The Water Bearer

Death by misadventure - Editor

by John F.D. Taff

Jim was the kind of neighbor who never said too much; a wave when he saw you outside, maybe a few polite, friendly words at the mailbox or when you caught him outdoors as he puttered in his well-kept yard, but little more.

The year is 1947, and Jim, oh, he must have been at least 80 years old. Never married, but in good health, his back slightly stooped, his legs bowed.

My wife and I live in a newly built suburban home, bought with money from a GI loan. This was supposed to pay me back for the year I'd spent tramping through the muddy fields of France and Germany, living with an ever-dwindling group of men, sleeping wherever I fell, and shooting at--and being shot at by--people I couldn't even understand.

Now here I was with three suits in my closet, a new Chevrolet in the garage, a kid born while I moved through the dark trees of the Ardennes, and young wife I barely knew. It was an adjustment for all concerned.

This spring, though, we had begun to settle in, to make our peace with our long separation. We had begun to find a rhythm.

The young, tender grass was taking root, the few trees just sending out their first, tentative leaves. Yet, for the most part, the defining color was still brown.

The only green at all was a small pond that lay in a natural depression in the middle of the common ground, which our house--and Jim’s--backed up to. A ring of trees surrounded it, and its banks wore a mane of cattails and water weeds that rustled in the wind.

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