The Soldier – A very short story

The Soldier

Peter looked at the crack in the curtain that had been his grandmothers. He pushed the curtain aside, and he saw children on the playground. Their mothers watched over them, discussing motherhood: The newest addition to the line of breast pumps; use formula or the breast milk; nipple or pacifier; a glass of wine – abstain or endorse.

He could hear his mom calling from the kitchen, but he couldn’t make out the words. She would soon realize it and stick her head into the living room. She always did.

“Thanks mom,” Peter said, “I’ll set the tables.”

Golden potatoes with parsley and butter, freshly steamed vegetables and pot roast. His favorite. “It looks amazing.” He hugged her briefly before they sat down around the table.

“Are you okay hon?” she asked, holding the fork in mid-air. Peter pointed at the potato: “it’s dripping.”

“Yes…” She put the fork down. “Is everything alright? You’ve been very quiet lately.”

He had indeed been quiet lately. One day he caught himself pondering what kind of shoelace he should use with his new patent leather shoes. He had thought about color combinations that would be best. The beige shoes with white shoelace seemed too festive. The chestnut ones with red lace he found very appealing, but again, for a different time. A pair of denim shoes had taken his eyes off the prize for a second. No, it had to be leather. Purple with black shoelaces; or the burgundy perhaps.

“Peter?” she repeated, slightly louder. “You really need to talk to someone. It can’t go on like this.”

Peter rubbed his forehead: “I know…” his mom motioned to say something. His hands absently motioned her: “I will!”

“Good.” She picked up the fork again.

Over the dishes that night, he settled for the black shoelace to go with his burgundy shoes. His hands trembled; he sniffed and thought that at least the outfit was decided. He dropped a plate. It smashed to pieces in the sink and catapulted foam through the air. He clenched his fists till his knuckles turned white. The nails dug into his palms. Pain was the voice that cleared the clutter in his head. Maybe she was right; maybe he should see that support group.

It was not so long ago that he and his childhood friend had been among the children on the playground, playing soldiers or cops and robbers. Growing up, they continued to play: it was wonderful to enlist together and be in the same platoon. Just one of them got to take the trip down south however. On Friday he would see his childhood friend again. No doubt for the last time.

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