The old soldier, watched two of his great grandchildren playing in the small yard where there had once been flowers and a neatly trimmed lawn. Now overgrown with weeds due to years of neglect.
A red balloon tied to the small front gate, wavered in the warm breeze lonely and without purpose much like himself.
One hundred years old today, big deal it seemed like any other day except that today his family had come to see him, out of obligation no doubt. “That’s alright”, he thought to himself, people have obligations, it makes them feel better about themselves, and he loved his great grand children. So full of life and energy, their bright futures ahead of them. Their world was full of magic and possibilities, how he envied them!
His life was a waste of old memories and missed opportunities, a hundred years worth, and that was a lot.
He was confined to this old wheelchair now, prisoner to this old house full of old ghosts on a dingy street in a dirty city. What had happened to this place? It used to be so nice here, sunny days full of laughter and promise, parties, nights out with the boys playing poker and smoking cigars. Good times!
The boys were all gone now, most of them years ago, lucky bastards! How did he outlive them all? Why was he chosen to carry the banner of the ‘greatest generation”?
He thought about his wife Annie, beautiful Annie, with her bright smile and laughing eyes, her sharp wit. He missed her so much, even after twenty two years, the loss still felt like it had happened yesterday.
Now he had Penny, ugly as sin but with a heart of gold. His wife? No his caregiver, and he preferred her ugly, considering the ugly business she had to perform everyday, bathing him, cleaning up his “personal messes” it was humiliating for him, for her he couldn’t say. She would just chatter away about her family the whole time. She was a sweet girl, but that face!
Usually he just sat and watched the world go by through his blurry eyes, remembering the old days, the good old days. His daughter had gotten him a phone for emergencies, a smart phone she called it. “Look dad, it has a camera so you can take pictures!”
Pictures? What the hell did he want to take pictures of? He never left this house any more, even if he did he couldn’t see them, he could barely see past the front door any more. He had smiled and thanked her for her thoughtfulness and then tossed it in the kitchen drawer forgotten.
One day Penny had come to him, his phone in her hand, scolding him for tossing it away. She had showed him that he could listen to books using an “app”, that had been a godsend! He listened to all of the old classics, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, all of the old Edgar Allen Poe stories, even the poems which he didn’t care for much. He had no use for poetry, a bunch of rhyming nonsense. But what he really loved were war novels!
He listened to tales of ancient battles fought with sword and shield, dogfights over Germany, Civil War epics, modern warfare with sub hunters and SEAL teams. He loved them all!
The tales brought back memories, his body was failing nowadays, but his mind was perfect, he remembered every thing. He remembered his days in the army, the one true love of his life. Those were glorious days!
His missed those days so much! Missed his friends, missed sitting at a bar raising glasses of whisky to the cries of “Fix bayonets and stab em in the neck!” and then calling for another round and doing it all over again.
Those were some great days, great friends, how ironic he would outlive them all only to live this useless life of relative solitude waiting for time to kill him.
Time, the most insidious of all enemies, it took his wife, his friends, now it was taking his body piece by piece.
Damn he would love to tip a glass of whisky right now, maybe two, hell maybe even three. What did it matter now. Being old was the worst kind of torture, might as well try to find some enjoyment.
But Penny would have none of that, no it was better for him to sit around and eat baby food and have his diapers changed.
How the hell had it come to this, it would have been better to die in the war, go out in a raging blaze of glory.
Yes, he would have preferred that, die doing what you love, that’s the way to go, to die in battle yes that was for him, but life hadn’t seen it that way.
He heard a commotion from inside the house, the sound of breaking glass and children screaming. Slowly he turned his chair around and wheeled into the house, the commotion was coming from the back, in the kitchen.
As he wheeled around the corner from the small dining room he saw the man. He was dirty and unkempt, waving around a knife and yelling incoherently.
He looked homeless, like one of the group down the street at the shelter, always wandering around aimlessly, digging through trash cans, talking to themselves and waving their arms about. But he was in here in the house, with the family and the children, waving a knife. What the hell was he thinking?
He grabbed Jennifer, the old man’s niece, and began yelling and threatening anyone who came close, the children were screaming and crying, Jennifer looked as if she was about to faint.
“Let go of her right now and get the hell out of this house! Now!’ The old soldier cried, in a raspy voice, the emphysema had taken most of it but he still managed to get the message across.
The man looked at him in disbelief, surprised at this shrunken old man, giving orders, defying him.
Hatred burned in his eyes, slowly he released Jennifer who fell to the ground crying and shaken.
He lunged at the old man, grabbing him around the neck and yelling “NOOO!”
And then it happened, with surprising speed and agility the bayonet appeared from within the old soldiers jacket. Old and scarred from many years of use but still well maintained, the blade brilliantly polished, the leather handle wrap oiled and supple.
The old soldier pushed hard and felt it penetrate the soft flesh of the man’s stomach, felt the blade scrape bone and then he pulled it up hard releasing a torrent of hot blood, soaking his arm and gushing into his lap.
The man dropped his knife but squeezed harder on the old soldier’s neck, squeezing the life out of him.
As the old soldier faded away slowly, he smiled reveling in this final battle, thanking God for a good death. Yes he thought at last, this is a good death.
© Phoenix Risen 2016