Friday Fast Fiction: The Combat Vet

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DSC_0198 - CopyHe  fought for his country in two wars, sustained injuries and received honors. At first the recognition he liked best was the  lifetime $3,000 per month PTSD disability award . But the passage of time altered his focus to a point where the money no longer softened the pain that made it impossible to sleep or relax.

His apartment was sought after by people hoping to get rich in the world of high technology. Wood floors, high ceiling, crown molding, arched doorways—the kind of place some said was inspirational. But for Len, it was a cage he didn’t want to leave.

His wife and their two sons had left him. The loss of his family was the cost of war that hurt most. He tried to dream about them but was always interrupted by memories of the rooms he entered with children’s bodies piled high, blood-spattered walls, and someone sobbing out of sight. Now it was his turn to cry.

He mixed pain pills with alcohol—contrived peace. But each time the release was shorter until it did nothing at all but lose time.

He slept with a pistol by the mattress and wondered when he’d pull the trigger. One morning his cell phone woke him up.

“Thinking about you,” said his wife.

He had never been weak, complained, or shared pain. But the controls were gone—the words gushed out.

“I need you,” he said for the first time.

After he hung up, he carefully shoved the pistol under the mattress.

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