Saturday morning, July 27th, 1968
Dear diary…. I don’t know where to start, so I guess I’d better start with what happened today. XXXXX…..No, I can’t think about that, right now!! My head feels like it’s going to explode, every time I try…..

Maybe if I start with the first time that I saw him. I remember, it was a cold day, and I was walking home from school, through the regular place, you know, the field… I remember how cold it was…I had my hands in my jacket pockets, trying to keep them warm, but my ears were freezing, so, I took them out, and covered my ears for a minute, and stopped walking… Then, I heard the footsteps. Someone was cutting through the woods, I thought, because I heard the sound of footsteps on leaves, and then, branches snapping, like someone was in a hurry.  Pretty quickly, I saw a guy come out of the trees, near the waterfall. He must have climbed the hill and walked right through the poison ivy patch, to come out there!! Pretty dumb!

When I saw his face, he didn’t look like someone I knew, more like a senior, or something… We have about 450 kids in my school now, so, he could be someone I walked by in the hall, but, he’s older, and I try not to look at the older guys-  I don’t want to get them mad, they beat up smaller kids!!

Anyways, he’s not in my grade! So, I turned and kept walking towards home, but suddenly he yelled and was calling me- “Hey kid!” I kept walking and hoping that he wasn’t looking for someone to beat on… Then, he yells again!! And, I’m thinking, “Oh no!” But, I turned… I thought maybe I’d run, but the field is big, and if he wanted, he’d probably catch up, by the time I reached the end… I looked, and he was coming towards me , fast!! But, he was smiling, at least… He has a jacket, a brown one, made of leather, with these cloth badges  on it , kind of like in my favorite TV show ‘Twelve O’clock High’ that they stopped playing last year… Boo!! That was a cool show, and all my friends watched it, too! Well, the jacket that Colonel Galagher wears, I think they call it a bomber jacket, or something, is what the guy was wearing, only with patches or emblems, I don’t know what you call them… One said, Airborne on it,  and had the head of an eagle, and another said Rendezvous With Destiny on it, and had a flying eagle on it… He was walking fast, like he was cold, like me, and he had his hands in his pockets too!!

He caught up with me and stopped and smiled and said “Hey!” I said “Hey” too… He took his right hand out of his pocket and stuck it out for me to shake, which I did… It was warm!  He  said, “I’m Mike, do you live around here?” I told him yes, but not where I live! He said, “Thanks for waiting, I’m trying to find the bus station, and I’m not from around here, so, I thought you could help me. I’m supposed to be back with my unit by Tuesday night, so, I want to get my ticket before all my money is gone…. ” He laughed and said “You know how it goes… it burns a hole in your pocket! Wine, woman and song… ”  I don’t know what he was talking about, but I laughed too!! He was pretty funny, and really good looking, kind of like Robert Conrad on my favorite show now- “The Wild, Wild West”.  Really cool show!!  He wasn’t too smart though… There isn’t a bus station around here!! That’s only in big towns or cities!! So, I told him so… He said, “I knew I was lost!” and then he laughed again… Well, he asked me if I was in a hurry to get home, or if I could show him a place to get something to eat. He said he was hungry. He did seem lost, and I didn’t have to be home till later, so I said OK, I’ll show you where my dad gets sandwiches and coffee, sometimes, and then I have to get home because my mom will get mad, if I’m late for my dinner… I didn’t tell him that dinner was 3 hours away!!

