They Died with their Boots On


"You could screw a woman for a pack of Lucky Strikes.” I listened.

“It wasn’t the way you see it in the movies, maybe that D-Day one with what’s his name, but I wasn’t part of that.  And I’ll tell you the truth, I’m glad.  Those beaches were abattoirs.”  He paused and coughed up a wad of phlegm.

"I was D-Day plus seven, lucky seven or craps, it all depends where you are in a roll.”  He looked out the window to the parking lot and the field beyond it full of Canadian geese.

“Came home in a blizzard on a transport plane from England.  Had to land in Halifax, Canada, never been so scared in all my life.  Didn’t think we were going to make it.

The plane’s wings were tipping back and forth weighed down with ice as we landed.  Never liked flying after that, thought we were going to crash for sure.”  He paused and pushed a bowl from his tray toward me.  “You want my Jell-O?  The wife loved to make it, but I never had the stomach for it, reminded me of a pile of blood after it sat awhile, there’s a word for it but damn if I can remember it, anyway a pool of it would congeal and if you pressed the air-hardened skin of it, it felt like Jell-O.  I was in a foxhole with Billy Jackson from Ralston, Nebraska, he took a shell fragment and saved my life, his blood turned to Jell-O, I was with him for a day and a night in that hole pinned down by the Krauts.  War was nothing like the movies, all that John Wayne, Audie Murphy stuff was a joke.  War is blood and shit and you do and see things that stick with you forever.”

 

He paused and looked out the window to the field, spring was a week away but the grass was mottled brown and limp from a brutal winter.  The geese wandered, bending down to pick at something occasionally.  “Damn flying rats, can’t go outside for weeks, their green plugs of shit everywhere, we were better off without them, now they have more protection than you or me, a god-damned goose, but the government never had any sense to begin with.  I’m going to tell you something – It was the Russians who crushed the Nazis, without them it would have been a different war, don’t even want to think about it.”

He stabbed the Jell-O with his fork, like plunging a dagger into the heart of a man.  “This isn’t any way to live.  A bunch of busy bodies is all.  A lot of talk about nothing.”  He pointed to his door leading to the hallway leading to the sitting room where white-haired women smiled at me when I passed  He wouldn’t come out to the dining room to eat, preferring to sit covered in an old crocheted throw in a room that was already too warm.





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