Here is the next installment of Fragments of Fiction:
A Soldier Follows Orders
Just prior to the start of the funeral the family was invited into a private room to say their goodbyes. Artificial lighting shone upon faded blue paint and bad artwork. Couches that had seen better days and lamps that looked like garage sale rejects added to the sterile ambiance.
Buck found himself standing next to an open casket, his grandfather lay before him. He was clad in a black suit. A cigar was in his coat pocket and his arms were laid out alongside the body. Whoever had prepared him had taken the time to add a little color to his cheeks. It was done to make the body look less dead but there is a reason that corpses are described as being pallid and once the light is extinguished it is gone for good.
After a few moments the director of the home quietly interrupted Buck and asked him if he expected any more family members to arrive. A short nod was all it took to indicate that Buck was it. Outside in the chapel there were only a handful of people there to bare witness to the interment of Buckâ€™s grandfather. None of them came back to the house and only one or two of them spoke with Buck. It wasnâ€™t clear if they were trying to be courteous or considerate of privacy. But it was very clear to Buck that he was finally completely alone.
The house was paid for and as the sole heir the title was given to Buck as was a very modest inheritance. It wasnâ€™t much, but it was enough money to cover his needs for a short while, especially given his Spartan lifestyle. Many teenagers in similar circumstances have found it to be overwhelming, not Buck. For all intents and purposes he had been living on his own since the death of his grandmother, if not his parents. So he had become accustomed to solitude and had long since developed a tremendous work ethic.
The combination made it easy for him to adjust to his circumstances. In fact, he preferred to be by himself. Crowds and large numbers of people made him uncomfortable. He didnâ€™t enjoy small talk and if forced to socialize would find a corner of the room in which he would sit quietly, dark eyes impenetrable but observant.
A short time after his grandfatherâ€™s death Buck received a letter from the local draft board informing him that Uncle Sam was ready to receive him as the newest member of the armed forces. In some ways this was one of the best things that could have happened to Buck. He hadnâ€™t been much of a student and did not have any ideas on what kind of profession he was interested in.
Military life suited Buck. He liked the discipline and the sense of purpose it gave him. He made it through basic training without any major issues and in time was shipped overseas where it became apparent that if he had been a man of faith he either would have lost it completely or become a devout zealot.
Thanks to shithouse luck Buck had become acquainted with death at a young age, but it wasnâ€™t until his squad inadvertently stumbled upon an enemy encampment that Buck learned about death first hand. If you were to ask the survivors how it all happened none of them could tell you how, but they could answer the what, at least when it came to Buck.
People react differently during moments of trauma and great stress. Here is what we know about Buck. The expression on his face hardly changed. Bullets were flying and he looked like he was playing poker. While returning fire his rifle jammed, but he remained nonplussed by it. There are stories of men who during moments like this charge the enemy in a suicidal rage determined to take as many out as they can.
Buck got up and just began walking towards the men who were firing at him. His steps were measure and with purpose. It was clear to those who saw him that this was not battle fatigue or a manifestation of a mental breakdown. He knew what he was doing. Somehow he got to the other side without being hit. This is the point at which the stories of the other men conflict with each other.
Some say that he grabbed an enemy soldier and cut his throat. Others say that he beat him to death with his rifle. The one thing that they all agree upon is that Buck killed a man and then took a moment to remove the head from the body and he did it without a smile, a grunt or any indication that he felt anything at all.
When asked about it later he had refused to discuss it and so no one really knew why he had done it, just that he had.