Shadows play across the late kaleidoscope of mid-day. I draw the thin, white curtain over the watery glass window that sits almost ajar in its wooden frame. Now there are two, two children at war. I cry with shame. What does our community offer but sending children off to war. In the shadows of my milky tea, I feel a mother’s pain. My boys are two and not yet four. What kind of war will carve out their futures? What battle will the world bestow on them, to make them men? We are a small community, no more than a thousand. Factory workers live and work here in the paper factory with its tall cylinders pointing like rocket launchers towards the sky. This is it, the paper factory and taverns. It is over two hundred miles to the nearest city. We are almost all poor. We tell our children to grow up and become more. Make your fortunes, grow bigger than us, get your education. Then along comes a war. The GI bill looks appealing to young men and women brought up by rough hands and too much beer.
I think of our life here. My husband is a teacher, a pacifist by nature and position. Shadows fall across the rough floor boards in my kitchen. The faint last glimmers of sun, steel themselves slowly into the gray sky. Soon the afternoon is dark and ghostly.
My husband arrives home shortly after 4:00pm. His pallor is stony. The Jenkins’ have lost another child. Now one son is dead and the daughter is MIA. I stir the bubbling stew. Slowly, methodically as my mind churns blood red. It is the image of anger. Nothing can erase the band of death, the wounded in a small town like ours, a wheelchair at age 23, legs missing at 20, dead at 19. The news tells us it is not that bad. The news tells us that it is not that bleak. The news does not live here.
This morning there were two, now there is one, only one child from this town still in the war. Will they survive the death trod march? The odds are not good.