The War was over.
It was not a good war as wars go,
but Corporal Jamie Stark was intact
of body and only misplaced of mind
until now. He had been one of
hundreds of thousands of unknown
soldiers, faceless and nameless to
everyone else except to his family
and remaining friends back home.
Among the former being his big brother
Aaron who had also served in the
war and had been discharged, also in
one parcel, six months before.
Among the latter, Martha Drannon,
his best friend growing up until she
had moved away with her family
during their seventh grade at St. Thomas.
Martha was now back in Memphis.
Her brother Tad had been Aaron's
best buddy but had not been so lucky
as to survive the war.
Her Aunt Dora had passed away four
months before that and had left
The Cozy Reader used bookstore right
across from the bus station.
Martha was now sole proprietor
and employee. Jamie Stark crossed
the street in a uniform that had been
specially dry-cleaned and crisply pressed
before the bus trip but had been the
first casualty of the ride home.
He pressed the buzzer to the ground-floor
entrance next to the bookstore's and
was admitted upstairs. Martha was waiting
there, as radiant as he remembered her,
now a woman so beautiful it hurt his
eyes to watch.
"Jamie, I was so happy you called,"
she said, unable to contain herself.
"I'm fixing us some of Aunt Dora's
"Well, I hope it's younger than that,"
he laughed, stepping inside and, before
removing his hat, grabbed her and hugged
her for the first time since seventh grade.
As he held her, he tried to count all the times
he had heard in movies that this was the
reason you fought wars in the first place.
She gently separated herself to look
after the fried chicken and he viewed
her retreat with the same admiration
as he had her face and façade.
The apartment itself was cozy like
the aptly named store downstairs as
he recalled it. Books and soft lights
glowed as Simon and Garfunkel
provided musical accompaniment with
Scarborough Fair. He wondered how
much of the furnishings had been Martha's
and how much her aunt's. He had been
appraising them when his eyes caught the
the very recognizable eyes of the face
in the picture on the end table. At the
very same time, the sound of a key in
the front door lock opened it and,
turning, he was looking at that same
face in real time and place.
It was Aaron, also as he remembered,
taller, blonder, better looking as he had
"Little brother!" Aaron shouted effusively.
Martha joined them from the kitchen
and watched the embrace of brothers.
"Do you two know each other?" she
Corporal Jamie Stark could have cried.
The War had been bad but his return
had been far, far worse.