Rescuing Nick Klick
Nick Klick was sitting in his sister's mother-in-law apartment watching television when the phone rang, something that didn't happen all that often.
"Hello?" He answered after picking up the cell from the nearby coffee table.
"Yeah. Who's this?"
"Yeah, Sparks!" He laughed. Don't you remember me?"
Nick ran through his mental rolodex file. "Well, I knew a Sparks in the Navy…..."
"That's me!" Sparks bellowed.
"How the hell did you find me?" Nick asked with surprise.
"It wasn't easy," Eddie admitted. "Turns out Elvis Newton had your number."
"Yeah, he tracked me down a while back."
"Hey, sorry about..."
"Yeah. So what's this about, Ed?"
"We're having a reunion, man!"
"A reunion?" Nick rubbed the top of his head. "You mean of the old squadron?"
"No, of your high school, Nick!" Sparks hallowed. "Of course the old squadron! Hasn't Sharkbait tracked you down yet?"
"Yeah, him and a couple of other guys are setting this all up," Sparks said. "Here, take down his e-mail."
"Hold on a second," Nick said, grabbing a pen off the table behind him and getting ready to write down the info on a napkin although he really wasn't sure why.
"Ready?" Sparks asked impatiently.
"Yeah, sure," Nick replied as a flood of old memories started flashing through his head.
"So, the reunion is the last weekend in September," Sparks told him. "Me and Lapointeless and Gwyane are driving down. You in?"
"I don't know, Ed….."
"Come on, it will do you good." Sparks urgently urged. "E-mail Sharkbait and get all the details."
"I guess I can do that much," Nick said with apprehension.
"I'm meeting Lapointeless at his house in Connecticut and then we'll pick up Munster in New Jersey," Sparks revealed. "You can meet us at Lapointeless' place."
"If I go," Nick replied, still trying to get his head wrapped around the very idea.
"You're going, Klick," Sparks ordered. "Plan on it."
Then the line went dead.
Nick fell back on the couch and sighed. Sparks' call was a blast from the past he didn't expect and the thought of going back in time to see guys he hadn't seen in thirty years left him dizzy. Had he ever been that young?
It was his first tour after boot camp and "A" School, reporting to a newly established Navy helicopter squadron in Jacksonville Florida as a young eighteen year old "yeoman" apprentice. He went on to become career Navy serving a twenty-year career but that squadron was his first command and it really prepared him for his future. He met some great people, was mentored by some terrific professional Sailors, matured as a person, became an excellent Sailor, and went on to serve in five more commands and when he looked back on it that first squadron was really the best command of his career.
But why would Nick want to go to a reunion with his life in shambles? Did anything he accomplished matter once the accident happened?
Nick mentioned the reunion to his sister a few days later and she was encouraging in her advice.
"You haven't done anything in so long, Nicky," Valerie said, in the apartment to check on him like she did every few days when he failed to make an appearance in her adjacent house.
She was a year older than him and still in great shape for her age with bouncy blond hair and a shapely figure. She didn't wear that much makeup to hide her age lines and crow feet and she still had the best looking teeth in the family.
The apartment had been empty for several years following the death of Valerie's mother in law, used mostly as a hang out and clubhouse by Valerie's kids but it was a perfect place for Nick to live after the accident.
He couldn't bring himself to stay in his house with so many memories and way too many emptiness. He sold the place and got rid of most of the furnishings, moving into the already furnished mother-in-law apartment with most of his memories boxed and stored in his sister's garage.
Sadly, the mother-in-law apartment became a self-imposed prison for Nick and Valerie knew her brother isolated too much nearly five years after the tragedy forever altered his destroyed life.
"I think a road trip with some of your old shipmates to see guys you served with will be good for you," Valerie said with encouragement. "You should go."
"What if I fall apart?" Nick sighed. "What if I just can't do it?"
"It's just a few days, Nick," Valerie said with understanding. "I'm sure you'll be okay."
"I'll think about it," Nick said after some hesitation. "But I'm not committing to anything."
"That's fine," Valerie replied, giving him a hug. "Thinking about it is good."
Nick decided to send an e-mail to Sharkbait a few days later and he got a fired up, excited, encouraging and cheerful response twenty minutes later with several attachments describing the reunion plans - a Friday night meet and greet and several Saturday activities before the formal sit down dinner on Saturday night with guest speakers.
Those attending were asked to send in a mini-bio so others would have background material prior to the reunion to save having to ask and answer the same few questions a hundred times.
Nick knew he'd have a problem composing his story.
He received a couple of other e-mails from some of the guys during the next few months after Sharkbait added his name the group list with guys checking in and encouraging him to attend the reunion with repeated reminders from Sharkbait to get his mini-bio in.
Nick learned that a few other guys had suffered personal tragedies over the years too, including death of spouses and kids, illness and other challenges so he knew he wasn't alone in the misery department but he still didn't want to have to tell the story of his loss over and over again.
He dug out his old cruise book and other mementos from that tour to remember the good old days and one of the guys e-mailed more than two hundred photographs from that era to the group and it was easy to become nostalgic for those times.
Valerie showed her brother the letters he had written to her during that period and he smiled at his younger dreams and outlooks.
Of course, that period of his life was before marriage and parenthood and Nick had been a different person then. Now, thirty years removed, could Nick pretend the last five years of hell had never happened?
Nick tentatively decided that he would attend the event and he mailed in his sixty bucks to Sharkbait and he told Sparks to go ahead and reserve a hotel room that he'd split with him.
After some struggle, he also wrote his mini-bio for the collection.
Nick "The Klick" , Yeoman Seaman - Yeoman Second Class, Admin. Transferred to Naval Education Training Center, Newport RI. Follow on tours included Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, Instructor, YN "A" School, Meridian Mississippi, Ships Company, USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69), Navy Recruiter Northeast Region, and finally Captain's Staff, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) before retiring as Senior Chief Yeoman. Served eight years as Human Resources Director of Hillsboro Mental Health Services, a non-profit mental health agency. Married Angela Robinson. Daughters Katie and Maryanne. Widowed. Presently Employed by Ward Cleaning Services.
It was hard enough to type in 'widowed' but he just couldn't bring himself to acknowledge Maryanne's death as well.
With Valerie's continued support and the encouragement of Sparks among others, Nick decided to attend the reunion, including the road trip with three guys he hadn't seen in more than thirty years.
A/N – This is a rewrite of the original story from 2012 which was much too long and rambling. I edited out much of the clutter (down to about 11,500 words from the original 26,764), broke the story out into chapters, and narrowed the focus to the main characters by eliminating the background information on the other Sailors and some of the road trip banter that was largely irrelevant to the storyline.