Ronnie in the Desert
Ronnie in the desert with Commander Tomlin on their first day in Bahrain. Ronnie holding her belly, squinting in the sun. Commander Tomlin walking through the empty rooms of their new home saying this will be his room, my son’s room. Ronnie saying I love you Dan, but. Commander Tomlin rushing to comfort her, saying give it a chance, it’s not so bad. Ronnie turning the thermostat as low as it would go, saying okay, okay. The baby inside Ronnie. Commander Tomlin in his uniform. Ronnie in the desert.
Ronnie was pregnant and thirteen years younger than Commander Tomlin. She spent her days inside the walls of their rented villa on the far side of the island where she ordered metric tons of baby things from the internet that were delivered to the mailroom on base.
Every day after work, Commander Tomlin carried the packages to his car. “I know it looks like a lot,” he said to the petty officers in the mailroom who helped him. “But she’s got a whole plan.”
Commander Tomlin was selected to give the keynote address at a mine warfare conference in Oman. He asked the petty officers to deliver his mail while he was out of town so at the end of the week a few of them took the duty vehicle to his house. Ronnie answered the door in bare feet eating string cheese.
“Thank you thank you thank you,” she said as they hustled the boxes from the Suburban to the house. “I would help, but.” She pointed at her pregnant belly.
She told them her name was Ronnie and that they should call her Ronnie. Ronnie was so blonde that where she wasn’t white, she was pink.
“Do you want to know a secret?” Ronnie asked the petty officers standing in the room that would be her baby’s. She searched their faces and said finally “All I can tell you is that I’m in trouble.” She turned and walked out of the room. “I am in big fucking trouble and no one can help me.”
Commander Tomlin was the head of a small planning division at Navy Central Command in Bahrain. He had six months left to finish twenty years of duty as a Seabee during a time when the leading cause of death for naval officers was being a Seabee. He had a special talent for getting shit hot lieutenants to trip over their own dicks.
“Drew, what’s one true thing about the Levant?” he asked Lieutenant Droddy one day at a staff meeting.
“Sir?” Lieutenant Droddy had just given his weekly update. It was a detailed report about an upcoming diplomatic training exchange with coalition forces and Saudi Arabia.
“You’re my country engagement officer for the Levant, right?”
“Yes…” Lieutenant Droddy said slowly.
“So what have you discovered? What is one of the region’s secret truths?” Commander Tomlin said, half smiling.
“Wait one, sir.” Lieutenant Droddy looked through his binders on the conference table.
“The answer I want is not in there,” Commander Tomlin said. “Get out of your head, Drew. I’m asking for your assessment as an intelligence professional. Tell me something about something.”
Lieutenant Droddy looked up. “There’s a working group to plan how we’re going to be out of Iraq by Christmas.” He added, “It’s a POTUS priority.”
Commander Tomlin laughed. “If that happens, I will fuck Obama’s dog.”
One day, armed militants breached the walls of an embassy in Libya. Commander Tomlin’s unit was tasked with creating the plan to evacuate non-essential American civilians. Commander Tomlin was ordered to Djibouti to brief the task force.
“These fucking assholes,” he said to the petty officers in the mailroom. “Don’t they know that my wife is pregnant?”
He left and over the week he was gone, the petty officers collected the packages addressed to Ronnie and drove them over. An unpregnant Ronnie opened the door and put a finger to her lips.
“Shhh,” she said. “The baby is sleeping.”
The petty officers followed her upstairs. The room where they previously delivered packages now had a crib that contained a mocha-skinned baby, fast asleep.
“I went into labor the morning after Dan left,” she whispered. The petty officers stared at the half black son of two white parents. “He was early, but healthy. Lucky, even.”
She walked the petty officers out and thanked them. “I told you I was in big fucking trouble,” she said, with a pretty smile.
Commander Tomlin returned from Africa a few days later. He passed out it’s a boy cigars to his entire division. He saved two for the petty officers in the mailroom.
“Do you know what discretion means?” he asked them. They nodded. One of the petty officers told him he was going on R&R soon, two weeks in Brazil. It would be an almost twenty hour flight.
“Why Brazil?” Commander Tomlin asked him.
“I want to see the big Jesus, sir.”
“What about you?” Commander Tomlin said, pointing to the other petty officer.
“I haven’t decided yet where I want to go yet,” the petty officer told him. “I don’t know if I have a big Jesus.”
“Everyone has a big Jesus, shipmate.”
“What’s yours, sir?”
“Oh, you’ve met her,” Commander Tomlin said.
Ronnie in the desert with Commander Tomlin and the baby. Ronnie yelling don’t be mad, holding the baby somewhere out in the desert and Commander Tomlin running after her saying please come back. Commander Tomlin and Ronnie taking turns saying I’m sorry. Commander Tomlin and Ronnie taking turns holding the baby, saying that’s it, that’s it. Ronnie saying Dan, please. Commander Tomlin saying nothing for a long time and then all of sudden saying okay. Commander Tomlin in the bed. The baby in the crib.
Ronnie in the desert.
Kyle Seibel is 36 years old and lives in Santa Barbara, CA. He works as a copywriter and is a veteran of the US Navy.