift from the heart Sir." I answered quietly.

"A gift from the heart?" There was surprise in his voice.

"I saw it being made. It was definitely a gift from the heart. My friends and I were sitting at the break area the day before I was assign to leave to come here. Bobby had given us a bag of gummy bears to commemorate the occasion. The wind had carried a cardboard square under the picnic table. One of my friends picked up the stones and took out his lighter. Both my friends faces went blank as they melted the gummy bears and attached them to rocks that they picked up from the ground. Color and life returned their faces as they finished.

I screamed in horror, when Dicky handed me the finished sculpture. They made it look like a living sacrifice.

Dicky smiled and asked, "Didn't you know?"

"No. I didn't." Both my friends stared at me. I felt real nervous. "But, you both have been good friends to me. It is a gift from the heart, and I will treasure as such." Both my friends seemed to change back to normal again.

Every time I looked at that thing, I was torn between the horror of it, and that it was a gift from the heart. I've been taught: One should always treasure gifts from the heart."

"I am glad that the statue horrified you as much as it did me." The Captain said quietly. "I didn't know it was a gift from the heart."

"But, their hearts were dark." I said. "I didn't know my friends hearts were black and murky until then. Then was too late."

"I would not have ordered you to dispose of it, if I had known it was a gift from the heart." The Captain insisted. "I was afraid to ask. The more I visited you the more puzzled I became. What a nice girl like you, was doing with a sculpture like that? I'm sorry I ordered you to throw it away."

"Don't be sorry Sir." I said. "I'm glad you ordered me to dispose of that thing. I wanted to but, I just as afraid to throw the Gummy Bear Picnic away as I was to keep it."

"If I had known that sculpture was a gift from the heart, I would not have ordered you to dispose of it." the Captain countered. "However, if I had asked you at the time, without knowing you, I wouldn't have been able to accept your answer. I'd suspect you to be playing with me."

"But, I would have told you the same thing a year ago if you had asked." I objected.

"But, I didn't know you a year ago." The Captain replied. "How come you obeyed that order, but not other orders?"

"Tone of voice said you were serious about me following that order." I answered. "If I ever meet the people that gave me the sculpture I'll tell them that I would have kept their gift, but I was ordered otherwise."

"Tone of voice?" the Captain asked. "But, I didn't order you personally."

"No, but your sergeants relay your messages accurately."

"That's nice to know." The Captain grinned. "But what's the difference between an order you follow and a order you don't follow?"

"How determined everybody is to enforce your order." I shrugged my shoulders. "Don't worry Sir, when you make an official inspection; the coffee pot will disappear, the fridge will be devoid of food, and the beer will be carefully counted and deleted if necessary to comply with your orders, as always."

"Of course." The Captain grinned. "That's what I thought you'd say."

The Captain's haunting had come to an end. Although, I destroyed the Gummy Bear Picnic, it's image burned into my memory. Perhaps because it was a gift from the heart, that the twisted figures of candy bear shapes arranged on stone still haunts my mind, and my soul.

 
 
 
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