SEAL's Code

By: Sharon Hamilton


“Careful, Wilson, you could crack my ribs with those arms of yours. You’re a fuckin’ lethal warrior.”

Wilson chuckled as he squeezed him harder, and Danny actually thought he heard the pop of one of his vertebrae.

“Damn, Dine kind. You’re all soft and mushy. You’ve been populating Northern California with little Navajo babies these past few years, cousin?”

Danny resented Wilson’s tone and the fact that he noticed his lack of shape. Although he was still tall, and broad-shouldered, and he’d never lost the definition in his upper physique, Danny knew he didn’t have the rock hard abs and stamina Wilson now possessed. Leave it to Wilson to point out the one thing probably no one else would see, the needle which got under his skin. “Nah. Just trying to figure it out, man.”

“Well, that’s one way,” Wilson leaned into Danny and whispered in his ear, “but I’ll tell you, Cuz, the sex is much better when you’re hard as a rock. Get my drift?”

“I’m not having sex with you, Wilson, even though I’m living in Northern California,” Danny said as he pushed his cousin so hard he toppled him into the baggage carousel, where he took a two-foot cruise with the suitcases. The string of expletives coming from Wilson’s mouth as he righted himself made a nearby mother cover her child’s ears.

They fought over Danny’s bags, just like they’d done when they were kids, fighting and competing over everything, usually making such a mess that neither of them won a damned thing. The crowd of passengers gave them a wide berth, staring without smiles.

“Have you seen him?” Danny asked as they traveled in Wilson’s old pickup.

“Yeah. Yesterday. He’s slipping away. We’re going straight there on orders from your mama.”

“He know it was you?”

“Nope. Not sure he’ll recognize you either, Danny. He’s in the in-between land, talking to, well, you know how he is. I mean, he was doing that shit while we were growing up. Except it’s stronger now.”

“So what does he say?”

“You know, I haven’t talked the language in over three fuckin’ years. I can’t understand a fuckin’ word. You’d think I would.”

“He makes up his own language,” Danny inserted. “Always has. Part of his Code Talker thing.”

“Yeah.” Wilson laughed. They’d seen Grandfather and his Code Talker buddies speak the pigeon language, just like they’d done in WWII, which was a combination of Navajo, Choctaw, and some other languages sprinkled in. They still had funny descriptions of people like ‘mustache sniffers’ and ‘goat faced women.’ ‘Cabbage eaters’ was a term they always associated with anyone with a German, Eastern European, or Russian accent. Since Grandfather and his cronies didn’t swear, the worst they would say of someone was that they were ‘full of sheep intestines’. Danny took Grandfather’s word that was a bad-smelling thing and not a compliment.


The hospital was so brightly lit it hurt Danny’s eyes, which were now more accustomed to the low lighting of dusk to dawn, which were now the hours he was awake. Wilson’s high-top boots would have rattled any of the lodges or buildings on the reservation, but here, on the sterile-smelling concrete floor of the hospital, his heavy steps just echoed off the walls.

They were ushered inside a propped doorway to the darkened cubicle that was Grandfather’s room. Danny’s mother was sitting by his side, holding a frail hand laden with tubes. She jumped to her feet upon seeing her son and gave him a hug.

Her smell still resembled the forests outside Ukiah, where they both lived, and he found it comforting.

“Mom.” He nodded, gave her a peck on the cheek, and let her go resume her place beside his grandfather.

“Ah,” came the raspy voice of Grandfather as his other fingers splayed out in front of him, searching to touch Danny. “You are here, little cub.”

Danny hadn’t been called that since he was twelve. His flinch set Wilson giggling. He punched his cousin in his arm and pushed him aside, taking up the space on the opposite side of the bed from his mother.

“Grandfather, I understand you are taking a trip soon.”

Danny’s mother shot him a dangerous look. His grandfather smiled, revealing he’d apparently pulled out more teeth, something he was known for doing when they began to hurt. His rounded face reminded Danny of a scary pumpkin.

“Long journey, Danny. I’ve packed all my things.” His eyebrows rose into his wrinkled lined forehead covered with brown age spots the size of Danny’s fingernails. Grandfather’s arthritic finger tapped at his own temple. “Everything’s here,” he whispered and then gushed a ghoulish smile again. He removed his finger from his temple and flicked his fingers toward Danny like he was flicking water from his hand. “And now some of these things are yours.”

His mother turned to look up at Danny’s face, concern showing there.

“Fuck,” he heard Wilson say softly to his back.

Danny felt awkward standing, so he dragged up a chair, sat, and leaned over the bed like his mother did. Taking the gnarled, arthritic fingers of the old man, he spoke, “Well, Mother said you asked for me, and so I am here.” He searched his grandfather’s face, wanting to say something else, but couldn’t find the words.