#12 Disabled Vet. Anything Helps. God Bless.

by Jade Leone Blackwater

“Hello son. Lunch?”

“Okay,” says the man. He brightens when he spies cash beneath the sandwich. I offer a bottle. “Thanks Ma, just praying for water,” he sips. “I’m Tom.”

“Daphne. My wife Jean.” I shake Tom’s paw, stiff as leather. Jean waves from our car.

“You guys are all right,” he rises on clicking legs and stows the food in his bucket. “Ten kids,” he starts, “three of ‘em mine. Rest are my buddies’, what didn’t come back. Five grandkids. Four dogs. Two cats. Gave up the potbelly pig.”

“Work?”

“Lookin at it!” He explains, “I’m weird now. People make me uncomfortable.”

“I understand.” I correct, “I probably don’t.”

“You don’t wanna understand. Fourteen years in service. Honorable discharge. I’d go back if they’d—eighteen confirmed, twenty-four hours, most with a blade. I couldn’t—wasn’t right when I came home. Not just the legs.”

“Disability?”

“Never enough.” Traffic grumbles. Tom repeats roll call. “I get those kids to church six days a week. Keep ‘em outta trouble.”

“They’re fortunate to have you.”

His brow widens. “Took a long time, getting back indoors. Used to go to soup kitchens ‘cause I had to. Now—” Tom lifts his chin, eyes closed. “No. I’m blessed. Lake Silvi Baptist. Mud Bay Gur’dwara. One Sky Universalist. Red Road Neighborhood Center. Ten kids, three of ‘em mine. Rest are my—Five grandkids.”

“We’ll keep you in our prayers, Tom.”

“Pray for those KIDS,” he insists, then looks away.

9 comments:

Gregory S. Lamb PDX Author said...

As a disabled veteran and part time veteran service officer, I really appreciate the awareness you put forth with this wonderful piece of fiction based on reality. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great piece, and what a creative response to the prompt.What strikes me is Tom is like the fractured glass -- broken but beautiful. Good Work!

GML

amessoffeathers said...

Lovely and heartbreaking, and a timely and far too overlooked issue in our society.

Jade said...

@Gregory: thank you for your comments and for your service. Whenever I meet a person like Tom, I feel like what I have to offer could never be enough.

@GML: thanks! It was tough to decide which of Tom's qualities I most wanted to show.

@amessoffeathers: thank you. I was glad to write on this topic, but it was tough too. I'm so happy that #13 follows this story with such excellent levity.

Sam Knight said...

I was a little lost at first, with who was speaking, and what was meant, but I quickly fell into sympathy and admiration. Thanks for sharing a reminder that we all need to look out for one another.

Jade said...

@Sam: thank you kindly for the feedback. I played with the intro a lot, and I agree that those first lines could still use a bit more clarity. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Rachel Green said...

Teriffic piece.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Love this piece. Even if I have nothing to give, a smile and a nod are often met with a return grin. Acknowledging their existence doesn't cost a dime. Well done.

Jade said...

@Rachel - thank you, and thanks for reading!

@Sarah - YES: acknowledgement, kindness, respect. Very well said; thank you for reading and commenting.