“I guess you do have to wonder, I can’t imagine a time that was more crucial, more impactful than those years. I have to wonder who he could have become if not for the war. If that draft notice had gotten lost in the mail, or if he’d been assigned some job other than rifleman.” 

She shrugged. “It does seem like an enormous waste. A promising kid, what was he 18 when he went? What the fuck do you know about anything at that age, and you’re just dropped into a world of shit and asked to do the worst things we as humans can do to eachother.” 

“Fuck, for shooting someone the used to give people the chair back in that day. Imagine the cognitive dissonance. You get a medal over there for shooting someone, over here the death penalty. Imagine how that screws with your sense of right and wrong, and with only 18 years of life experience and education to make sense of it.” 

“A man who lived to seventy,” she shook her head, “whose life was ruined at 18. What’s that 52 years of trying and failing to pick up the pieces. What a fucking shame.” 

“I would have loved to have known him before the war. I would have loved to see that kid, my mom said he was riot, clever, fun. She told me that he once read a short story from a Playboy to her when they were teenagers. She claims it’s the hardest she has laughed in her whole life.” 

“And then he came home.”

“She claimed ‘he’ didn’t. The physical form, yes. But her brother was lost in a jungle on the other side of the world. All for some fucking idea he didn’t understand. He just wanted to do what he was told was right. He suffered 50 odd years for trying to be a good guy. What fucking bullshit.”

“What was he like when you were a kid?” 

“Quiet. I could never really talk to him. I remember he lit candles at our church every day. I guess that was his job of sorts. I don’t think it paid anything, but he wore an outfit like a priest in training and lit the candles. I remember watching the flame dance as his shaky hands tried to set the wicks alight.” 

“Did you ask him about the war?”

“No. God no. I remember I had a project for history class where we had to interview a veteran about their experience. I asked my mom if I could talk to him and she freaked out. I was young and didn’t really get it.” 

“Yeah, I can get why she didn’t want you to.” 

“I get it now, then it was just confusing. I remember once visiting him after he moved to the boat he lived on for the last few years. He and my mom had a fight. I don’t know over what. He came over to me and said “I’m a good guy, I promise” over and over. I tried to tell him I’d never thought otherwise but I’m not sure it really got through to him.” 

“Was he a good guy, really?”

“Good as they come. And it seemed the better they come the harder they fall, it’s just a shame he had to fall so far for so long.” 

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