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Calendar >  Sergeant Lucky – Thomas Calabrese

Sergeant Lucky – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  November 27, 2022  /  15 Comments


Lifesaver and Lifechanger.

Thomas Calabrese – Nina Mondello started off as an office worker and was promoted to cost estimator for Baez Commercial Construction in Kansas City, Missouri. She had been with the company for five years and had high hopes for a prosperous career as long as she worked hard and did a good job. She liked her co-workers and had an excellent relationship with management and the owners.  There was no downside to her job and she thoroughly enjoyed coming to work every day. What could go wrong when all these things were working in her favor?

A little thing called COVID 19 is the answer. It was like a black cloud drifted over the entire world and hung ominously over people’s lives for almost two years. Because they were in doubt on what to do politicians overreacted and imposed lockdowns and numerous restrictions. Thousands of companies either went out of business or drastically reduced their workforce.  Construction was one of the hardest sectors hit because businesses were hunkering down with no intention of expanding their operations. Baez executives did their best to keep their employees on payroll by reducing the work week, but eventually they had to make some hard choices. Nina was given one month’s severance pay and her long term plans disappeared before her eyes. She could have stayed in her apartment and used her savings to pay the rent or she could accept her parents’ offer to move back home until things got better. Nina reluctantly chose the latter.

Since most businesses weren’t hiring, Nina got a job as a delivery driver for Amazon. It was a humbly experience, but it was a job and it beat staying home and whining about the state of affairs. Even though her parents never asked for anything, Nina paid them rent. When things slowly started to open back up, she started working part time as a waitress at Applebee’s. Nina continued to send out resumes to construction companies in the area while hoping that her former employer might actually call her back. As time passed, that option became less and less likely.

Her father, Larry said, “I’m proud of you, you’ve handled this setback in your career with style and class.”

            “Like you say; life is what happens while you’re making other plans,” Nina smiled.

            “Or plan in advance then go with the flow,” Larry said

While driving back from 24 Fitness after a workout, Nina received a call. She looked at the screen and saw the words Tri City Medical Center. She had no idea what it was so she answered, “May I help you?”

The man’s voice on the other end inquired, “Is this Nina Mondello?”

            “Who’s calling?” Nina asked.

            “Doctor Edward Beaumont, do you know Vera Landers?”

Nina replied, “She’s my great aunt.”

            “I’m her treating physician and she’s been hospitalized for a chronic heart condition.”

            “Is it serious?” Nina asked.

Doctor Beaumont replied, “Very serious, she’s in intensive care and her condition is critical. If you want to see her then I would advise you to hurry up and do so.”

            “How did you know how to contact me?” Nina asked.

            “She listed you as her next of kin,” Doctor Beaumont said.

Nina reminded Doctor Beaumont, “You know that I’m in Kansas City?”

            “I definitely do,” Doctor Beaumont said, “I’ve told you what I know up to this point. It is up to you whether you come or not. I’ll text you my private number if you have any further questions. Right now I need to get back to work”

When she got home, Nina quickly informed her parents of the situation and her dilemma, “I could call in to work and tell them it’s a family emergency. It is probably going to cost me over a thousand dollars to book a flight on short notice.”

Larry said, “Aunt Vera is an unusual woman. Her husband was a retired Marine who died in a car accident and her son was killed in action in the Middle East. My dad said she became very reclusive after that and stopped staying in touch.”

Nina thought back, “Remember when I went to California with two of my friends?”

Nina’s mother, Sue, responded, “It was after your second year in college.”

            “I only planned on saying hello to Aunt Vera on our way from Los Angeles to San Diego. She invited us to stay for a few days, fixed us a fancy dinner every evening and showed us around the area. The best part of our trip was being in Oceanside,” Nina reminisced.

Larry reminded his daughter, “And the first thing you did when you got home was send her a thank you card…right?”

            “That was the least I could do considering how nice she was to us,” Nina said.

Sue added, “Don’t you also send her Christmas and birthday cards too?”

            “That’s no big deal,” Nina said.

Larry slightly disagreed, “Maybe it’s a big deal to her.”

