I fired steam engines with Dad, Altoona to Pitcairn,
ran at night, cut throttle, coast hills, no speedometer.
Enlisted at eighteen, caught a train in Bellefonte.
In Italy a 40 and 8 boxcar, K-rations, Lyster bags,
no latrine, two days to the front.
I lay still till dark
right arm shattered – German machine gun.
I lay there hoping
for a future I didn’t know how I’d have.
At a square dance, Tom met Anna, three when her father died.
She picked potatoes for a day’s wages, five cents and a dollar.
Anna made applesauce from their crabapples. Tom liked to say
she was the farmer and he was the hired help.
I lay there wondering why I hadn’t died.
Tom and Anna had two children. Fred and Ruth Ann: policeman and translator.
I lay there wondering why I was alive. That arm did not bleed is how I survived.
Tom worked at the Post Office 33 years. One day he pulled a double shift, walked 30 miles,
delivered his last letter in the dark, carrying the mailbag with the arm that kept him alive.
I sailed 14 days, hospital ship, Naples to Charleston, I could walk but had no money,
another fella had money but no legs. He lent me twenty. When the army finally found
my paperwork and paid me, I mailed a check to his wife. Eleven months three weeks
my arm was in a cast. Each month they’d break it, recast it.
Tom’s last stop – Juniper Village. He wears a red checkered shirt his daughter bought him.
A stack of train magazines is by his chair. On the wall a newspaper article, Veteran’s Day 2007,
framed and hung by his son. Tom reads the Bible, goes to sleep satisfied. Looks
forward to poker, lunch at the Waffle Shop. His friends don’t forget him. Hardest, is
living without Anna, thirteen years.
You know she left a freezer full of fresh garden food. I ate every bit.
©2017 by Teresa M. Stouffer