It was Louise waking up in the morning to an empty bed, with her husband sleeping on the floor of her daughters’ bedroom. The same empty bed that wouldn’t fill 6 or 9 months later.
Then it was the divorce papers, all wrapped up as his anniversary presents. Her eyes were drowning but he wasn’t in them anymore.
There was the wedding ring he’d pawned at the shop for the money he’d need to take the train. It was hers and she didn’t mind.
Then there was the time the police took him into custody for falling asleep in a phone booth, with $40 worth of quarters in and the sound of two girls sleeping on the other side.
There was a hotel room he had for 2 months before he got up the courage to knock on Daniel Pierce’s front door.
There was no alcohol. He drank apple juice by the crate.
Every 2 weeks, there was a phone call. Louise would ask how he was and he’d tell her the truth. She’d say goodbye and then hang up.
Every few days, there was a letter. Daniel would let him read them first so he could pretend that they were for him. There were the silent nights that would come after them, when Trapper would sit at the kitchen table all night and stare at the wall clock.
There was another man. His name was a joke, really, so he spent days making fun of it to his empty guest bedroom. Daniel pretended to laugh and didn’t say anything.
There was the Fourth of July. He stared at the ceiling as the fireworks went off and didn’t drown himself in the bathtub. Daniel had locked the bathroom door just in case.
Then there was Christmas. Daniel didn’t ask him how long he’d be staying and in return he told the stories he couldn’t tell the rest of the year. The stories made up of 3 day trips to Tokyo and not-so silent nights. Daniel got drunk and he did too, on cider which is possible because if he wasn’t drunk, his crying didn’t make any sense.
There was a job because Daniel didn’t trust him in the house alone. He had a chance to remind himself that most of Earth’s problems could be solved with a bandaid or a cold compress. When a boy came in from a factory two towns over with burns from a factory fire he did the operation. Daniel caught him at the bank trying to withdraw the money to see his daughters for the night.
There was a letter of homecoming. Daniel cleaned the house from top to bottom and then back again while Trapper slept soundly for 2 days straight. When Daniel pulled on his boots before going to the airport, he had his jacket on and was staring into the kitchen as if someone was already in there.
There was a man at the baggage claim. Hawkeye was looking for his father and he almost didn’t notice him. The man came over and said ‘hello’. He said ‘hello’ back. He took Hawkeye’s bags and led the way back to the car. Daniel Pierce was waiting in the car. What he was waiting for he didn’t know.
There was a fight 2 feet in front of the door, bags already inside. Hawkeye swung first and last because he always had to have the last word. There was no fighting back because Trapper had a lot of the fight pulled out of him already.
There were the two weeks during which Hawkeye demanded apologies for every little thing and then some he’d just made up. He visited family, friends, and old patients. Trapper worked at the clinic until 9 pm every day and stared at the ceiling all night, pretending he wasn’t noticing the liquor cabinet slowly emptying out.
There was the girl Hawkeye brought home from the bar. She woke up early the next morning and stumbled out with one of his khaki shirts on and found Trapper sitting at the kitchen table. He made her breakfast and talked to her until she left. Daniel wouldn’t talk to Hawkeye for a week and Hawkeye pretended he didn’t know why.
There was the time Hawkeye tried to give Trapper his dog tags back to give to Louise. Trapper turned his cereal bowl on his head and stomped out of the room. Daniel asked where Hawkeye’s own dog tags were and Hawkeye pretended he hadn’t heard him.
There was Trapper’s birthday when he took a 36 hour shift and snuck in at 2 am to Hawkeye sitting on his couch with a tall glass of vodka. Hawkeye offered him a glass. Trapper took a glass of apple juice and sat down next to him. They sat beside each other silently until dawn.
There was two days later when Kathy and Becky came to visit with their mother. Louise stayed at the same motel Trapper had and she never came to visit. Daniel referred to them as his ‘grandkids’ and Hawkeye smiled without really knowing why. When Becky skinned her knee and twisted her ankle Hawkeye threw up. Trapper sat next to him in the bathroom floor while Daniel entertained the kids.
There was the girl at the bar who’d tried to sweet talk Hawkeye into spending the night at her place. And there was the elaborate story that he made up about a wife and 16 babies that kept him home that night.
There was the day, 3 months and 16 days after Hawkeye had returned, that Daniel woke up and saw that someone had put away the sheets from the couch. His son’s room was locked and he went to work without waking them up.