#84 The Coward

by Ramona Scarborough

I am a war hero and a coward. I cannot bring myself to climb the stairs. To be where I ought to be. Instead, I sit on an uncomfortable chair staring down the familiar empty hall.

My father taught me to be this way. “Men don’t cry.” “Don’t be a baby.” I’ve avoided emotions that threaten to expose the man I really am, a weak, pitiful person. I ran away from my new wife and joined the Army, less afraid of grenades and bombs than tender feelings and true intimacy.

I came home. The medals pressed against my chest like a heavy weights. I knew the truth. Killing is not heroic. I pushed my horror down into my stomach and made ulcers.

My wife tried hard to be close to me. She was pleasant and warm. After a number of years, she gave up. The shield I hid behind covered my heart.

I took a job. It paid well. I bought her things. I would be away for long periods. She told me she was lonely. I could not tell her I’ve been lonely all my life.

The stairs squeak. Doctor Grantham is coming down. I know what he’s going to say.

“I’m sorry, Colonel Wheatley, but your wife Sarah is gone. I’ll call the mortuary you requested if you like.”

“Yes, thank you.”

As soon I hear the doctor let himself out, I bend over double. The hall carpet blurs. Someone is sobbing.

1 comment:

Dino Parenti said...

I love the detachment of that final sentence. And the line about pushing the fear down to the stomach and making ulcers? Perfection. Really lovely work.