            “If you want to go and you’re worried about the expenses, we’ll pay for it. If you don’t want to go, you should feel no obligation, you are only her great niece, it’s not like she’s part of your immediate family,” Sue said.

Nina sighed, “If I don’t go, I’ll never know why Aunt Vera chose to list me as her next of kin.  Answer me this question, would either one of you be able to say no if a doctor called and told you to hurry to the hospital?”

            “Probably not,” Larry said.

Nina left Kansas City International Airport the next morning and arrived in San Diego three hours and forty-five minutes later. From there she took the coaster to Oceanside and an Uber to the Tri City Medical Center.

A woman in her mid-sixties was sitting in the corner of Vera Landers’ hospital room when Nina entered. The woman introduced herself, “I’m Sally Robb, your Aunt Vera’s housekeeper and friend. I’m guessing that you are Nina.”

            “That would be me. How is she doing?” Nina asked.

Sally answered, “She’s drifting in and out, but no major changes.”

Nina walked over to the bed and said, “Aunt Vera, it’s me, Nina.”

Vera opened her eyes and whispered, “Thanks for coming.”

Ten minutes later, Doctor Beaumont entered the room and did a quick examination of Vera and checked her vital signs and said “She’s stable and resting comfortably, that’s very encouraging. If you want to get some rest and something to eat, now would be a good time to do it. If anything changes I’ll call you.”

            “Thank you, Doctor,” Sally responded and turned to Nina, “You look tired…long flight?”

Nina said, “I’m alright.”

            “Unless you’ve made other arrangements, I’m sure your Aunt would want you to stay at her place,” Sally said.

            “I came straight from the airport so that would be great.”

Vera’s home was in South Oceanside. It was three-bedrooms, meticulously maintained and located two blocks from the beach. Sally showed Nina the guest room and smiled, “When Doctor Beaumont told me he contacted you, I got the guest room ready just in case. You’ve got clean sheets and fresh towels. Why don’t you take a shower and get some rest. I’ll fix you something to eat and then we can go back to the hospital before the end of visiting hours.”

            “Sounds like a good plan to me,” Nina smiled, “My aunt is lucky to have you.”

            “It’s a mutually beneficial situation…she does much more for me than I do for her,” Sally smiled.

Nina looked out the back window and saw a small cottage in the backyard and said, “I don’t remember that building when I was here last time.”

Sally responded, “The City of Oceanside relaxed the requirements for constructing a granny flat. Your aunt had it put in last year. She only rents it to single Marines. She says it is a way of honoring the memories of her husband and son. She likes seeing a Marine around. The guy currently living there is away for training.”

Miraculously, Vera made a quick recovery and was having a private conversation with Doctor Beaumont in her hospital room before being discharged. “You are well enough to return home, but your chronic heart disease is worsening. You are not a candidate for a heart transplant because of your age… I’m sorry to say that your condition is terminal.”

Vera asked, “My husband used to tell me that death is God’s reminder that we’ve been here long enough, .How long do I have?”

            “A few months…maybe a year,” Doctor Beaumont said, “One of my instructors in medical school used to tell me that the heart has a mind of its own, it will stop when it wants to.  I do recommend that you get your affairs in order while you still have the strength.”

After telling Nina about her prognosis, Vera added, “I’d like to begin transferring ownership to you. It will be much easier that dealing with everything after I’m gone.”

Nina was dumfounded, “I didn’t come here with the hope that you were going to give me something. I wouldn’t feel right taking anything from you.”

Vera was blunt, “I’m on the clock, so to speak. I want some peace and tranquility before I leave this world. This is the best way to get it.”

            “What about your friend Sally, wouldn’t she be a better choice than me?” Nina asked.

Vera confessed, “We made a deal, if you didn’t come out from Kansas City, she would take on the responsibility, but if you did then I would ask you.”

            “Now it’s starting to make sense,” Nina smiled.

            “Don’t make this into a conspiracy,” Vera said, “If I didn’t trust and care about you, I wouldn’t even make the offer.”

