Right Hand Man
Class of 2020
(11/2016) The old man watched as a honey haired boy threw the pine cone high into the air, "Clear!" he screeched ducking behind the park bench. "Boom!" the little boy yelled, his hands covering his ears. He peeked over the seat, "Mission complete."
The old man laughed, "Come over here, you little rascal," he said, waving the little boy closer.
The boy grinned, "Are you going to tell me a story, Grandpa?"
"What kind of story do you want to hear?" the old man said, his eyes twinkling.
"A war story!" exclaimed the boy, picking another pine cone off the ground, "Boom!" he yelled again.
"A war story, eh?" said the old man thoughtfully, "I think I have a war story for you… about a little boy just like you."
The little boy hopped onto the bench beside the man, "Like me?" he repeated.
The old man nodded.
"Two boys, in fact. Their names were Joey and Peter. And when they were little boys they wanted to be soldiers just like you."
Two boys ran around an empty street, one with sandy blonde hair and another with dark brown hair. The houses on either side were uniform and nearly identical.
"There’s someone behind the trashcan!" the dark haired one screamed, diving behind a car.
"I got him!" said the blonde boy, taking a rock and chucking it as hard as he could. It hit the can with a loud bang!
"You’re such a show off, Joey," the brown haired boy laughed, emerging from behind one of the wheels.
"Don’t worry, you’ll get better one day," joked Joey, "Maybe as good as me."
"Growing up they did everything together. They played games, went to school, exercised and even flirted with the same girls."
The little boy made a face.
"When the boys were eighteen, they decided to enlist—"
"Enlist?" asked the little boy.
"That’s what you do when you join the army," said the old man, "And they made it into the army. Boy, were they excited! They were both determined to go to war. They made a little bet, you see. To see who would make it on the field first.
Two boys, much older now stood in line outside the recruiting office.
"Where do you think they’re gonna send us, Joey?" said an older Peter, his cheeks red with excitement, "Japan? Italy?"
"Are you crazy," laughed Joey, "They’re not gonna send us there. We’re at war with them!"
"But what if they do," said Peter, "I mean, who fights the wars? Soldiers, right?"
"We haven’t even enlisted yet. What are you in such a hurry for?"
"I’m just saying, Joey, what if something happens to one of us."
They stood in silence for a few minutes.
"Like what? What do you mean? Like we die or something?"
"Yeah…" said Peter, "Or get injured. Like an arm blows off or something."
The line moved, and they slowly inched their way forward.
"Well, I don’t know about you, but no man gets left behind," said Joey with a shrug.
"Yeah, Joey. I’d always go back for you. It doesn’t matter if your footless or fingerless. If you’re missing an arm, I’ll be your arm."
"But things didn’t go as expected. Peter won the bet. And after a few days, he was shipped off to Hawaii. Peter and Joey kept in touch. Every week, they would send letters. Peter was so excited. He made war sound so exciting. He said that there was a sense of camaraderie where he was. Everyone had the same interests, the same passion. Joey couldn’t
wait to be deployed.
"Well did he? Did he get de-ploy-yed," said the little boy, trying to pronounce the word.
"He did," said the old man, "but not for quite some time."
"Why not?" asked the little boy.
"The base Peter was on blew up," said the old man. He gently pried the pine cone out of the little boy’s hand and tossed it a few feet away, "Boom."
A man’s voice rang through the truck radio, "—over 200 Americans already presumed dead. This is it folks. This is happening right now. Pearl Harbor is under attack."
"Turn that up a little bit," said Joey.
"The Japanese have dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor. This is a sad day for the United States of America."
The little boy frowned, "What happened."
"Peter was stationed in Pearl Harbor," said the old man, "With all the chaos that was going on then, they couldn’t find him."
"You have to find him. You do. Check the names again. Peter Tracy. No, he’s not dead. I’m sure of it. He’s got to be in the hospital or something. Maybe you just spelled his name wrong or something."
"I apologize sir, but we don’t have a Peter Tracy on file. I’m sorry, but for now, we are going to have to assume the worst."
The little boy grew bright red, "Well what happened to Joey? Did he not want to become a soldier anymore?"
"Oh no," said the old man, "Joey wanted to become a soldier even more now. You see," said the old man, patting the little boy on the head, "He thought that if he became a soldier, he’d be able to find Peter."
"Well what happened to Joey?"
"He was sent to Tunisia," said the old man. "He stayed there for a year or so. He was part of what they called Operation Flax. He was a pretty good soldier, but halfway through battle, his right sleeve got caught on a burning tank. He suffered third degree burns, and the medic had to cut his arm off."
"Peter! Peter!" Joey screamed as he stared at his right arm engulfed in flames, "Where are you! I need your help right now! You said—" he was beginning to lose consciousness, "You said if I lost an arm you would be my arm. You were gonna be my right hand man,"
The boys eyes grew wide, "Ouch," he said, "That must hurt."
The old man laughed, "Yes, you’re right."
"Well what happened to Joey after that," asked the little boy.
The old man smiled, "He came home," he said simply, "He met a pretty little lady and got married and had five beautiful children. They bought a nice big house with a kept green yard, and he ended up retiring."
"And he never found Peter?" asked the little boy, "Well he’s got to find Peter, or else this this is the worst story I’ve ever heard, Grandpa."
The old man laughed.
"Well does he find Peter?" said a voice behind them. They both turned and found an elderly man with silver hair. He wore a blue button-up and grey pants. Where his right arm was supposed to be was nothing at all, leaving the sleeve limply hanging by his side. His eyes twinkled.
"Grandpa Joseph!" said the little boy, running towards the man, "Grandpa Pete was just telling me a war story. It wasn’t very good."
"Is that so?" said the silver haired man, "And why was that?"
"Well, the boys don’t find each other in the end," said the little boy. He picked up another pine cone, "Boom!"
"Joseph, there’s someone at the door," a petite young woman called, straddling a small baby boy in her arms.
A middle aged, sandy blonde man emerged from the kitchen, "I got it," he said. Pulling the door open he said, "Hello, how may I he—"
There was a long pause.
"I heard that you were missing a right hand," said the brown haired man at the door, "I said to myself, "I ought to go visit him because I need a left. Maybe we could trade."
"Well, did Joey and Peter find each other in the end, Pete?" asked the silver haired man with a chuckle.
"Yes. Yes, they did Joseph," the man sitting on the bench replied. With a groan, he slowly stood up, his left sleeve blowing in the wind.
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