Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Home from the war the hard way

       Going around to the side of the house, he looked up toward the light coming from Number Five.
      She was there, silhouetted, leaning against the window, traced in silver from starlight. 
      To his eternal shame, his body reacted to the vision of her, wanting to take her in his arms and hold her, smell her hair, feel the softness of her body against his.
      How much torture could one man take?
      He went inside. Flicked on one light. Pulled down the shade, remembering her intriguing silhouette and his reaction to it. He swallowed hard.
      To add to his torture, he opened the closet door in the big bedroom he had claimed for himself.  In the back, where he’d shoved it, stood his duffel bag.  Someone had delivered it from the Army hospital to here, the only address he had been able to give anyone, back when his aunt and uncle were still alive. He guessed they didn’t know what to do with it, either, but had put it away to be safe.
       For when he came back.
       He’d never looked to see what was inside, but now he did. Anything to take his mind off…things.  It stunk.  A mixed odor of body and seawater and whisky and military. GIs all over the world recognized that stink, especially if it had been some time since it had last been encountered.   Canvas.    
        Musty canvas.
        Ah, hell, he hoped there wasn’t mold inside.
        He reached in and pulled out his kit, tossed it onto the bed. Some rolled up socks…pungent as all hell. Somebody must have gathered up his stuff and shoved it all into the duffel without caring what happened to the stuff. He probably would have done the same.
       Until he pulled out his uniform.
       Good Christ Almighty.
       Wrinkled enough to get him demoted, stiff, not as vividly colored as he remembered, but then, he had taken a head wound. Someone, however, had added new ribbons, including the Purple Heart.
Lee debated what to do with the stuff.
        “I ought to throw this shit away,” he growled.
        But in the end of the debate with himself, he couldn’t. Instead, he hung up the uniform jacket, tried to smooth out the wrinkles but gave up.
       Some day, when the world is straightened out and all this shit is a bad memory, I might need to wear it in a parade.


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