“I made it through the year and I did not even collapse.
Gotta say, 'Thank God, for that'
…the closest friends I've ever known are all inside,
Singing together, Singing Merry Christmas, here's to many more”
~ Merry Christmas, Here's To Many More – Relient K ~
1st December - Merry Christmas, Here's to many more
It was sweltering, the humid jungle seemingly weeping in its heat. It made it very easy to forget tonight was Christmas Eve but they remembered. How could they not? Many members of the platoon were ticking off the days remaining on their tour of 'Nam, Christmas crossed off, 'X' marking the spot.
BA sat outside the mess tent, he'd come outside for some peace and quiet as the canvassed shelter inside was far fuller than usual as men sat around, drinking beer and generally shooting the breeze, craving a company they normally wouldn't due to the holiday season..The soldiers were close out in the battlefield, united in their fight against Charlie, but they tended not to form too tight a friendship amongst themselves, they'd made that mistake in the first months of their tours, only to find who was their friend today, might be a casualty of war the next, dead and gone, never to return again.
The A Team were the exception to the rule. They'd split off from their assigned units to form one of their own. Their union ran far deeper than fighting Charlie, they genuinely cared for each other's company, had sort of created a family out here in Vietnam to tide them over until they made it back home.
BA was thinking about his Momma, and the snow that was probably blanketing Chicago right now. He missed the bitter chill of winter. Out here in the jungle it was like living in a furnace, the heat almost unbearable at times. He never thought he'd yearn for the frosted side walks or the windy city he hailed from as much as he did right now.
He startled, as voices cut through the blackness, his thoughts interrupted by the arrival of the rest of the team. He could hear Murdock, loudly arguing against whatever reason and logic Face and Ray were trying to rationalise him with, snatches of their conversation ricocheting around the barracks, Murdock protesting, his voice carrying as he did so.
“I'm telling 'ya, it works!” said Murdock, not dissuaded by the obvious teasing BA could hear being thrown in his direction by Face and Ray,
“ How? You seen Santa Claus up in that chopper of yours?” asked Ray, ribbing the pilot good naturedly.
“ Don't be absurd,” replied Murdock, “ Santa Claus doesn't use helicopters, he's got those reindeer, besides there's no room in mine-”
“What you talkin' 'bout now fool?” BA asked,interrupting Murdock as he took a seat beside him on the ground.
“ Christmas wishes,” explained Murdock, the flames from the fire cast his excited features in an orange hue, the shadows dancing and flickering around.
“Murdock thinks there's a star you can wish on,” explained Face, as he, Hannibal and Ray all took seats around the fire too. They'd brought beers and soft drinks with them, Face started passing the drinks out amongst the group.
“ No, I know there's a star Faceman,” Murdock corrected him as he opened his beer.
“There's lots of stars, don't mean you can wish on 'em,” said BA, nursing a soda.
“ This one you can,” insisted Murdock,
“No you can't,”
“ Yes, you can,” said Murdock firmly,
“Ok Murdock , for arguments sake say there is such a star, what would you wish for?” asked Hannibal,
“I can't tell you that Colonel,” cried Murdock aghast, “ If I do, it won't come true,”
“Ah of course,” said Hannibal with a smile, “ I forgot, sorry Murdock,”
“I know what I'd wish for,”
The rest of the team turned to Face, curiosity heightened.
“ Snow,” he announced, “ A real white Christmas, you know?”
The others murmured their appreciation for such a wish.
“That'd be cool,”
“I think you mean cold,” teased Hannibal. Murdock grinned.
“ Shame you can't scam us some snow, hey Face?”
“I can't work miracles Murdock,” sighed Face,
“ I know, I was just saying, it looks nice on TV” said Murdock, he took a swig from his beer bottle before screwing his face up in disgust.
“Maybe we should wish for better beer,” said Hannibal, looking at his own sceptically.
“ An' real soda,” added BA looking at his own drink with distaste.
“Amen to that,” laughed Ray.
“Now there's a miracle I can do,” announced Face, with a smile. He left the circle, returned several minutes later carrying bottles. The familiar labels of the US reflected in the firelight.
“Face guy you're a genius,” crowed Murdock draping an arm around him gleefully.
