Authors: Blaine Reimer
Love is a Wounded Soldier
Love is a
Cover by Sarah
This book is a work
of fiction which features historical events particular to the World War II era.
While some scenes may resemble the experiences of many veterans of the war, any
depictions identical to the experiences of anyone dead or alive are entirely coincidental.
The plotline, dialogue, and characters are all creations of the author’s
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded,
decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information
storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic
or mechanical, without the express written consent of Backroad Books.
For believing in me and my book.
I instructed your
mother to give you this package on your 18th birthday, so I’m going to assume
today is the big day. Happy birthday!
You may rightly be wondering what this
letter and stack of papers is all about. I suppose it has something to do with
the fact you were my only grandson and you lost your father when you were so
young. You became more like a son than a grandson to me. I hope you feel that
way as well.
When I realized I probably wouldn’t be
around to see you grow into a man, I decided I should write you something. Some
sort of roadmap to manhood. But I soon realized there is no such thing as a
roadmap or formula to becoming a great man, and if there were, I would be the
last to know it. Every man must walk his own road, and you must walk yours.
You yourself planted the seeds of this
manuscript one day during Christmas holidays, several years before Grandma
passed on. I’m guessing you were about five years old. You may not remember this
story, but I could never forget it.
You and I were roughhousing in the den that
morning, when you stopped suddenly and asked, “Grandpa, what happened to your
face?” You ran your little fingertips lightly down the side of my face, looking
up at me with eyes sweet and innocent, and as blue as your grandmother’s.
I groped for an answer fit to satisfy a
child’s curiosity. As I thought about how to answer, my mind was swept away by
a flood of memories. For a moment, I forgot you were even there. I forgot we were
When you tugged me back to the moment, I
realized my cheeks were wet, and you had a horrified look on your face, as
though you felt responsible for making Grandpa cry. You looked like you were
near tears yourself, and that made me feel really bad. Thankfully, Grandma had
heard everything and quickly distracted you with some cookies. You never again
asked me what happened to my face. I suppose somewhere along the line someone
else will have told you.
Your question really got me thinking. Later
that day, I remember drinking some apple cider and watching you and Katherine
and Grandma decorate the Christmas tree and sing along to carols playing on the
radio. I thought about Christmas, and my mind traveled back to the many
Christmases I’d celebrated in so many locations, so many conditions. Memories,
sweet and bitter, played in the theater of my mind, and I wept quietly to
myself as a sentimental old man is prone to do, silently wiping the tears away
with my sleeve, not wanting to be noticed.
You did notice me, however, and your eyes
clouded over and you said, “Why are you crying, Grandpa?” I did my best to
smile, and gave you a dismissive wave, but you still came over and wrapped your
little arms around me. Then you went back to your decorating, without either of
us saying anything further.
I felt as though I needed to be alone, so I
finished my cider, put my coat on, and went outside to cut some wood. My mind
was heavy. It troubled me that I wanted to share the stories of my life with
you, but never did know how to start.
I fired up the chainsaw and began cutting
up a log. My old ticker wasn’t what it used to be, so after a short time, I had
to sit down on a chunk of wood and rest.
As I rested, I started counting the rings
on the log. It had come from a walnut tree in our yard that had blown down in
an early summer storm. I’d only known the tree for about twenty years, but had
guessed it must be at least as old as I was. According to the rings, the thing
was close to 150 years old. I examined the rings more closely and could make
out the thick rings, the narrow rings, the good years, and the bad. It suddenly
occurred to me that maybe I was just like that old walnut tree. We both had our
scars, visible on the outside, but the only way for someone to really know how
life had been for us was to see the rings within. And so I thought while
perhaps I couldn’t bring myself to speak of my life while I was alive, I could
leave you this, the rings of my life, after I was gone.
I’m hoping in some way these stories will
make up for the times you perched on my knee and asked me for a story about the
olden days, and all I did was sit and sigh to myself as I thought of all the
possible stories I could tell you. Read on, my son, and it may not puzzle you
any longer why I cried when certain songs played on the radio. Maybe now you’ll
understand that sometimes when Grandpa stared at a blank wall and trembled, he
didn’t see a blank wall, but rather, he saw a giant picture show, playing vivid
and terrible things on a looped tape he would have given anything to erase.
Yes, there are images sharply etched on the walls of an old man’s mind, a
frieze that the shifting sands of one man’s lifetime are insufficient to erase.
In my life, I have experienced many things.
I’ve seen unbelievable beauty and felt unbearable pain. I’ve witnessed human
beings exhibit both a savagery that would shame a beast, and love and grace I’d
thought only God could be capable of.
