The Retired Warrior

He is sitting in the park.

The memories of shells and mortar explosions, firefights in the mud, blown-off fingers, ugly faces of abject terror in the face of the angels of death – these are all gone now.

He liked taking walks in this park, looking up at the gently undulating buildings, looking at their mix of easy, geometric shapes.

Nothing flew in the air.  He liked it that way.  The sky was always the same color of blue.

He liked it that way.

He spent hours following the outlines of the buildings, which were spaced apart at predictable intervals, and there were no alleyways or long shadows where assassins might be hiding.  The park burst with colors.  He liked it here.  On sunny days, it gave him hope.

They called it sterile.  And he liked that.

But, sometimes, just sometimes, he would get an itch.  Just once, he thought, he’d like to go berserk again, to be dropped in that frenzy of primary fear and violence, the attenuated consciousness of just his breath and pounding heart the only thing he could sense as he unleashed on those around him.

No, he told himself, no.  I like this.  I like this park, he told himself.

Anger of a Boy

No, his mom said, with a note of finality.

He was furious at the image of her saying it, the intransigence with which she said it.  He yelled and screamed, but her face was resolute and tight.

I hate you!  He said.

Later, when he was much older, he would come to know that she was not angry with him, as he had assumed.

But for now he slunk downstairs, quietly so she wouldn’t hear.  As he passed her room, he saw her through the crack in the door.

She sat at the edge of her bed.  The bed was high, so her legs dangled off the edge of it, as a child’s would.  Rounding her back, she was slumped over, clutching a book in her hands.  In the defenselessness of that look, she looked vulnerable, both a young girl, and an old woman.

His eyes welled up as he descended the stairs.

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