“Nice, kid,” said Hannibal with a grin taking a gulp of the beer and savouring it.
“How did you manage this?” asked Ray,
“I told you there was a star,” Murdock said before Face could craft his usual reply regarding his scamming abilities being akin to a magician's secret.
“This ain't nothin' to do with a star,” snapped BA, “ It's Faceman conning people again,”
“Hannibal wished for better beer and you wanted better soda and now we have it,” said Murdock, “ I'm telling you, it's the Christmas wish!”
“Stop with your jibber jabber fool, Christmas wishes and magic stars, ain't no such thing,”
“There is too such a thing,” retorted Murdock defensively, “ If you would turn your attention thataway...”
He jabbed his finger upwards to emphasise his point, guiding their gazes to the sky,
“...You'd be able to see the North Star, otherwise known as the star you can make Christmas wishes on.” he finished.
“I thought the North star guided you home,” said Face
“It has many duties,” Murdock said, adopting the mannerisms of a wizened professor.
“Man you talkin' nonsense, North star ain't got nothin' to do with Christmas,”
“ Then why is it directly above the North Pole?” asked Murdock, his tone condescending “ Right above Santy Claus' workshop where all the little elves live and make toys, and you tellin' me it ain't got nothin' to do with Christmas? BA, your narrow mindedness astounds me-”
“Shut up Murdock 'afore my fist meets your head and astounds you”
“ Knock it off guys, it's Christmas Eve,” commanded Hannibal sternly.
Duly chastised BA and Murdock silenced their squabble. They could hear snatches of chatter floating from the mess tent, the other soldiers discussing their families back home, the girls they'd left behind, the people they missed at home. The A Team didn't usually partake in such chatter, mainly because Ray and BA were the only ones with families to miss. Hannibal knew at some point the conversation would turn to those who wouldn't be celebrating the holidays, to those who had lost their lives during the stint in 'Nam. The Team were lucky to still be here together, able to argue about trivial stars and Christmas wishes like they were.
“ I can't see a star,” said Face, interrupting Hannibal's thoughts.
“You're not looking hard enough,” Murdock told him, sounding disappointed in his lack of astronomical abilities “It's right there”
“There!” cried Murdock exasperated, pointing at a patch of blackness. All Face could see where the tops of trees, the canopy of jungle surrounding them.
Everybody looked up, not seeing what Murdock was seeing.
“You don't see it?” asked Murdock, rather crestfallen.
Hannibal squinted, trying his hardest to see what the Pilot saw.
“I think I see it,” he said finally.
“Really?” asked Murdock delighted, beaming with happiness.
Hannibal nodded, eager to appease him.
“Uh yeah...I think maybe I see it too,” Face chimed in. Ray mumbled his agreement, BA remained steadfast in his opinion that Murdock was imagining things that weren't there grumbling about the rest of the team encouraging the crazy fool. Murdock seemed placated and drank the rest of his beer happily.
They continued talking into the night, working their way through beers and soft drinks, until Face informed them that it was officially midnight and therefore Christmas Day. The bottles clinked against each other as the men toasted their success, celebrated the fact they were there to see another Christmas day dawn. As BA watched Face sprinkle the ripped up paper from the beer bottle label over Murdock, the torn shreds fluttering around him like snowflakes as Hannibal and Ray looked on amused,the pilot's features clearly conveying his delight BA thought with friends like this Christmas wouldn't be so bad.
It just wasn't the same as celebrating the day with his Momma though.
After a few more rounds of beers, best wishes and Merry Christmases they decided to call it a night retiring to their beds. BA chose to remain outside after the rest of the team and Ray had gone, content to be alone with his thoughts for a few moments.
He scoured the sky, until he thought he could almost see the star Murdock had waxed so lyrical about, tipped his bottle surreptitiously in its direction and wished his Momma a Merry Christmas, hoping he'd get to spend the next one with her. In the now near dead silence of night, he swore he could hear Murdock somewhere behind him, singing “We three kings” beneath his breath, tones hushed as he serenaded the jungles of Vietnam about a star of wonder.
And even though he was loathed to admit it BA kind of hoped Murdock and the rest of his Team were with him next Christmas to meet his Momma.