Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Next Bit.

Well, here is the next bit of We Regret to Inform You....

I tried to be a soldier, like dad said, but it was hard. I didn’t see Brad for two weeks, and after that he didn’t talk much. One time, we were at my house and dad got home from work. Brad couldn’t even look at him. I watched dad’s face, and though he smiled at Brad, his eyes were crying. Not with tears, but with a flash of pain. I knew it hurt dad that he had given such pain to Brad and his ma.
But, even though I hated dad’s job, I still loved him. I could never stop loving him, no matter what. Even though his job made him sad, I could see that he loved it all the same. Maybe it was the smile he had when he came home from delivering some piece of good news, or the sad look he wore as he sat gazing out over the street some evening after a sad, hard day of a crying woman collapsing at the bad news he bore, or a kid slamming the door in his face, tears already starting to come down. Whatever it was, I could tell he would never quit, no matter what I, or anyone else said.
But then, just as I felt I could grow used to every day becoming tougher on dad, everything came crashing down.
The sun was starting to go down as I sat on the porch swing, waiting for father to come home. He was usually home by now, but perhaps he had more telegrams than usual to deliver. Then I saw him coming up the road, and leapt up to run out to him, but his face stopped me where I was. I would never forget that look.
He walked up to me and gave me a hug. “Hello, Jack. Did you do anything special today?”
I could only shake my head kind of numbly and watch him walk inside, then followed close behind. “Dad? Is... something wrong?”
He didn’t answer, only looked at me with a funny look in his eyes. “Where’s your mother?”
“In the kitchen.” I didn’t ask any more questions, only watched him go through the swinging door, feeling like there was a ball of lead in my stomach. Part of me wanted to go in and find out what was wrong, but the other part already suspected what was wrong and wanted to go nowhere near the kitchen. So I remained frozen by the couch, listening to the rise and fall of father’s voice. Once I thought I heard mother crying, but when I heard her voice next, it was strong, though the words were unintelligible.
The muscles in my arms tight, I shifted me weight from one foot to the other, trying to keep calm. Why don’t they come out and tell me what’s going on? I have to know for sure! Every sense in my body was screaming ‘draft’, but my legs refused to cooperate and take me to the spot which would answer my questions and seal dad’s fate.
I waited, but they still did not come out of the kitchen, and so the question still remained unanswered. Was he drafted or not?
Finally, my brain not being able to bear the stress anymore, I was about to charge into the kitchen when the door swung open and father and mother came out. Their hands were clasped together and it was at that moment that I knew for sure.
“Jack,” dad began slowly.
“You’ve been drafted,” I blurted out before he could continue.
His eyes were so sad, but he nodded. “Yes. I’m shipping out next week to Africa.”
My throat felt all choked up, and I couldn’t think of what to say. First Michael and now father! But then dad’s words came rushing into my head. Be a soldier. “I.... you’ll be fighting for our country, dad. I’m proud of you.” That was all I could think of to say, and I wasn't very sure I meant it.
Dad looked at me closely. “My boss will need  someone to take my job while I'm gone. What do you think?”
For a second, panic and revulsion flooded me. Take dad’s job? Take the job I hated, the job that caused so much sorrow to my best friend? For a moment I felt like refusing. Then I set my jaw. “I’ll do it, dad. Until you get home.” Please come home. Oh please come home.
He left the next Monday. I never forgot his final words to me before getting on the train. He looked very stern and forbidding in his Army uniform, but I knew he was just the same dad I had always known.

“Take care of your mother son. Do your job well, and keep a stiff upper lip.”
“Yes, dad.”
He held out his hand and I shook it slowly, then we hugged. For a long moment his arms were around me, then he pulled away. “Don’t forget me, Jack.”
“You’ll come back before you know it.” A sudden thought popped into my head. “Dad, are you scared?”
He started at the sky above my head. Then, “Yes, I am, Jack. I’m scared.”
“Do you want to go?”
The pause was even longer this time. “No, and yes. I don’t want to kill, but I love America, and I want to protect it.” He smiled down at me. “I’m glad you’re too young to get drafted, Jack.”
“I wish I could go with you. I’ll miss you, dad.” I gave him one last hug. “I’ll be praying for you. I love you.”
“I love you too, Jack. Don’t be scared for my sake. And remember, be a soldier; so matter what happens. Even if I never come back.”
“Yes, dad.” I wanted to say more, but he was hugging mother, then suddenly it was time for the train to leave, and my arm was around mother’s waist as he grew smaller and smaller in the distance. His words rang in my head over and over. ‘Even if I never come back.’

“Come back soon, dad,” I whispered to the vanishing train. “Please.”

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