Nina countered, “When you put it that way, I have two calls to make. I need to inform my employers that I’m quitting and tell my parents that I’m going to be here for a while. One more thing, thank you very much. I hope I don’t disappoint you.”   

While meeting with her attorney, Bennett Gregg, Vera and Nina listened to his advice, “The best way to proceed would be to create a family trust with Nina as the executor of the trust. I’ll need a retainer to begin the paperwork.”

            “How much?” Vera asked.

Bennett replied, “One thousand dollars.”

Vera inquired, “And the total cost?”

            “Thirty-five hundred. My staff will prepare the necessary paperwork. There will be a form that you will list all your major assets. This will have your house, car, bank accounts, jewelry and anything else of value.”

As they were leaving the office Vera said, “I’ve known Ben for years and I trust him, but I still always ask what things are going to cost up front…just so there is no misunderstandings.”

            “Thanks, I’ll remember that.” Nina said.

It took two weeks to get the trust taken care of. While they were working on it, Vera introduced Nina to her neighbors and told her where to shop to get the best deals around the area. It was very businesslike and the two women didn’t discuss the inevitable which was looming on the horizon. The only times that Vera got emotional is when she spoke about her husband and son. As the time grew closer and Vera started getting weaker, she reminded Nina, “I’ve already paid for my funeral and my instructions have already been given to Dignity Memorial. I’ll be buried next to my husband and son at Miramar National Cemetery.” Nina wiped away a tear and Vera reminded her, “I need you to stay strong.”

            “You don’t make it easy,” Nina snapped back.

My husband used to remind me, “Never let you outrage or compassion get in the way of the mission.” Vera reminded her great-niece. “I’m at peace and ready for whatever awaits me in the everafter.”

Nina disagreed, “You may be ready to go, but I’m not ready to let you go.”  

When Sergeant Greg Hutton returned from training, Nina informed him of Vera’s serious medical condition and he responded with heartfelt sincerity, “I’m so sorry to hear that. If is there anything I can do, all you have to do is ask. Your aunt has been great to me.”

            “Everything has or is currently being handled,” Nina answered.

Sergeant Hutton inquired, “Should I start looking for another place to live?”

            “Not unless you want to, I’ll honor the same agreement as my aunt.”

The time was growing near and Nina decided to take a run on the beach to clear her head. When she returned, Vera and Sally were sitting in the living room. Vera said, “I have something for you.”

Nina responded, “You’ve given me too much already.”

            “This is something special, something for you to love and that will love you back…unconditionally.”

Sally walked into the other room and returned with a puppy, “This is Sergeant, we named him that because of the three stripes on his left hind leg.”

Sally handed the puppy to Nina and he licked her face.

            “See, he already likes you, I knew you would be best friends,” Vera began coughing up blood.

The funeral was an extremely private affair. The only people in attendance were Nina, Sally and Sergeant Hutton. Two weeks later, Sally organized a Celebration of Life at the Veterans Center in Oceanside. It was catered and the mood was festive and lighthearted, just the way Vera would have wanted it. Nina’s parents flew out for the event.

Sue asked, “Are you going to sell the property?”

            “I thought about it, but it means too much to me now. I’m going to stay. This is your new vacation home and it is open for business.”

 Vera had significant financial investments in the stock markets and tax free annuities. These assets were placed in the trust fund so Nina would have a steady income flow if she chose not to work. Nina relied heavily on Sergeant for emotional support and she deeply loved the dog. While she was extremely grateful for the gifts that had been bestowed on her, she could not get over the lingering feelings of guilt that she had not really done that much for her Aunt Vera while she was still alive. It was months before Nina even considered making any changes to the house or the interior. Sally brought this issue to Nina’s attention, “Your aunt left you this home to do as you wish, but she was not the kind of woman that would want you to live in the shadow of her life. If you really want to honor her memory then be happy…that is what she would want.”

Those words had a profound effect on Nina and from that moment on she got on with her life. Sally was the beneficiary of a large insurance policy that Vera had taken out when she first found about her medical condition. After considerable planning, Sally invited her two sisters to be her guests on a first class cruise of the Mediterranean. She was gone for six weeks and it was an experience of lifetime for these hardworking women who had never traveled abroad.

