Don't Ask, by conservative novelist B.K. Dell, is the story of America's first openly homosexual Marine and the political firestorm that he never meant to start.
“I never asked you to be a hero, Caleb.” Stacy reached for Caleb’s hand, but Caleb pulled away. “To me, you are already a hero. You’re a hero just because of the way you smile. You’re a hero to me just the way you are.” Stacy spoke these heartrending words with more sincerity than Caleb had ever heard.
But Caleb knew it was an act. The words were meant to serve as an apology for Stacy’s mere presence in California.
“What are you doing here?” Caleb asked with a coldness that indicated the apology was not accepted.
Stacy’s eyes were pleading and desperate, “I don’t want you to go.” “You’re too late. I took the oath in Texas.”
“No one trusts an oath taken in Texas!” Stacy was trying to be charming.
“I do.” Caleb was not buying it.
“They’re going to be so awful to you,” Stacy moaned, frustrated by the fact that no scheme could penetrate Caleb’s stoic demeanor.
“That’s just what men do,” Caleb said dismissively.
“Not all men. Not real men.”
“We are talking about real men,” snapped Caleb. “We’re talking about the best men in the world.”
Stacy’s lips pursed into a sanctimonious smirk and Caleb turned his face away. He watched a bus at the other end of the parking lot as it pulled up to the front of the San Diego USO. Above the windshield, the bus had an unassuming sign that read “United States Marine Corps.” Something about just seeing those words sparked memories in Caleb that he had always tried to keep repressed.
Stacy noticed how distant Caleb had suddenly become and correctly guessed that, under the circumstances, Caleb’s thoughts had turned to his father. “What are you thinking about?” Stacy asked anyway.
Caleb turned his eyes away from the sign, shook his head somberly, and said, “Don’t ask.” “Well, I guess you already know what to expect,” Stacy said derisively.
“I don’t think any of us know what to expect from this,” mumbled Caleb. Stacy knew him well enough to detect the fear that he tried to hide in his voice.
There was an empty silence between the two of them, but it was broken when they heard the sounds of the bus engine shutting down. Soon that bus would take Caleb away.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Stacy grabbed his wrist with both hands. Dropping down to both knees, like a child’s tantrum in a department store, Stacy became a shackle of dead weight attached to Caleb’s arm. As he tried ineffectively to struggle from Stacy’s grip, he looked at the glass face of the USO building, curious to see if any of the men inside might be watching such a mortifying episode. The reflection of the low clouds over the horizon behind him was all he could see.
“Do you have any idea what kind of scene you are making?” Caleb grumbled.
“I don’t care. I love you. I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you.”
“My country needs me.”
“I need you.”