In the Humble Opinion of LittleBill, Socialist, Atheist, and Humanist
Story of a Life with Promise

Joe was a small town kid from a fairly small-income family. He did not do anything notably good or bad in grade school.

But when he got to high school, that’s when his star began to shine. He became the school’s star football athlete, and he led his team to almost total victory. His success in the rest of his life was virtually assured.

Joe and his best friend, Bill, had plans for going into business together selling sportswear.You could go twenty miles to the next (larger) town to buy sportswear, but Joe’s town had only a few things to sell at the department store—not really enough to satisfy high school needs or wants.

The two friends had watched the war on TV, and they had talked about it, but it still seemed as far away as it was. But then came the day when Bill told Joe that he had actually decided to sign up. After the shock of not having been told by his best friend at the time of his decision, and after a period of reconciliation, Joe decided to sign up with him. Only two men from their town had shown up, and Joe did have a feeling of some sort of patriotism, so Joe enlisted, if not so much through a feeling of responsibility for what was going on on the other side of the planet as it was to follow his friend.

( The other thing gnawing at Joe’s mind was that their hopes of opening a sports store were pretty-much on the dreamy side. And, though this had not really reached the front of his brain yet, he found that football adulation had gone to join the realm of high school highlights of the past on the last day he walked out the door.)

And so this led to training camp (and this was tough stuff even for a football champion.) And this, in turn, found him and his fellow soldiers at the top of a hill looking down on a small town known to harbor the “enemy.” At a time like that, with indoctrination racing through their(his) veins, a soldier (former football hero) must feel both fear and invincibility.

War must give Joe some credit for his first kill, a middle-aged man, who might have been the “enemy.” But there is nothing like your first success, sort of like in football. You have to prove yourself by killing another. And so, quivering with both fear and success, Joe fired again. But the (unintended?) target this time turned out to be a 3-year old girl.

Joe could never remember what his choice had really been. All he remembered of what happened next is that he found himself in an army hospital. He had evidently been there for several months, and no one he knew or remembered had come to see him except nurses with food and/or bedpans.

Finally he was released to his family, but most of his friends had gone into the service, and very few townspeople came to call. There was a sort of distance between them.
Joe used to go down to watch the trains go by when he was younger, and when he was OK enough to go out, he went down to watch them again.

Joe realized what he was living was a very lonely life. He hadn’t heard from Bill and didn’t even know where he was. The only people who talked to him spoke in soothing tones, as though he was a baby or a very sick man. Then one day the town drunk shouted as he passed by, “Hi, baby killer.” And there she was again, limp, and bloody, and dead, kept for several years in the “unsafe” of Joe’s failing mind.

And almost before he knew it, Joe was down at the railroad tracks watching the trains go by, in the company of people who live by the tracks, and who suffer from nightmares of their own. They became his friends, his Bills.

But this time, the little girl would not leave his mind. Nor would the epithet of the town drunk.

So Joe went back to see his friends, but they said afterword that he had been very quiet. He hadn’t said enough for them to know what was bothering him. But suddenly Joe, the football hero, the best friend, and the soldier who signed up to save America, rushed to the tracks to watch an approaching train. Just before it reached him, he threw himself under it.

When Joe was buried, the local Press wrote a short obituary, listing him as the son of a local family, a member of the military, and most of all to be remembered as a football hero in a long list of former heroes.


ARW
12/10/09

2 comments:

an average patriot said...

You gave me the willies little Bill! That was quite a good write. I wish you would send that to you local paper I am sire they would want to publish it. Hope you are well!

an average patriot said...

Hi little bill! Looking in as usual so I just want to say Hi and I hope you are well!