It was while Sally was gone that Sergeant Hutton told Nina that he received orders for Camp Lejeune and would be moving. He offered, “I know a really good Marine who is looking for a place. May I send him over to meet you?”

Nina answered, “Tell him to call first.” 

It was two days later and Nina had just returned from a local nursery with some flowers and plants for the backyard. Usually Sergeant would be by her side or lying on a mat. When she looked up, Nina didn’t see her dog so she called out, “Sergeant!” but he didn’t come. Nina yelled several more times and still no Sergeant. Where could he be? Nina walked to the side of the house and saw that the side gate was open, she could have sworn that she closed it.  Now Nina really became frantic, it wasn’t like her dog to wander off. She ran to the front of the house and yelled again, ‘Sergeant, c’mon boy!”

Suddenly she heard him barking down the street. Nina ran toward the sound and saw Sergeant in the front seat of a Toyota pick-up. Nina angrily confronted the man in the driver’s seat, “What the hell are you doing with my dog!”

“I was sitting here making a phone call and all of a sudden he jumps through the window.” The man said, “I swear, Ma’am, that’s the truth.”

Nina didn’t think that the man was lying, but it was still hard to believe, “He’s never done that before.”

            “I was calling Nina Mondello, she lives on this street. I’m in the Marines and a friend of mine told me that she has a guest cottage to rent. He told me to make sure that I called first. I was in the area so I pulled over and made a call. There was no answer so I tried one more time and was about to hang up and go back to the base. Then this dog jumps in, you show up and that brings us up to this point in time.”

Nina just stared for a few seconds then introduced herself, “I’m Nina Mondello and I’m trying to wrap my head around this. Let me see if I got this right; I’m working in the backyard and my phone was in the kitchen. My dog hears it ringing so he opens the gate, runs down the street and finds the person who is making the call. How does he know where to find you? I don’t know, but he jumps in your vehicle, barks to let me know where he is and waits me to show up.  Are you capable of doing all that, Sergeant?”

Sergeant brought his right paw up to his face and hid his face. The man commented, “That is one smart dog.”

            “Since Sergeant didn’t want you to leave, you might as well take a look at the place,” Nina shrugged, “You know my name, what’s yours?”

            “Cole Whitney.”

After looking at the guest cottage, Cole asked, “How much?”

            “Seven hundred and fifty dollars.”

Cole commented, “A place like this that is fully furnished and near the beach has got to be worth twice or even three times that much. Why so cheap?”

            “My aunt built it for the sole purpose of renting it to Marines, so it’s not about the money,” Nina said.

            “I’d like to rent it. What do you need from me…references, first and last month, security deposit?”

Sergeant barked to signify his approval. “Sergeant Hutton recommended you and my dog obviously likes you, so that’s good enough for me. You can talk to Greg on when he’ll be leaving. We’ll pro-rate the rent from the day you move in.”

            “Yes Ma’am, thank you, Ma’am.”

Nina smiled, “I like things informal…Nina’s the name.”

As soon as Cole moved in Sergeant developed a new routine. He would run back and forth between the main house and the guest cottage if Cole was at home. Nina always knew when the Marine was arriving because Sergeant would have his front legs on the back the couch and be would looking out the window, eagerly awaiting Cole’s arrival. He would bark when he heard the truck engine coming down the street and be waiting at the gate when Cole opened it.

Nina volunteered to deliver food to seniors two days a week and offered her help at the Veterans’ Center when they had special activities. She also joined Planet Fitness and ran on the beach regularly. She kept herself busy around the house with various projects especially her vegetable garden. It didn’t take long before Nina felt a sense of security having the Marine around.

Cole was in the backyard grilling fish on the barbecue as Nina approached and said, “Hungry?”

            “I don’t want to put you to any trouble,” Nina responded.

            “No trouble at all, I know a guy at the harbor who gives me a call when he has a good day fishing. Besides it’s just as easy to cook two pieces as it is one.”

            “I’ll pick some tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden and make us a salad.”

