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Calendar >  Forever Would Be My Wish – Thomas Calabrese

Forever Would Be My Wish – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  January 1, 2023  /  10 Comments

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But I’ll Settle For One More Tomorrow

Thomas Calabrese -Rimo West was part of Seal Team 7 and stationed at Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California.  He had been in Special Operations for eleven years and had served in dangerous locations all over the world. This latest mission would be a lot closer to home, but no less life threatening. China and the Mexican drug cartels had formed an unholy alliance to manufacture fentanyl and smuggle the deadly drug across the southern border. Illicit fentanyl overdoses were now the number one cause of death among adults 18-45 –more than COVID-19, cancer, heart disease, and all other accidents. The situation was growing worse with each passing day.

Credible Intelligence determined that a manufacturing facility was in full operation outside Ensenada, Mexico. The Navy Seals went in under the cover of darkness using night vision goggles to guide them.  Rimo West’s official designation was Master Breacher. He planted three C-4 plastic explosive charges on the thick metal door and backed off to where the rest of the team was waiting. Rimo counted down, five, four, three, two one and pressed the detonator. The explosion severed the hinges and the door fell to the ground and the Seals entered the building.

Something wasn’t right, the building was empty except for several pallets of cardboard boxes. Rimo’s instincts kicked in so he warned his team members, “It’s an ambush…abort…abort.”

The Navy Seals ran into a buzzsaw when they tried to exit the building. Bullets were coming at them from every direction so they were forced to take defensive positions inside the building and return fire. While looking for another escape route, Rimo noticed a trap door near a stone pillar and walked over to open it. He looked down and turned to Pete Bentley, “I’ll check this out.”

            “Don’t take too long,” Pete said.

Because they were attacking a chemical facility, the Seals were wearing protective gear and masks to prevent contamination. Rimo went down the ladder and a man hiding in the corner attacked him from behind and ripped off his mask. Rimo flipped the man over his shoulder and the two men engaged in hand to hand combat. The Navy Seal sustained a minor wound to his forearm before he prevailed and stabbed the man in the chest with his knife. Rimo started to feel nauseous, but he had enough strength to find an underground tunnel and the Seal Team made their escape. In the gun battle two other Seals sustained wounds in the confrontation.

By the time the Seals reached their designated evacuation point, Rimo was so weak that he could barely stand. The helicopter flew directly to Balboa Naval Hospital and he was placed in isolation while a group of infectious disease specialists tried to determine what Rimo was exposed to. For three days the Navy Seal drifted in and out of consciousness before the Navy doctors found the appropriate medication to slow down the infection. Rimo was not allowed any visitors and the medical staff had to wear to protective clothing before entering the room.

One week later and there was some very minor good news. Rimo was no longer contagious after the doctors identified the infection. It was RIBOLA-19, a fatal disease that was originally manufactured in the Wuhan Laboratory in China.

The medication prescribed by Doctor Christine Shepard would eliminate the nausea and the pain, but it had no effect on the progression of the virus. She said, “Permission to speak freely?”

Rimo responded, “Absolutely.”

            “If you weren’t in as good a shape as you are, you’d probably be dead right now. There is no cure for this disease so I advise you to get your affairs in order.”

            “What is your best estimate of how much time I have left?” Rimo asked.

Doctor Shepard responded, “I talked to several top level experts in the field of virology and e-mailed them your test results. The consensus of their medical opinions is to plan for two months and hope for three. I’m very sorry.”

            “No reason for you to be sorry, you didn’t do anything wrong. I appreciate your honesty.  Missions have inherent risks and everybody in Special Operations has that same mindset. It is ingrained into every fiber of our being and it allows us to do what we need to do. Death is an occupational hazard. I consider myself luckier than most because I have a pretty good idea on when I’m leaving this world. Like my old team leader used to say, “Don’t let the coffin lid hit you on the way out,” Rimo quipped, “My next mission is simple…live until I die.”

            “Special Operators take bad news better than anybody in the world,” Doctor Shepard smiled.

Rimo met with his team to tell them the bad news, “I don’t have much, but you’re welcome to what I have,” He handed an envelope to Pete Bentley, “This a notarized power of attorney, you’re in charge, old buddy.”

            “So what are you going to do?” Pete asked.

Rimo smiled, “Get the most out of every day.”

It was early morning and Rimo packed his belongings and checked to make sure he had enough medication to keep him coherent. He drove his Toyota pick-up with the camper shell off base then went north along the Pacific Coast Highway. It had been so long since Rimo was not on a schedule that he found cruising with no particular place to go a refreshing change.

When he made it to Oceanside, Rimo decided to take a break at the Harbor. While sitting on a bench and gazing out at the row of boats, he started to feel a little sick to his stomach so he reached into pocket and took out his anti-nausea medicine. An old fisherman walked by and saw Rimo perspiring heavily, “Are you alright?”

            “I’m fine, but thanks for asking,” Rimo said.

The Navy Seal had not eaten since yesterday, but he still wasn’t hungry. Rimo knew that he had to keep his fluid level up so he walked over to the outside patio of the Broiler Restaurant and sat down. The waitress walked over and asked, “Are you ready to order?”

“I would be deeply grateful if I could get one glass of orange juice and another of cranberry juice.”

“Coming right up.”

While looking over toward the parking lot, Rimo noticed a black van pull in. The side door opened and a hand reached out and set a burlap bag by the trash can then drove off. At first, Rimo thought it was no big deal. He figured that when he left the area, he would put the trash in the container. After finishing his drinks, Rimo walked over to the bag and lifted it. When it started to move, he quickly set it back down. He opened it and saw two puppies in it. What the hell!” Rimo cursed. He picked up the two animals and they began licking his face in gratitude. He couldn’t tell what type of dogs they were, but from the size of their paws, they were not a small breed.  He couldn’t abandoned the dogs, but the timing for having pets in his life couldn’t have been worse. What was he going to do, obviously he couldn’t keep them. When he was told of the seriousness of his medical condition, he accepted it without emotion or regret, but holding these puppies in his arms, he was overcome by sadness.

Rimo stopped off at In-N-Out Burger and ordered four hamburgers without buns and four cups of water and fed the hungry pups and gave them something to drink. He took some towels and a blanket from his belongings and made a bed behind the passenger seat of his truck. The two dogs snuggled up together and looked lovingly at Rimo who warned them, “Don’t look at me that way and don’t get too comfortable, this is only temporary. I am not the answer you’re looking for.”

The terminally ill American warrior did some quick research on his cellphone about rescue agencies in the area and decided to drop the two dogs off at the Fallbrook Animal Sanctuary. Upon his arrival he was met by Rachel Oakley who was in charge of the facility. Rachel was a licensed acupuncturist who studied Chinese Medicine in Canton and Hong Kong. While doing that, she also competed in martial arts and cliff diving events. Her husband was a Marine Corps fighter pilot who was killed in action over the skies of Afghanistan when his F-18 Hornet was hit with a Stinger missile.  In order to spend more time with the animals, Rachel moved her holistic health center on to the sanctuary property. Her teenage daughter Athena helped out while studying to become an equine veterinarian.

When Rimo drove up to the main building of the facility, he was feeling weak and nauseous. He fell to his knees while carrying the puppies and Rachel rushed out to offer her assistance, “Are you alright?”

Rimo attempted to minimize the severity of his condition, “It must have been something I ate.”

Rachel looked into Rimo’s eyes and immediately knew, “You’ve got a serious infection.” She helped the Navy Seal to his feet and called to her daughter, “Athena! I need your help.”

Athena rushed out to take the puppies and Rachel led Rimo to a back room where there was a single bed. She strongly suggested, “You need to lie down. I’ll bring you some herbal tea.”

The room was spinning and Rimo felt like he was going to vomit. He started perspiring heavily and when Rachel returned, she placed a cool rag on his forehead. She suggested, “I’m going to leave the tea on the table. When you feel up to it, drink it. You’ll start feeling better when you do.”

Ten minutes later, Rimo was upright and when he found Rachel and her daughter, they were examining the puppies. He commented, “I don’t know what was in that tea, but it sure helped a lot.”

            “Why are you turning in the puppies?” Athena asked.

Rimo responded, “I was in Oceanside when somebody dumped them in the parking lot. I couldn’t leave ‘em.”

            “We’ll gladly take them, we never turn an animal away,” Rachel said, “Do you live around here?”

            “I’m just passing through, planned on doing some traveling and two dogs aren’t in my plans otherwise I would adopt them,” Rimo attempted to rationalize the situation to ease his troubled soul, “It wouldn’t be really fair to them, sitting in a truck for hours…they need a yard and a place to play…don’t you agree.”

Rachel asked, “Are you in the military?”

            “Just got out.”

            “Permission to speak freely?” Rachel asked.

            “Please do,” Rimo said.

            “You’ve got a serious infection, I can tell that from looking at you,” Rachel said.

            “Ribola-19, don’t worry, I’m no longer contagious,” Rimo said.

            “They gave you a terminal prognosis, didn’t they?” Rachel asked.

            “Affirmative.”

Rachel said, “My primary profession is Holistic Health. I’ve studied very extensively about viruses, parasites and various treatments including acupuncture. I might be able to help you.”

Athena added with pride, “My mom is very good at what she does.”

            “I don’t doubt your qualifications, Ma’am,” Rimo said, “I don’t want you wasting your time on me while you could be taking care of the animals.”

Rachel explained, “You shouldn’t be driving everywhere, you could pass out at any time and kill yourself or somebody else. I know that you don’t want that. My instincts tell me that you’re a good person, otherwise you wouldn’t have brought the dogs in. How about if I make you a deal; I would like the opportunity to see if my treatments will help your condition. If they don’t work, you haven’t lost anything and you’re no worse off than you are right now. If they do work, you get your life back and I can use the research to help other people.”

            “Kind of like a guinea pig?” Rimo said.

            “Exactly,” Athena defended her mother, “You got a better offer?”

            “That’s a very generous offer, but at the risk of being blunt, how much?”

            “Most of the herbs I grow here in my greenhouse including the components of Ivermectin which are synthesized by the chemical hydrogenation that is isolated from the soil bacterium Streptomyces avermitilis. I won’t charge for my services and if I have to order a few things, I’ll pick up the costs,” Rachel said.

            “If I do accept your offer, I’ll pay for anything that is related to my treatment,” Rimo demanded, “I can pay my own way.”

Athena said, “I’ve got a suggestion, we’re always looking for volunteers. If you don’t mind manual labor and working around animals, that’s another way for you to help.”

Rimo smiled, “Those are two of my favorite things to do.”

            “I’ve got an RV that was donated to the sanctuary. It doesn’t run, but it is clean and warm and you can use it.”

While walking to the RV, Rachel asked, “What service were you in?”

            “Navy,” Rimo replied.

            “My husband was in the Marine Corps, he was a pilot.”

Rimo asked, “What’s he doing now?”

            “He was killed in the line of duty,” Rachel said.

            “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Rachel asked, “What did you do in the Navy?”

            “Supply and Logistics, nothing too exciting.”

            “I pride myself on being a good judge of character. About four years ago a retired Navy Seal moved to Fallbrook with his family. They came in to adopt an animal and he became a volunteer. You remind me a lot of him.”

            “Really?” Rimo said, “Interesting.”

Rachel smiled, “Does the name Clint Burrows sound familiar? I’ve got nothing against being evasive or secretive, but it will be easier to accomplish things if we don’t lie or under-estimate each other’s intelligence.”

            “Point taken, I know Clint, we were in the same unit for a while until he got promoted,” Rimo confessed.

            “I never asked what your name was.” Rachel asked

 “Rimo West.”

            “Rimo, that’s an unusual name,” Rachel said, “Haven’t heard that one before.”

Rimo explained, “This is the story that my parents told me. When my mother was pregnant with me, she liked to listen to, The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens.  She thought that they were singing Rimo West instead of Weeheeheeheehee weeoh aweem away. Since our last name was West, she figured it was a sign.”

