Marti forced a slight smile. “This is all an incredible coincidence. I got a call from the owner of the SNAFU yesterday. He was a bartender when I worked there 37 years ago. We got married a couple of years later. He eventually bought the place, but we divorced after ten years. He wanted me to watch the place for him while he went on a doctor’s appointment. I told him to give Lynn a call. Like what were the chances?”
“What do you mean?” Wilson said.
“You show up on the only day I have worked there in 15 years,” Lynn said.
Marti breathed deep through her nose. “It was 37 years ago. I was trying to work my way through nursing school. I got a job at the SNAFU. It was quite a place back then, soldiers throwing their money away giving dollar tips on a 50 cent beer for nothing more than a wink and a smile.”
Wilson leaned forward. “Was I one of those soldiers?”
“Not one of those soldiers,” Marti said, “but a soldier.”
“So you remember me?” Wilson said.
Marti nodded as if a painful admission.
Butch, Donnie, and Lynn looked as if they were about to spring to Marti’s rescue.
“Sit back,” Marti said.
“Were we friends?” Wilson said.
“Yes,” Marti said.
“Close friends?” Wilson said.
“Very close,” Marti said.
“Marti,” Wilson said. “Perhaps it is best I go. I’m opening a wound that I can’t possibly shut or heal.”
“No,” Marti said. “You got lot bigger problems than I got. Believe me, painful memories are better than no memories at all.”
“Would you like for one of your children to get you a drink?” Wilson said.
“I am bone dry,” Marti said. “Butch get me a glass of water.”
Butch quickly went into the kitchen and got glass of water and returned. Marti sipped twice.
“Are you okay, mom?” Donnie said.
“Yes,” she said, “perhaps better than what you think.”
“Would you like to wait awhile before going on?” Wilson said.
“That is the way you were, Wilson,” Marti said, “Kind, gentle, and caring.”
“How did we meet?” Wilson said.
“You never came in with the regular crowd,” Marti said. “You were a loner and quiet. Finally one day I got you to talking.”
“What did I talk about?” Marti said. “About a friend.”
“Who was my friend?” Wilson said.
“His name was Charles Arnold,” Marti said.
“But that’s the name I lived by for almost 37 years,” Wilson said mysteriously.
“Are you sure you want me to go further?” Marti said. “I’m afraid I will be the one to open the wound that can’t be closed or healed.”
“Do you know anything about Charles Arnold?” Wilson said.
“Like I said, he was your best friend,” Marti said.
“What else?” Wilson said.