May Comes with a PCS Surprise
Nothing beats a surprise. I smiled as I pulled up to temporary lodging at Maxwell Gunter Air Force Base. My new duty station was just outside Montgomery, Alabama, and I could’ve burst with happiness and excitement. I was so damn giddy. How I got the top duty station on my wish list, I’ll never know and don’t care. I’m just glad it happened. Goodbye snow, ice, and freezing cold winters. My future looked bright back in the Southern states, with its hot summers and warm breezes.
The base was nice. Smaller than the previous duty station, and that was something I was happy about. I got all the things I wanted. A small base in a Southern state. The main buildings were cream-colored with reddish tin roofing. The grin I had plastered on my face grew as I pulled into a parking spot. The exterior was much the same as most buildings on base. I threw my seat belt off, pushed the driver-side door open, and was greeted with a blast of balmy air. The temperature gauge on my console read eighty glorious degrees. I glimpsed myself in the rearview mirror and grinned from ear to ear at my reflection. I cut the engine and hopped out. This was a moment to savor, and you bet your ass I did. I let my head fall back while I closed my eyes and basked in the warmth as vitamin D seeped into my pores. The sun’s rays caressed me in a welcoming hug. It’s the climate I was born in. My bones longed for it every day since the parents moved us from Arizona to Kansas all those years ago. I thanked the PCS gods for being on my side this go-round because this was my new home. Hot summers, beaches within driving distance, warmish winters, and just a short two-hour drive from the folk
I knew about this move when I went home for Christmas last year. It took everything in me to keep it under wraps but needed to wait until I was standing on Alabama soil, orders in hand before I told my parents. Sometimes orders fell through, things happen, so I didn’t want to get the whole family excited until it was a sure thing. However, on the drive here, a new plan formed. Why call my fam with the good news the second I arrived? I had a better idea. With a new plan hatched, all that was left was to get checked into the lovely accommodations temporary lodging provides. From the looks of it, an old barracks repurposed for the transient military personnel that comes and goes. It was an older building and smelled of old sweat. The reception area looked clean, a good sign. All I needed was to get checked in, unload the car, grab a bite, and get a good night sleep because there was a two-hour drive to Roseford in my future, like sunup soon. Then I’ll spring my surprise with a weekend visit and drop the big news.
Yep, just as I suspected. Repurposed barracks. No elevator, and my room’s on the fourth floor. So I get to trek up and down the stairs to unload my car multiple times. My legs are on fire, my ass is numb from the ten-plus-hour drive from Illinois to Alabama. The GPS said it was an eight-and-a-half-hour drive, tops. But that’s straight through with no stops. A girl’s gotta eat and a girl’s gotta drink and then nature calls and before you know it you’ve added a good hour and half of stops to your cross-country drive.
Sweating, tired, completely spent, all my belongings tossed around the room. I collapsed on the bed. Hey, hey, at least the bed is soft. I stretched my limbs. My muscles unknotted one by one. PCSing is hard. Moving sucks, but this right here is my favorite part of the whole ordeal. That first moment when you can finally relax. That’s the best.
I reached into my back pocket. My body protested. I needed my phone. The sooner I could get intel, the sooner I could shower and pass out. First, I ordered room service a la Marcos Pizza then I put in a text to my co-conspirator.
Me: Hey bro. Need your help.
Daniel: Hey. What’s up? Did ya make it to Gunter?
Me: Yeah, just got settled in. Happy to be off the road. Change of plans. I’m gonna surprise mom and dad in the morning. Show up at their doorstep. Will you find out if they’ll be home?
Daniel: Yeah, I’ll call Connor see if he knows. You know you could just do that.
Me: Nope. He can’t keep a secret, but if he thinks you might be popping in, it’ll throw him off if he lets something slip.
Daniel: True. Kk, one sec.
Me: Ty, ur the best!
Daniel: Yeah, yeah.
While I waited for Daniel to call back, my pizza arrived. Sausage, black olives, mushrooms, and extra cheese. My favorite. It felt good to sit down to a meal after scarfing down food on the road. The beer I put on ice was perfectly chilled. I closed my eyes and took a swig. The icy elixir quenched my thirst. I reached for the TV controller, but my phone buzzed and flashed on the table. Text from Daniel.
Daniel: All’s clear. Mom & dad will be home all day tomorrow.
Me: Sweet! Ty brudder!
Daniel: Np. See ya soon-ish.
Me: Soon-ish… what does that mean?
Daniel: It means I’m going on a sink soon.
Me: Awe man. I just got here! How long?
Daniel: You know I can’t say sis. Not like this. OPSEC.
Me: Yeah, yeah. I know. Talk tomorrow? I’m gonna finish eating and crash.
Daniel. He’s one of my younger brothers, Conner is the other. I also have an older brother in Kansas. We’re all over the place. Daniel’s Navy and a subbie. So, he goes underway often and we like to call them sinks because subs sink. Oh, and OPSEC. That means Operational Security because you don’t talk about troop movements like giving specific dates. Especially through messaging, texts, or social media. I know all that, but it’s still a habit to ask.
Beer finished and pizza consumed. Time for a shower and some shuteye. I’ve got big plans to hatch in the morning.
This short story is also published through Coffee House Writers
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