            “I’ll put a couple hamburgers on for Sergeant,” Cole said.

While sitting at the picnic table eating their meals, Nina asked, “Do you know much about guns?”

            “I’m no armorer, but I’ve been known to use a rifle and pistol occasionally,” Cole smiled.

Inside the main house was a large gun concealed inside a wooden cabinet. Nina used her palm print to unlock it. Inside it were pistols, rifles and ammunition, “If I’m going to have guns, I better learn how to use them.”

Cole responded, “First thing we need to do is set up a virtual shooting range in the backyard. These systems work like this; when you pull the trigger, the laser substitutes for live ammunition and the target tells you how accurate you are. It’s basically a big video game and can be attached to either pistols or rifles. The only thing it doesn’t account for is the recoil of the weapon. For that we can go down to the range and fire a few rounds.”

Over the next few months, Nina practiced until she had become proficient with all the weapons. It was the week before Thanksgiving and Nina asked Cole what his plans were and he responded, “I’ll get something at the messhall, I hate traveling on holidays. What about you…your parents coming out?”

            “They were, but my mom caught the flu and Sally is going to Reno to be with her family. Do you want to join Sergeant and me?”

            “I’d like that…we’ll figure out a menu and I can get most of the food at the commissary,” Cole said.

            “And what they don’t have on base, I can get at Cream of the Crop or Sprouts,” Nina offered.

While going over the menu, there was a knock at the door, it was Esther Stevens from down the street. She looked distraught and blurted out, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I haven’t heard from my daughter in three days.”

            “Come in,” Nina said.

Esther walked in.

            “Do you know my tenant, Cole Whitney?” Nina said

            “Good afternoon, Ma’am,” Cole said.

            “Rory met a man online and they drove to Yuma, Arizona last Friday. She called me on Saturday when she arrived, but not since then.” Esther stammered.

            “Did you call the authorities in Arizona?” Nina asked.

Esther replied, “I did, I gave them her description and they said they would put out an alert. They also told me that if she crossed the border into Mexico then it would be an issue for the State Department. Rory is very naïve and has a tendency to be gullible when it comes to strangers and stubborn when it comes to me. I keep telling her that trust is earned and not given.” Esther showed her phone to Nina and Cole, “I put a GPS tracker on her phone after she lost two of them in the last year. Right now it shows that she is about 35 miles south of Yuma.”

            “Somewhere around Los Alogodones. When you call her, what happens?” Cole asked.

            “It goes straight to voicemail,” Esther replied.

            “What do you think?” Nina asked Cole.

            “It could be she’s in an area with no service or it could be something else.” Cole said.

Esther said, “I called my ex, Rory’s father, but he lives in Florida with his new family and there’s not much he can do from across the country. I know that you came out when your Aunt was sick and you helped her. I’m grasping at straws, I’m sorry for bothering you, this isn’t your problem,” and Esther turned to leave.

            “Hold on, give us to a couple minutes to process this. We want to help, but we need to find the best way to do that,” Nina said.

Cole asked, “Permission to speak freely, Ma’am?”

            “Please,” Esther said.

            “If your daughter is in trouble then every minute that we delay lessens the chances of getting her back. As time passes the trail goes cold and people have time to cover their tracks. It is just the way things are in these kind of situations.” Esther broke down in tears and Nina consoled her. Cole added, “It is 200 miles to Yuma and a little further to the Arizona Mexico border. We can make it in three hours if we push it.”

            “You would do that for me?” Esther was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Cole explained, “Listen very closely, we don’t have time to waste. I’m going to back on base to get my passport, I’ll fill up with gas when I’m there. Here’s what you need to do, put some of Rory’s clothes in a plastic bag and make sure it’s airtight. We’ll need something with her scent on it.

We also need two nine millimeter pistols, shotgun and the rifle with the scope and plenty of ammunition. If you can switch the GPS app to your phone then do it, if not then exchange it with Esther. Do you have a passport?”

            “I do,” Nina replied.

            “Don’t forget that.”

Are you really going to need guns?” Ester asked.

