Buck Was A Soldier

Here is the next installment of Fragments of Fiction:

uck Was A Soldier

Once upon a time there was a man boy named Buck. He was like other boys in that he loved to build with blocks, to play cops and robbers, to ride his bike and to collect bugs and get into all manner of trouble.

In short Buck was like every other ten year-old boy in all ways. Well, almost all ways. When Buck was eight he watched his mother and father die in front of him. They were robbed on a street corner. For less than twenty dollars a man stole their lives and profoundly influenced an impressionable little boy.

At first Buck went to live with his grandparents. He was happy there and for a time it began to appear as if the chaos that his life had been thrown into would be erased. His grandfather still worked as an accountant and his grandmother continued to be a housewife. In many ways it was very similar to the life he had been living with his parent.

But life has a way of not allowing you to grow too comfortable. Become too happy and some supreme being decides that you are ready to be tested or messed with. It doesn’t really matter why, all that matters is that it happens and you have to act or react to it.

In Buck’s case the second great tragedy of his life came when his grandmother had a heart attack and died. It was a natural death, she was 74 years-old. Buck sobbed through her funeral and alongside his grandfather he enjoyed a very somber ride back to the house. While in the Hearse his grandfather explained that it was time for him to grow up and that this would be the last time he could cry in public. If he wanted to be a man he needed to show the world that he was tough. From now on he had to be a soldier, he had to be like G.I. Joe.

And that meant that he had to listen to the orders of the General and there was no misunderstanding who the general was or why he was in charge. Before his grandmother had died he would come home to a warm house in which someone was glad to see him and interested in his day. Not to mention the many occasions in which she surprised him by having baked cookies. The house always smelled great and years later the smell of fresh baked cookies would always make him think of his grandmother.

Now he returned to an empty home. It was dark and uninviting, a cold home that had once held so much warmth. Buck couldn’t blame his grandfather, it wasn’t like he didn’t speak to him or act uninterested in his life. Grandfather was always careful to inquire about school, to offer his assistance and to try and be a father. But in the best of times he had as much warmth as a porcupine and so it was that a little boy in dire need of affection never really got what he was looking for and so desperately needed.

Time passed and the months turned into years. Buck was no longer just a boy, not in any sense of the word. By the time he was fourteen he had grown into a very solid young man, while not very tall he was quite broad and quite strong. Not to mention that he had a very heavy beard and dark hair peppered his chest. And so it came as no surprise to anyone who knew his story that he found himself getting into trouble.

His grandfather still worked an eight hour day, but it was becoming clear that he would not be able to keep that up for much longer. The death of his wife had aged him as had taking on the responsibility of raising a child. Still grandfather kept on moving. He didn’t know any way to live other than how he had for years. So he trudged into his office and in darkness he returned home.

It was an autumn day when life punched Buck in the mouth again. There was a chill in the air and grandfather had decided to split some wood. It was one of the simple pleasures in life he took. He would tell Buck that there was nothing more rewarding for a man than working with his hands.

Out in the crisp clean air he pulled on his gloves and began to prepare firewood to be used on the colder nights. He hadn’t been working very hard or for very long when his heart gave out. Grandfather died of a massive heart attack. Again it was a natural death, at the ripe old age of 83 he left the world and went to wherever the body and soul go after death.

Buck was 17. At the funeral he remembered his grandfather’s words and like a good soldier he shed no tears.

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