25 December 2023, @mariannewest's Freewrite Writing Prompt Day 2231: betray me


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Angeles Balaguer




Major K.D. Mueller, EMDR therapist to Capt. R.E. Ludlow, had been impressed by his patient from the very first day, and his admiration for his patient continued to grow into the third week of eight that they worked together. The major had never seen the captain draw back, although even his non-military traumas were complex-PTSD level stuff, and even though the captain was dropping weight noticeably because even physically, even with everything EMDR with flash technique could do to desensitize some of the trauma response, the captain was being torn up by confronting all there was to confront. Yet Capt. Ludlow showed up on time, every day, without complaint, for the morning session and the afternoon session.

“I've been betrayed, so many times,” he said, “but mostly by people who didn't know that was what they were doing. My first wife is the exception to the rule, but we've already dealt with all that. Point is, I know the damage it has done me to have had people I love betray me. If I don't get through this, that's what I'm going to do to my second wife and our grandchildren – and myself. If I have die in here from these memories, then I will die having done my best. Death before dishonor! Death before betrayal!”

Week 3, third day – a good example of why the captain was not speaking in hyperbole of the personal danger for him. Capt. Ludlow recalled the Christmas after his uncles had murdered three Black men in the streets of their hometown in front of "Baby Bob" Ludlow their nephew. Further violence had resulted when they thought they were just going to barge in on their sister, Mrs. Ludlow, as usual at Christmastime

Edwin Ludlow, incensed that his baby son had been exposed to the murders, and further enraged that his absolute anathema against his brothers-in-law had been ignored by them, had then taken matters into his own hands.

“I forgot,” Edwin's youngest son said, “why his great-granddaughter Edwina fits her name so well. Edwin Ludlow is remembered as the great architect that he was, but he was actually also Captain Edwin Ludlow, Army Corps of Engineers, retired. He was a World War II veteran, and these little high-faluting draft-dodging street-brawlers that my murdering uncles were meant nothing to him. Before 1967, when they failed to spare me from seeing their murders, Father put up with them for Mother's sake. This particular year, he broke bad.

“I remember Father said to Mother, 'Take the children to the back, and turn on Mozart's Requiem. If my uncles had been educated enough, they would have known then … but we didn't hear anything that happened because of it. I still play Mozart's Requiem at Christmastime, and at other times it helps me sleep … it protected me for 51 years.”

Edwin's youngest son – that mighty veteran – was now shaking like a leaf.

“I just found out what happened two months ago,” he said, “because Uncle Simon committed suicide in jail, and his daughter Simone told me what had happened: he flashed back and took his own life in terror. See, Major, never ever confront a master engineer on his own ground, when he knows about engineering, anatomy, and leverage in a way you don't, and he knows you're coming and has gotten his whole fence line set up for you.”

How bad was it? The Slocum-Bolling brothers had each been in the hospital for a year on the “accident,” and it had been taken as an accident because they dared not say it wasn't for fear of the author and that he would have the job finished if they told! But that did not say as much to Maj. Mueller as the fact that his hardened veteran patient – with 33 years in military service – was getting close to passing out.

“See, Major,” the captain said, “that was the world I grew up in. On Christmas Day, 1967, that's what it took to have peace on earth for women and children of goodwill, against the relatives I have that tried to out-Herod Herod and found out that Edwin Ludlow didn't play about his. See, great-granddaughter Edwina Ludlow doesn't really mean any harm when she is down here checking out your outfits and talking about 'I don't play about mine!' She's scared, and will react defensively, but she's basically a sweet little girl who just needs to be reassured. Edwin Ludlow meant all the harm. All of it. He just had plenty to do assembling things, and preferred that, because nobody needed the problems they would have if they gave him occasion to disassemble things. My uncles messed around and found out.”

Maj. Mueller had been working the flash technique intermittently, but changed gears because he could literally see his patient's blood pressure skyrocketing, his face suddenly red and the blood vessels visible in his face and neck before he slipped to the floor … but then the major found Mozart's Requiem online, just in the nick of time.

“Merry Christmas, Captain,” he said, and just let the music play as the captain rested on the floor and recovered.


Maj. Mueller sat still for the whole hour and just watched over his patient, who knew every bass choir line in the piece and sang along softly from the floor to the very last note, and then carefully got back up and into his chair.

“I remember my mother singing along rather passionately with the Kyrie section, and now I understand why – 'Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy!' And He did. We all – the women and the children – survived all this. God had mercy, in Christ. The prayer was answered.”

Capt. Ludlow paused, and then said, “My father and uncles went to church, but they were not in Christ and Christ was not in them. Therapy wasn't an option in their time, and they wouldn't have gone anyhow had it been available. I am my father's son and my uncles' nephew ... but the Lord graciously chose to bring me to Himself. That is why I am here, because my mother's prayer for God's mercy will not go unanswered on my account ... because He gives me strength to overcome my pride and tendency toward violence, and to get the help I need.”

“Sounds like we've got that trauma resolved, then,” Maj. Mueller said.

“Yes, and Merry Christmas, Major.”

“It's a holiday. Go play Mozart's Requiem on loop on your laptop, and make that the afternoon session, Captain.”

“OK ... but wait ... it's not December, sir. It's August 2020.”

“I'm glad you're back, Captain … but you almost had a stroke behind getting that resolve.”

Capt. Ludlow smiled grimly.

“*Dona nobis pacem,*” he said.

In lux aeterna, the major answered. “Lord, grant them peace in eternal light – but you go sleep in some sunlight here before you are included there. You've got a wife and seven grandchildren to get home to in time for Christmas – thank God He is still answering your mother's prayers, and sleep in heavenly peace for the rest of the afternoon.”

“I guess I have to do 'Silent Night' as a Protestant, eh?” Capt. Ludlow said with a chuckle.

“Exactly – Merry Christmas to all, and to you, a life-saving afternoon nap, listening to Mozart putting other folks into the eternal light.”

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