We walked to the Center, it’s not far, and Mike told me that he was home from the army on leave, and he got into a fight with his dad and decided to split, he said… He asked me if I argued with my parents and I told him sometimes, but they always win, because it’s their house… He laughed and told me I was funny, and he put his arm over my shoulder… It was pretty cool! I never had an older guy do that before… Well, except my dad or uncle, that is… Oh, and my friend Eric, too… he’s 16, so he’s 2 years older than me!! But, we talked, about my school and his army stuff and he told me that he might be leaving to fight in the war soon… I asked him if he was scared, and he said, sometimes, but then he laughed, and put me into a fake headlock, and said, “But, not with you around!” He was a neat guy, to treat me like that!! When we reached the diner, I told him that he could eat there and that I hoped he wouldn’t die in the war… God, what an idiot I am!! I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say it that way; I hope you come back home and we can talk again, about things…”   He just laughed, and pulled my head into his chest, and hugged it, and told me” It’s OK, you’re a good kid, and I like you… I wish you were my little brother!” And then, he said, “Come on, I’ll buy you a burger and milkshake, if you want… you must be hungry, and I owe you something for helping me…” Boy, that burger sounded so good!! And, a milkshake, too!!  I was really hungry….When I get hungry,  mom says I’m a growing boy, dad says I’m a human vacuum cleaner!! Get it!! ha, ha!!

So, I said OK, because I really had lots of time, and Mike was so cool… We sat at the table in the corner, and the guy that cooks came over to see what we wanted and saw Mike’s jacket, and asked Mike where he was stationed, and Mike said Fort Campbell… I said , “That’s where Campbell soup is made, and Mike laughed and said that I was a real comedian… Well, it wasn’t that funny, but, I tried, anyways… We ordered the food, and I had a big cheeseburger with bacon and lettuce and tomato and mayo, and a chocolate milkshake that was sooo good!! The whole time, Mike told me about the special training that he got, and how it could be the difference between life and death, when he went to Vietnam. I thought about it and how he could die again, and I guess I got sad, because he asked me what was wrong, and I said nothing, but he said, tell me, so I did, and then I felt ashamed… I mean, he is a strong guy, and smart enough to know how to fight the enemy, and besides, I’m just a boy, and I shouldn’t be worried about another guy like that… Oh, never mind… He said that it was cool that I was worried about him, so, whew!! We had a great time, me and my new friend, Mike. But, we finished eating, so, I said I had to go, and asked him what he would do. Mike said, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll ask Joe there about getting a room for a few days, and then I’ll have to get my ticket for going back…” Then, he asked me if I would be walking home, the same way from school tomorrow…. I said “Yes”.  He said,” Well, maybe I’ll catch up with you, tomorrow!!” I couldn’t believe it!!  We walked outside, and before I left, Mike gave me a big hug, and said, “Thanks for being my little brother, kid!” He felt so warm and strong… I felt so safe and…    I hope noone ever reads this, because I’ll probably die, or something, but, I felt like he loved me… I know, I know, I’m just an idiot!! Why would he love me?? I’m just a kid, and besides, he’s a guy!!  It’s not the same as me and Bobby, for crying out loud!! But, anyways, I told Mike that I wished I had a brother like him too, and hugged him really tight… He smelled good, too!!

I walked, well, really, I ran, all the way home. It was getting dark, and I was worried about all the questions that I might get asked, if I got home too late, so I ran pretty fast!! We had dinner at 6:30 and I ate it all!! See, I told you, I am a human vacuum cleaner, like my dad says!! Ha! I went to sleep that night, and dreamed about Mike, and what it would be like to have a nice, big brother… Other things happened in the dream, but I don’t want to talk about them! I got up the next morning; it was Friday; And, I walked to school, looking around the field and waterfall, but, no Mike!! Well, he did say, after school!!  The school day was so long AND boring… I couldn’t wait for the final bell, but, finally, it happened, and even Mr. Lee (the jerky history teacher) seemed glad that the week was over!! But, that didn’t stop him from giving us tons of homework!! Thanks for nothing, Lee!!

It didn’t matter now, though, because I was walking home, and just wanted to see Mike again!! I was so excited!! I even ran to the woods near the waterfall, and looked for him, but, I couldn’t see him anywhere, so I climbed the hill, through the poison ivy patch (I know, stupid, all right!), and when I got to the top of the hill, I heard a voice come out from behind a big oak tree!! The voice said, “Hey, little brother!!” It was Mike!!!

                end of part one….