Scars and Sacrifices

Billy picked up the plastic bottle of strawberry flavored soda. He turned it over in his hands. Finally the teenager brushed his hair out of his eyes and walked toward the checkout counter, ignoring the brightly packaged boxes on his left and right.

The store buzzed with the midday rush, voices mingling into a low throbbing buzz sometimes punctuated with a sharp cry.

The teenager stepped into line behind a mother who had secured her young boy in a shopping cart. Billy peered around them to get a look at the length of the line. He blew out his breath and rocked back on his heels. He would be here a long time.

Boots scuffled across the plastic tile floor behind him. Billy twisted his shoulders and glanced backward. A tall but stooped older man stood behind him. His face was seamed and creased like an ancient map. The man carried a package of raw meat. Billy stared at a jagged scar that ran from the man’s chin to his left ear. The scar puckered the skin, pulled the left side of his mouth downward.

For a long moment, Billy stared at it. Goosebumps erupted across his skin. The man looked down at the ground, avoiding the boy’s gaze.

Billy swallowed then asked, “How’d you get that?”

The man brought his eyes up, surprise written across his weathered face.

Billy brushed his finger from ear to chin.

“The scar, I mean. How did you get it?”

The man reached up and touched his scar.

“This?” he said in a low, gravelly voice.

The grizzled man slowly tucked the meat package against his thigh and shoved his other hand into his pocket. His eyes focused on something far away.

“I got it in Vietnam,” he said finally. “Me and my buddies were out on a routine patrol of the jungle. I remember it was as hot as the Devil’s kitchen. Suddenly one of us hit a Viet Cong trip line. I’ll never know who did. The booby trap exploded, throwing shrapnel everywhere. My friend Dave was standing right next to me. A piece of shrapnel took him in the belly and he went down. Another bit ripped across my face.”

He paused to trace his scar.

“I was on the ground and I couldn’t hear a thing. Blood was running down my face. I called out to the other guys but…”

The man stopped, choked up by the old memory.

Billy averted his eyes and tried to study his bottle of red soda. The man swallowed then continued in a husky voice.

“… but they were all dead.”

The man took his hand out of his pocket and dragged it across his eyes. He continued in a soft voice.

“I picked up Dave’s dead body and carried him on my back. His hot blood soaked through my shirt. I stumbled through the steaming jungle, tripping, falling down, and getting up again. I don’t remember how long I carried him. As night came and shadows lengthened, I felt him grow cold against me.”

The veteran tenderly placed his package of meat on the conveyer belt. The smell of raw meat surged into Billy’s nostrils. The teenager gagged and clutched the conveyer belt for support. He took a deep breath.

The man stared into space. Finally, he shook his head and reached up to touch his scar.

“And that’s how I got this.”

The little boy ahead of Billy giggled. Billy watched as the boy amused himself with a box of cereal. He looked back at the battered old man and met his eyes.

“Thank you,” Billy said.

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  1. jonathan

     /  September 24, 2009

    I wrote this story to honor veterans but especially those in the Vietnam War. I feel like Vietnam veterans are not respected like the rest of our veterans. We, the people of America, should honor their sacrifices regardless of whether we personally support the war.

  2. Zachary L

     /  September 25, 2009

    YES!!! I was hoping you would put this up!

  3. Chloe Johnson

     /  September 25, 2009

    wow jonathon. just.. wow. i love this. wow.

  4. when did you write this man?

  5. Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google. I have a blog on online stock trading, I’ll bookmark your site.


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