“Pepper Jack” by George Knox

_69387323_vietnam_cows_gJack Pepper quietly fiddled with the plastic tubing beneath his hospital gown and sighed. Throughout his seventy odd years he had led what most would call an unattached life with no regrets; until that very moment. The sight of watching urine bubbles move up and down the tube and disappearing into a yellow bag attached to his leg at Veteran’s Hospital Buffalo had him wondering what it would be like to have family who thought this was as bad as he did. Jack’s life was one of revolving doors of jobs, relationships and searching’s. A thin ruggedly looking salt and pepper bearded man who now found himself with bladder cancer. So when his nickname was called out from across the room, he was not quite sure if he was hearing things or daydreaming. “Hey, Pepper Jack. That you?” A raspy voice queried?” Only a select group of men had ever called him Pepper Jack, and that was eons ago. Jack did three tours of Vietnam and if he was honest about it that is the place where he felt among family. He never belonged with or to anyone as he did that group of guys and despite his many attempts to understand and explain it, he never could. Looking up to acknowledge his name, Jack found the voice in a row of lounge chairs attached to Iv’s, several feet away “Hey you old bastard. I knew it was you.” Replied the man in the chair. Jack smiled and responded, “Jefferson, how come every time I see you, the world is going to hell in a hand basket.” “Tell me about it. Just tell me about it.” Sitting there alone with an old friend Jack Pepper was Pepper Jack again and despite it all, began to feel much better.