These are not stories I heard from a friend
of a friend, or something I read in a book or saw on television. This is not a
Sunday school picnic account of things, or some dressed up, sterilized,
sanitized, or glamorized version of my life. These stories are true. These
stories are real. These stories are the rings within me. I hope there is
something in them that helps you find your way, and perhaps, much like I
understood that walnut tree, you may understand me better in death, than you
ever did in life. Godspeed my son. I love you.
Till we walk hand
in hand again,
A BATTLE AND A BAT
We called him Roy
the Ripper. It was an exaggerated nickname, derived equally from handy
alliteration and a juvenile sentiment that Roy had a bright future as a
psychopathic felon. Picture a soul manufactured without the nerve endings
necessary to feel empathy or compassion, and you can likely accurately imagine
what sort of fellow Roy Visser was; the most low-down, scum-sucking,
bottom-feeding bully that Coon Hollow, Kentucky, had ever known. At least that
I could remember, anyhow. He was reviled and feared by every child in school,
myself included. He had no friends, and it seemed he worked quite hard to
maintain that statistic.
It was the sound of his insolent voice that
made me stop dead and cock my head. Yes, even though the words were
unintelligible, his antagonistic tone and soulless laugh were unmistakable as
they floated toward me on the hot summer breeze. It was the sound of a predator
toying with his prey.
My heart beat faster as I quickened my
pace, walking to where the trees parted to accommodate Parson's Road, which was
not so much a road but a set of ever-diminishing wagon tracks through the woods
that serviced several farms before it trickled weakly into Hogshead Creek.
Sure enough, there was Roy, pounding the
stuffing out of Theodore Smiley. Theodore was also friendless, but not by
choice. He was also slow, spindly and lame—a bully's dream.
Theodore was trying to play dead, which was
a smart strategy considering who he was up against, but that didn’t keep Roy
from grinding his face into the grass and weeds that grew along the thinly
graveled road. I still wasn’t close enough to hear what Roy was saying, but I
could almost imagine the words oozing out of his mouth and dribbling down his
chin in a trail of horrid, viscous slime, as he sat on top of poor gimpy
Theodore and taunted him. Theodore’s little sister, Jenny, stood off to the
side, crying and pleading for Roy to stop.
I turned sharply and started to walk
briskly toward them. Usually I was too afraid to interfere in Roy’s slug
sessions, but today I felt an impetus to intervene. As I got nearer I began to
decipher words, rather than just muffled jeers.
“Stop screamin’,” I heard Roy order little
Jenny, “you’re a little loud-mouthed sow, just like your ma.”
My walk became a lope.
“Yeah, go ahead, cry, that’ll help,” Roy
My lope became a run.
“Have you learned your lesson, ya little
piece of shit? Next time a man asks you for money will you be a little more
Roy looked up, but I was already upon him.
I grabbed his coarse, tan shirt collar and could feel his shirt stretch and
snap as it strained at the seams. The top two buttons popped as I jerked him up
and off. I didn’t have the strength to lift him entirely up, so I pulled him up
until his head was level with my waist and dropped him. Dust briefly puffed up
and hung haloed in the fingers of light that shone through the trees onto the
Theodore lay still a moment, and then I
could see his shoulders shake. He stiffly propped himself up on his elbows and
proceeded to struggle to his feet. He didn’t look up, but bent over and picked
up his syrup can dinner pail, and collected a few tattered books that were
scattered at the perimeter of the battle site. As his face turned, I could see
it was scratched and bloodied, and a few tears had fought through a flurry of
blinks to trickle down the sides of his nose, mingling with blood and snot
before trailing a line down to his mouth.
Roy got up slowly, too, but more with the
ponderousness of a fighting bull who rises deliberately, disdainfully, as if
coiling himself for a crushing charge. His measured manner looked designed to
intimidate, dramatize, suspend. He turned to face me. Sweat was beading on his
pimply forehead, and his top lip glistened.
“You got sumpin’ to say to me, Mattox?” His
pig eyes were challenging. He slowly chewed a plug of tobacco. Though only 16,
he had chewed as long as I could remember.
“You leave him be,” I said, my voice low
and shaking, half from fear and half from rage.
“You should mind your own potato patch,
lily liver.” The skin on his jowl wrinkled as he talked. I could see the brown
tobacco stains on his front teeth.
“Have you been chewing, or did someone take
a shit in your teeth?” I asked, stunned by my own temerity. He appeared to be
taken aback—nearly as taken aback as me. He stood oafishly, as if stunned by an
unexpected blow. I don’t think he was expecting lip from someone two years his
junior and a good many pounds lighter.
“Now you stop bothering him,” I ordered
He regained his aplomb and casually tongued
his plug of tobacco to the other side of his mouth. Then he spat, right on the
front of my shirt. I looked down and watched the thick string of spittle
slither slowly over a fold in my shirt. It dangled and swayed like a slimy
brown pendulum, hesitating a moment before it dropped. I felt ill.