            “Hopefully not, but I’d rather have them and not need them then need them and not have them,” Cole looked at his watch, “It is 1930 hours. I want to be on the road by 2300, if not sooner.”

            “What about Sergeant?” Nina asked.

Cole answered, “He’s going with us…that’s why we need the clothes. Bring his rabies vaccination certificate just in case Mexican authorities ask for it. I don’t want him getting impounded.”

Cole was gone in an instant. Esther commented, “That’s a good man you got there. Very decisive.”

            “He’s my tenant and my friend and you’re right, he’s a good man and a good Marine.”

When Cole returned, he hid the weapons and ammunition in a special compartment beneath the bed of his Toyota pick-up. Sergeant jumped in back of the king cab and they got on the road. Cole suggested, “You might as well get some rest, nothing you can do until we get there.”

Nina set up a place for Sergeant to rest behind the seats then reclined her seat and put a blanket over her and a pillow under her head.

 They arrived in Yuma by 0330 hours. Cole nudged Nina awake, “We’re here, check that GPS.”

Nina looked at the phone, “About 30 miles south, according to my estimate.”

Cole suggested, “Let’s stretch our legs and let Sergeant do his business. We’ll cross over into Mexico at first light.”

Cole showed his passport to the border guard and he waved them through without question. Nina commented, “Is that a special passport…they didn’t even question you?”

            “I’ve had occasions to travel internationally on government business in the past. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We got lucky this time.” Cole said.

They followed the signal to a group of buildings outside of town. Cole pulled out his binoculars and scanned the area and saw several armed guards, “This is the place… human traffickers have a special look about them.”

Nina made rhetorical statement, “And you would know that how.”

Cole went back to the truck, opened up the special compartment and took out both pistols and the shotgun. He put on a special vest with numerous pouches and filled them with magazines and ammunition.

He strapped on an ammo belt around waist, slipped in his combat knife into a scabbard and put two pop up flares in this pockets. He checked the weapons and did all this without wasted motion as if he had done it a hundred times before.

Nina was impressed and curious at the same time, “What do you do in the Marines?”

            “I’m a CSAR specialist,” Cole said.

            “What’s that?” Nina asked.

Cole answered, “Combat Search and Rescue.” He bent down and put an article of clothing under Sergeant’s nose, “Lead me there, but stay close.” He handed the rifle with the scope to Nina and instructed, “Cover me…one flare means I’ve got the package and I’m coming out, two flares means, get the hell out of here!”

            ‘Roger that,” Nina said.

Cole and Sergeant made their way to the buildings. Cole smashed one guard in the face with the butt of the shotgun and killed him. He stabbed another and Sergeant led him to the correct structure. Cole looked through the window and saw four women locked in a cage. There were five armed men in the room. He slowly opened the door and with a pistol in each hand, he shot them. He walked over to the cage, pulled out his cellphone with the photo of Rory and told her, “Your mom asked me to come and get you. Who are these other girls?”

Rory stammered, “They’ve been kidnapped too.”

Cole told the girls to stand back then shot the lock off the cage. “Stay right behind me.”

As they were leaving, Sergeant growled which gave a warning that someone was nearby. Cole spun around and fired two shotgun blasts and a man fell through the doorway. Once outside, Cole prepared to fire one flare then saw a car approaching with men in it and fired two flares instead. He yelled to the girls, “Back inside!”

Instead of leaving like Cole wanted, Nina moved closer and opened fire on the car. She did not stop shooting until she had killed or seriously wounded all the occupants. Cole exited the building and saw what Nina had done then walked over to the car and shot the wounded men. Sergeant ran back to Nina’s position and she embraced him, “Good job.”

Cole was only a few steps behind with the women, “Next time I’ll tell you to do something, you better damn well do it!”

            “You are one crazy Marine if you think I was going to leave you and my dog behind, not now and not in a thousand lifetimes! Do you want to stand here and argue or do you want to go home?”

Sergeant and jumped into the truck and barked to signify that he was ready to leave. Cole replied, “I’m ready to go home, Ma’am.” He put the weapons in the hidden compartment and the women got in back.

