Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
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Earl Crier wakes screaming from nightmares in which his ship sinks in the Arctic in World War II. He has survived but is now blind. He takes refuge in music and in the kindness of Stella. Meanwhile, other veterans return, and their most serious wounds are not always visible.
Chapter 9: Moon Glow
Henry rolled the cold glass of beer between his palms as he contemplated how many ways he could screw things up.
“The only thing in that glass is beer,” Gibby said. His eyes glittered behind the fingerprint-smudged glass of his spectacles.
Henry took a sip, the white foam cool on his lip. “There’s a guy at the hospital I should walk away from, but I can’t. He’s what they call a ‘wait and see’ patient. The guy is in miserable physical shape, mentally and spiritually worse off.”
He drank down half the beer. “The guy spent most of the war as a guest of the Emperor of Japan in some godawful prison camps in the Philippines. He was a China Marine, tough as they come. As far as we know he may be the only survivor of his entire unit.”
Henry held a hand up and partially framed his Asian profile, “When he sees this face, the hatred that wells up in him is hot enough to blow out a rectal thermometer. If looks could kill, I’d be a dead man seven times over. I can’t even imagine what the poor guy has gone through. Somehow he made it home alive, but now he’s pretty much lost the will to live.”
Henry finished the beer and pushed the glass forward for another.
“You can get up and get it yourself,” Gibby said as he polished another bar glass. “You know your way around the joint. China Marine you say? I’m surprised any of them survived. The guy must have some guts.”
“That’s what I figure. I want to reach out to the guy. How? That’s the question.” Henry left the empty beer glass alone and began to unwrap a well-kept leather pouch that sat next to him on the bar.
“What’s that?” Gibby asked.
“Just a crazy idea of mine,” Henry answered, “a long shot at best.” He held up a shiny clarinet. “Do you mind? It has been a while since I’ve played.”
Gibby looked around the room where only a handful of bourbon bums sat wasting the day. “Have at it, son. Wake the place up a little.”
Henry stood, a little insecure; it had been a while since he had played. He faced the mirror and slowly brought the clarinet up and began to play “Moon Glow.” The cool, crisp notes embraced the room and then shimmied out the front door to be carried away with the whirling wisps of fog.
Gibby eyes misted over. “God, that brings back the memories. Fran, my wife, couldn’t get enough of Benny Goodman. We saw him at the Avalon once. Now that was a night to remember.” He fell silent for a moment as the music engulfed him.
Gibby remembered the nights he closed the bar because there were no customers. He would turn on the radio, and he and Fran would dance, just the two of them. “Fran’s favorite was ‘The Continental’. Do you know that one?”
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith