He was never the same after he come back from France.
When he joined up with Pershing and them, he was thirty, but full of fire to beat that old Kaiser.
Armistice was signed most a year before he got home to Jessup.
I was the only one recognized him, he looked so different.
He wheezed and rattled like an old window, thin as a stick with white hair.
He wouldn’t say nothing. Just picked up his shovel and dug. He dug all the time, dug for years, holes and holes.
Kids teased that he was like to dig to China.
I thought it was a party. Get to know the neighbors.
All of us were newlyweds, all college graduates. New jobs, no children yet. Our subdivision mirrored how we saw ourselves. Fresh paint, aluminum siding, all the conveniences. Like the trees on the new lawns, we had few branches, threw scant shade.
I think it was Frank Reilly’s idea. He’d read about it somewhere. Everyone drops a house key into the bowl and gets a drink. Then they keep drinking. Night’s end, choose a key and that was your house for the night. Your wife for the night.
I’m invisible, but I see you all right. See your white pasty faces glancing through the windows of the fancy restaurant or the luxury car, glancing away, your eyes sliding past me like a dead squirrel or raccoon on the roadside.
Maybe sometimes you wonder what it would be like to lose everything. What would you miss most? Scented soap? Your pillow?
How about sleeping in safety, or shoes that don’t leak?
An escape from the gnawing hunger that waits at the end of every hour?
You look away, not wanting the reminder of just how good you have it.
He crouched over her as she lay contorted on the pavement, one hand thumbing the send button on his mic, the other still holding his weapon.
“10-85 10-85! My partner’s shot! My partner’s shot! Hurry up central!”
The pool of blood beneath her spread like spilled coffee.
He couldn’t tell where the bullet had gone in, or if there had been more than one.
He holstered the gun and tried to unfasten her vest, but she began to cough a pink foam.
“You’re going to be all right, Jenny. We’ll get you fixed up.”
She stopped coughing.
He thumbed his mic. “Hurry!”
Ripped from the old dream where I’m back in Helmand and bleeding out while Doc White tries to clamp the artery. I bolt out of my bag and look around for what woke me. Diesels, more than one. I stow my gear and make my way up the hill, using the trees for cover. Six dozers idle in the grass valley below. I knew this was coming and have been pulling up the orange stakes wherever I find them. Can’t stop “progress,” but this means I’ll need to find somewhere else to stay close to the VA but away from people.