When they reached the border, the other women were turned over to the Border Patrol and Rory sat in back with Sergeant for the return trip to Oceanside On the way Cole filled up with gas and Nina and Rory got some snacks. Cole noticed a piece of paper stuck to the right paw of Sergeant and removed it. It was part of an address from a torn envelope. The only thing that was readable were five numbers, 34782 and a blurred name. Cole walked inside and bought a lottery ticket. The amount of the Powerball Jackpot was currently at 875 million dollars and growing.

Nina and Cole made it back for Thanksgiving and later that day Esther and Rory stopped by with gifts. Rory was carrying a box and inside it was a mid-priced bottle of wine, four glasses and a homemade raspberry cheesecake.

            “With your permission, I’d like to propose a toast?” Esther asked.

Rory put the box on the table, opened the wine bottle and poured four glasses and handed them out.  Esther raised her glass. “To the best neighbors ever!  I thank you with all my heart for bringing my daughter home. Rory and I have a lot to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving and you two are at the top of the list.”

            “You should be thanking Sergeant, we couldn’t have done it without him,” Cole said.

While Nina made small talk with Esther and Rory, Cole looked around, “Where is that mysterious mongrel? I’ll go find him.”

Cole found Sergeant in the backyard, “C’mon on in here, since when did you become anti-social? Somebody wants to thank you.” While standing in the kitchen, Sergeant pawed at Cole and for some reason it reminded him to check the winning Powerball lottery numbers on his cellphone. Cole pulled the ticket in his wallet and compared the numbers. He doubled and tripled-checked it before walking back into the living room with Sergeant.

Cole said, “It’s my turn to make a toast. From my experience, there are no bad dogs, but a great dog is a lifesaver and life-changer,” and held up his glass while looking down at the special canine, “To Sergeant Lucky.”

Sergeant acknowledged the compliment by jumping up on the couch and licking Nina’s face.

            “I know that you two are up to something, I can see it in your faces,” Nina tried to be stern, but her smile gave her away.

Cole whispered in her ear, “I’ll tell you later.”

Sergeant howled his approval.

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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  1. Robert says:

    Another good Sunday story. Enjoyed reading it.

  2. Tony says:

    This Sunday’s Vista Press story by Mr. Thomas Calabrese is for certain a Hallmark Story. The type of a story has all the elements for a excellent family holiday movie, a Marine, a girl and a canine to steal the Oscar at the Academy Awards presentations. This story is a marvelous to make into a film that can be tweaked for all ages.
    We do not see many of these now days. Very well written Mr. Calabrese and there is nothing like a happy ending for a Holiday story.

  3. john michels says:

    The Dog won the lottery? WoW!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Clyde says:

    I really liked the way that this story moved along. It kept my attention from beginning to end.

  5. wolf says:

    enjoyed it. the stars were in favor of Nina. you never know when a good may change your life’

    For a while I thought om was not going to kill anyone. I should have known better

  6. wolf says:

    enjoyed it. the stars were in favor of Nina. you never know when a good deed may change your life’

    For a while I thought Tom was not going to kill anyone. I should have known better

  7. Jeremy says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story. A feel good dog’s tale for the holiday.

  8. Janet says:

    This story was very touching. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  9. Tom says:

    Good Morning Tom. You have a knack for writing stories that meet all my criteria: humanity, action, moral justice, military and you just added the fifth element: a dog! What an unbeatable combination. Thanks!

  10. Joe says:

    Another wonderful story Tom.

  11. Tanya says:

    I love stories with animals in them!! Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

  12. Tamra says:

    This short story grabbed my attention, from the very first sentence, until the end ! I’m just upset because it’s over! I agree with Tony! This particular story would make an incredible holiday Hallmark movie!!!! Hollywood “has nothing on you”, Tom!!!!

  13. Steve says:

    I always enjoy your stories, this was a really good one.

  14. Jon Gregory Nielsen says:


    Thanks again for authoring yet another terrific story. Your stories are excellent and your timing of them is genius. Thumbs up…

  15. Skip says:

    A great story, Tom. Another “winner”!

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