© Jerry A.G. Ericsson 8/23/00
Roger Welch was a hero. The whole town knew that. He won the Silver Star for Valor. He was the Commander of the local chapter of the American Legion. He was the best salesman that ever worked at Bowman Sales and Service, his wife was the best looking woman in town. Roger Welch had everything and Roger Welch was a fraud.
“We better get dressed, he will be here soon, and we wouldn’t want him to find us in bed now would we?” Mary said, pulling the bed sheet up to cover her naked breasts, her perfect breasts, the most beautiful breasts in town.
“I can’t believe that he is coming, after twenty five years, and he will be here tonight.” Roger replied, as he walked to the bathroom to wash the smell of sex from his naked body.
They dressed in silence, and walked, hand in hand, down the wide staircase to the parlor, he to the bar to make preparations, she to the kitchen to prepare precious tidbits of food to accompany the drinks.
As Roger shook the mixture of liquor, ice and bitters he turned and read the citation hung in the place of honor. “For Bravery and Valor above and Beyond the Call of Duty during the battle of Ahn Khe.” God! He was proud of that citation and the medal that came with it. He was the hero of Ahn Khe; everybody in town knew that. It was what attracted Mary, it was what got him the job at Bowman Sales and Service. It was the reason he held the post of Commander of the local American Legion.
Mary came back into the room; she had changed into the Ao Dia that Roger brought back from Nam for her. It was the first time she had worn it since he gave it to her twenty-five years ago. She looked lovely, sexy, alluring and very beautiful in it. Roger stiffened.
“Are you wearing that for him?”
“For both of you darling, after all you brought it home to remind you of the war didn’t you?”
“I don’t think Bill will want to be reminded!”
“I wonder why he never came home?” she said.
“Don’t know for sure. His wounds were bad you know he was in the VA Hospital for over two years after we got hit.”
“I know, but I waited you know. Waited for him. I only allowed myself to fall in love with you when it was clear Bill would never come home to me.”
“You don’t have to remind me, I waited too. Waited for you to get over your infatuation with Bill. He was my best friend too if you remember right.”
“Well he should be here any time now. His letter said he would be here in time for supper, and it is almost that time now.”
“You are anxious aren’t you? Are you sure you got over him? Should I be worried?”
“Don’t worry dear, I married you didn’t I.”
Roger jumped at the sound of the doorbell. He began walking to the front door, but Mary passed him in her rush to great Bill. She flung the door open and there he stood. He had changed in the twenty-five years since she had seen him last, but he was still Bill. She threw her arms around his neck, and drew him to her, kissing him deeply like the lost love that he was. Roger cleared his throat. The couple finally separated Roger pushed his hand forward in a true salesman manner. Bill just stood there, looking at Roger then at Mary. He ignored Rogers hand.
“Came to see Mary.” He said. Mary grabbed him by the elbow and escorted him into the parlor. Roger backed away, and let them by.
They sat in the parlor, drinking, eating the snacks, little was said for some time, and then the alcohol began to loosen them up.
“Remember Running Bear Bill, you used to be able to do Running Bear real good, do Running Bear for me. Come on, let’s play Running Bear on the Mountain!” Roger slurred, the alcohol showing its effects.
“Don’t DO people anymore Roger, I quit playing childish games when I quit being a child. You remember that day don’t you.”
“I remember let’s not talk about that day Bill, not tonight.”
Mary looked at the two men, a blank look on her face. “What about that day?”
“You mean the Hero of Ahn Khe hasn’t told you the story?”
“Don’t Bill! GOD! Please Don’t!”
“Ok Roger, you wanted to play, lets play Roger in the bunker how about that, should I DO Roger in the bunker?”
“NO! Come on Bill, don’t do it!” Roger screamed, then broke down and began to weep. Mary looked at him like she didn’t know him at all.
“Remember Roger, the rest of the platoon lay all around us. It was just you and me. The rest were dead, can you see them Roger, I sure as hell can. Then I had to look for you. Where did I find the Hero of Ahn Khe? Remember Roger. Remember Hero!”
Roger curled up in a ball on the floor, now crying like a baby. Mary sat wide-eyed next to Bill on the sofa.
“I know the story. The STORY Roger, I read it in the papers mom sent me. I read the lies. How the Hero of Ahn Khe was awarded the Silver Star for Valor. VALOR Roger, shit if they could have seen you crouched down in the corner of that bunker. The platoon lay dead all around, and there you were, just like you are now curled up in a ball crying like a baby.”
Roger quit crying now, and was gasping like a child trying to quit crying, and not able. His voice came in gasps “N-n-no p – p-please!”
“Tell her Roger! Tell her how I had to pick you up and carry you from that bunker, not because you were wounded, but because you were petrified with fear. Tell her hero. Tell her how I was carrying you on my back when I stepped on that damn bouncing Betty land mind. Tell her how you only carried me out after my legs were so mangled that I couldn’t carry you anymore hero!”
The alcohol finally did its job, Roger passed out. From time to time they could hear him gasp for breath as if he were crying in his sleep.
Mary and Bill talked for hours, they talked of the past, and they talked about a future that could hold nothing for them. Then they went up the wide stairs to the bed.
An hour later the came back down the stairs. Mary helped Bill down the stairs as his wooden leg made it difficult for him.
“Take me with you!” she begged.
“No you have to go on without me. I am only half a man, and I could never please you.”
“We don’t need sex.”
“You need sex, it was obvious when we were in bed, you need sex and I can’t give it to you, the mine made sure of that.”
“I can’t stay with Roger, not knowing it is all a lie.”
“You must find someone else then.”
“But you satisfied me just now, we can go on like that!”
“No, you would want more then I can give you, I just wanted to see you one more time, now I can go on.”
She cried as he limped down the walk.