Rachel said, “I was watching an old movie with my husband about Greece and that motivated us to name our daughter Athena.”

            “Good choice, Athena’s fierce and clever achievements from the Trojan War fostered war victories and cultural advancements. I read a lot about Greek mythology.” Rimo said.

Rachel set up a strict regimen for Rimo to follow which included a diet high in antioxidants, no sugar and minimum carbohydrates. He took a special combination of blended herbs three times a day and received acupuncture on a daily basis. Rimo named the two puppies, Hondo and Augie and quickly bonded with them. He told Rachel, “If I live, I’m going to adopt these two dogs, that’s a promise.”

There was no job at the sanctuary that Rimo felt was beneath him because he knew that he was getting the better end of the deal and he loved the animals. He was feeling stronger with each passing day and was exactly where he wanted to be at particular point in his life. Strange how life works out, Rimo expected to travel around the country in order to some peace of mind and he barely made it 50 miles from the base to find all the tranquility that he ever wished for.

 Rimo did his best to never intrude into Rachael and Athena’s life. He reminded himself that he was two things, manual labor and an experiment. As time passed, Rimo grew to admire Rachel more and more. She was the total package, consummate professional, dedicated mother, good-hearted, strong, intelligent and a physically attractive woman.  Rimo did not want to ruin their friendship by telling her how he felt. It wasn’t easy, but like they say in the Navy Seals; the only easy day was yesterday.

It was early one morning when Rachel received a call about some mistreated animals on 6392 Spring Haven Road. Rimo was cleaning the kennels when she asked, “Do you have time to take a ride with me?”

Athena interjected, “I can handle things here.”

            “Let’s go,” Rimo said.

When they got to the property, Rachel said, “Just follow my lead…don’t go rogue.”

            “Roger that,” Rimo said.

As they walked across the property, they heard the whining of dogs. When they turned the corner of the house, they saw three dogs locked in a pen. They had no water, food or shelter. The animals looked like they were starving to death.

Rimo went to the pen and saw a padlock on the gate. When he did this, three armed men came up behind Rachel and one of them put her in a chokehold. The biggest of the three men was holding a shotgun in his hands and growled, “You’re trespassing and trespassers will be shot!”

Rimo calmly said, “We’re here for the dogs.”

            “You can’t have them.” The Second Man growled, “They are my property and nobody takes what’s mine.”

            “You can either voluntarily surrender them or we’ll take them,” Rimo responded calmly.

The man with the shotgun could not swing the barrel fast enough to hit Rimo and the blast from the weapon the former Navy Seal by less than a foot as Rimo dived to his left and came to his feet.  He grabbed the shotgun barrel and yanked the shooter so hard that he fell face forward. Rimo kicked the man in the side so hard that it broke three of his ribs. When one of the other men charged at him, Rimo hit him in the throat with the side of his hand and he fell to the ground gasping for air. The third man challenged Rimo, “Put that shotgun down and let me see what you can do.”

Rimo handed the shotgun to Rachel and whispered, “If he kills me then kill him.”

            “Loved to.”

The man went through a series of kicks and punches to show off his martial arts skills. He came at Rimo who blocked the kicks and punches. Rimo then proceeded to go on the offensive with his own barrage of powerful punches and brutal kicks. Seeing he had no chance for victory with his feet and hands, the man pulled out a long bladed knife and threatened, “I’m going to cut your heart out and feed it to the dogs.”

Rimo pointed to his chest, “Here it is …come and get it.”

The man lunged forward and Rimo re-directed the blade of the knife into the man’s heart. He stared at Rimo for a second and whispered, “Wrong heart,” then fell to the ground dead.

 Rachel walked over and spit on the body, “I have no mercy or sympathy for anyone who mistreats an animal or tries to kill somebody that I care about.”

Rimo opened a door to a small building and sniffed the air which smelled like chlorine and rotten eggs “Smells like a meth lab.”

Rachel asked, “May I have the shotgun?”

Rimo handed the weapon over and Rachel shot and killed the injured men and commented, “I don’t like drug dealers either.”

