Published December 1, 2019

HARD TIME  page 16

January 1967

I was home for Christmas, and I watched the new year of 1967
begin with a dark shadow. I lied when I told my mother that I had
taken an “indefinite leave” until my unit was sent to Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba. I explained that we were being sent to “Gitmo” for train-
ing, and I would receive my orders by mail and depart directly. That
was a lie. It was one of the only things I said to my mother during my

I spent most of my time in my room—brooding. I contemplated
dark and dangerous thoughts. Through a thin haze of cigarette
smoke, I watched my hands as they quivered involuntarily. My nerves
showed as I sat on the edge of the bed and wondered what to do next.
I was drowning in quiet desperation.

“William, daddy’s here,” I heard my mother’s muffled voice
through my closed door.

I jumped up and looked out the window. My father’s car was
parked beside the curb. As I peered at him, he returned to his car.
“What does he want, ma?” I asked from the top of the stairs.
She stuck her head around the corner from the kitchen. “He
wants to see you outside, he said.” Her voice revealed obvious ten-
sion. My mother’s hackles were up, as usual, whenever my father was
around. I put on a coat and walked carefully to the car as the walkway
had icy patches. The car was running with the heater on. It was a typ-
ically cold day for early January. I climbed beside him. The look on
his face told me something serious was going on.

“The marines wrote me, and they say you’re overdue to go back,”
he said with his Jamaican accent. He unfolded an official-looking let
ter, glanced at it, and folded it again.

“They say you must report back right away. What’s going on?” he

What could I tell this virtual stranger? He was my stepfather, but
we really didn’t know each other. Although he and my mother signed
my enlistment papers (because I was only seventeen at the time), he
never pressed me for my reasons for enlisting. How could I explain
to him that I was tricked and trapped into enlisting without looking
like a total fool? Besides, escaping the hell of my life was the ulti-
mate goal.

“You know, I wanted to adopt you, make you my son, and give
you my name,” he said sincerely. I never heard this intention before.
My silence and troubled mood must have worried him. Then, I
remembered the letter he clutched. My company commander must
have sent it to him. This commander was the only one who knew that
I tried to get discharged for fraudulent enlistment after my last leave

Hear The Author Show interview with William L. Ingram about writing FINDING HEAVEN IN THE DARK: