There were those that said Junior was never the same once he got back from Korea. Just as many said he wasn’t the same before he left.
Junior lived a few short blocks from Buck Wilson who left town after high school at his country’s behest to walk point in Vietnamese jungles for two years. It was a job with severely limited prospects. Now, some years later, Buck was a big, gentle guy who delivered appliances for Sears. He’d catch himself crying at the coffee shop now and again-Buck never drank-but that was about it. Except for he hated trees or any place where he couldn’t see everything within a hundred meters all round. Among his favorite spots were the parking lot at Sears before it opened and drive-in theaters before any cars got there.
One time a lady friend asked him for a ride to visit her daughter out near Frick Park in Pittsburgh, with its towering oaks and sycamores. He sweated in the cooling shade then, to be accommodating, took a walk with the ladies and the daughter’s dog along the park. He hesitated but a moment when the women veered down a path into the woods, the dog nosing a squirrel. He followed, dragging his feet as through sand. The humid Pittsburgh summer had raised a riot of thick green on both sides of the trail: rhododendrons, laurel, sumac and jagger bushes that closed, reached and grasped. The women stopped when they realized they were alone and back tracked to find Buck frozen in place vibrating like a tuning fork. They gently turned him and let the dog lead them back to the road.
Afterward with the women in the kitchen, Buck took his coffee to the porch and never once took his eyes off the treeline.
Bob knew enough people with enough history. Christ Almighty, his own Uncle Nick had been a prisoner of the Germans in World War Two. So he really didn’t care how many Junior had killed in Korea, somewhere between none and a hundred depending on how high he was when he was telling the story and who was listening.. Bob’s concern was who Junior might kill now. Or had killed recently and how to keep it from blowing back on him and his.
Wow! Powerful story. Left me wanting more.