They loaded the abused dogs into the truck and started driving back to the sanctuary. On the way, Rachel called the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and said “6392 Skyhaven Road, there’s a drug lab on the property,” and quickly hung up.

Three weeks later, Rimo was almost back to normal and could get back on the road if he wanted to, but was content to stay at the sanctuary as long as Rachel would let him. He was playing with Hondo and Augie and a dozen other rescued dogs when his cellphone rang. It was Pete Bentley who got right to the point, “I just found out from a confidential source on who set up the ambush. If you’re interested, meet me at the Texas Roadhouse on Vista Way at 1900 hours tomorrow.”

The two men had a nice dinner and Pete handed a large envelope to Rimo as he prepared to leave, “In case you want one more mission.”

When Rimo got back to the Sanctuary, he informed Rachel, “I have some unfinished business to take care of. If you don’t see me again then I want you to know how much I appreciate what you’ve done for me.”

            “If you really appreciate it, then come back. I don’t want excuses or explanations,” Rachel gave Rimo a hug and a kiss and walked away.

Rimo bid farewell to Augie and Hondo then saw Athena as he was leaving. She said, “Mom says that you’re leaving.”

            “For a while,” Remo responded.

            “Make it a short while. You clean kennels better than anybody I know, besides the dogs like you,” Athena stormed off.

Rimo drove to Lake Havasu, Arizona and put a vacation home under surveillance for three days.  He made absolutely sure that the individuals in the photos that Pete gave him were the same people inside the house.  Three of the guests who helped set up the ambush to kill the Navy Seal team were on the payroll of the drug cartels and included two congressmen and a federal district judge.

There was a festive party going on and Remo watched with binoculars from his concealed position. At 0200 hours, he entered the house through an open laundry room window. While wearing night vision goggles, he went from bedroom to bedroom and silently killed the conspirators with an icepick without disturbing the other guests. Rimo disappeared as quietly as he had entered and made the 285 mile trip back to Fallbrook in less than four hours,

 Rimo was waiting for Rachel and Athena with Augie and Hondo by his side when they arrived at the sanctuary on New Year’s Day. He quipped, “Remember me?”

            “Welcome back and Happy New Year!” Athena rushed to embrace Remo.

Rachel was feeling emotional, but did her best to maintain a strong demeanor, “My New Year’s resolution was to not get involved with you. Before I break that promise, I need to know how long you plan on staying. Before you answer, remember our agreement about not lying to each other.”

Rimo smiled, “Forever would be my wish, but I’ll settle for one more tomorrow.”

The End

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

The Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County invites all writers to join us at our monthly meetings. Veterans and Non-Veterans are equally welcome For more information go to our website: www.veteranswritinggroup.org

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10 Comments

  1. Debra Moore says:

    Happy New Year ! What a wonderful story to start my day
    Thank you!

  2. Robert says:

    Another good story.

  3. john michels says:

    Great story Happy New Year Tom

  4. Tom says:

    Another great story with my kind of characters: Navy Seal, attractive woman and puppies. Add a few unsavory characters needing immediate access to hell and you have a formula for success. Too many bad guys making illegal and deadly drugs….so this was a win-win solution by removing both from the face of the earth!

  5. wolf says:

    good one

    she was the complete package. attractive, tough, Doctor of Alternative medicine. just saved your life. Great way to start the new year

    HAPPY NEW YEAR

  6. Clyde says:

    I enjoyed the story. well done.

  7. Tony says:

    Mr. Thomas Calabrese “Rocks” with his first Sunday Story in the Vista Press to kick off the New Year. It is great to start the years with a very positive story filled with action and a few canines certainly add to any story.
    The Navy Seal was destined to find a happy life after so much strife in his life.
    It is a great story to never give up no matter what the circumstances if you an squeeze out another day, do it. I appreciate this positive story and Happy New Year to you and your readers. Stay positive.

  8. Bart says:

    Good on, I even read it to my wife and she was impressed. Happy New Year.

  9. Stephanie Boren says:

    Great story!! Always a fan of the dog stories. What do you know…an acupuncturist named Rachel… love it

  10. Tamra says:

    You always know how to entertain an audience, my friend!

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