The Goodwill don’t hardly ever have clothes big enough to fit Earl.
Since he hurt his back, he ain’t been out at all.
That leaves me to pretty much do everything.
Most our spending goes to keeping him fed, of course.
There’s my Social Security and Earl Senior’s pension, but usually there’s too much month and not enough money.
Earl complains if it’s mac and cheese more than twice a week.
The boy always had an appetite, and it seems to get bigger right along with him.
His uncle Bill made him that bed.
Made it out of rail ties.
Cold here still, but that’s April for you. Ha ha. Thank you for the stockings, You have no idea how we covet them here. I think the last time my feet were really dry was at Christmas.
He stopped, pen poised. He was out of topics.
He wouldn’t describe the hellscape of mud and splintered trees and rotting corpses, of the trenches filled with icy water long after the rains ceased.
He would not write of the soldier, his friend, caught in the wire of no man’s land, every night screaming for someone to please please kill him.
I’ll tell you what was in his godddamn vault. A book.
No money? No jewelry?
Like I told you. Just a book.
Well, what kind of book?
I can’t make it out.
You don’t know how to read?
There ain’t no words in it.
What then? Pictures?
No, they ain’t pictures exactly. It’s more like… I don’t know. Symbols or something.
Symbols? How do you mean?
Maybe you better come over and look at it.
You bet your ass I’m coming over. If that old bastard had it locked up in his vault it’s got to be worth a fortune.
“You’re on point, Private.” The lieutenant grins.
“Point, sir?” The boy looks confused. “But they’s only the two of us.”
“I was joking, Private. How much ammo you got?”
“Only what’s on my belt, sir. The leg bag with my spare clips got tore off in the jump.”
“We came in too fast,” agrees the lieutenant. “Slipstream. Can’t do anything about it now. We’ll get more at Division CP. When we find it.”
The private’s face is a pale slash in the summer darkness. He blinks. “You got any idea where we’re at, sir?”
“France,” the lieutenant says, grinning again.