A Story by Pepper

A brother leaves for the draft... and his family.


War never changes. Wars still kill people, tear families and lives in two, and change the world no matter what. They changed goverments, leaders, people, citizens, children, men and women, and humans into different people. The nice mannered boy down the block, the one who swept the streetcorner every morning would come back a druggie, or an alcholoic, or maybe just shell-shocked. His parents would never hear a word muttered from his lips again. Maybe a father who loved his children was shipped off, and never heard from again. Then by some miracle he was found, comes home to the house empty and his family nowhere to be found. Those are just examples of what war does to the human mind.

I remembered hearing that phrase from my brother, just before he was shipped off to boot camp when the war just started. This was back when my family could still meet and sit around a table for a meal. That was probably the last time that we sat down as a family though, the day he shipped off to boot camp. He was sitting down, scooping up the freshly prepared scrambled eggs and warm toast into his mouth. He was smiling at a comic strip, something about a runaway dog. He laughed, and my parents looked up from their papers. My father gave him a cold look, for joining the military was the last thing that he wanted his son to do. But it wasn’t like he had a chance, the draft called up every able-bodied man on our street, and they all were leaving today. Everyone was leaving today.

My mother was hiding behind the economic journal of that day, crying softly. My brother tried not to notice it, and brushed his long blond hair out of his eyes. From what I had learned about the military, they made you look like a cancer patient, with the shaved head and worried look that everyone had back in those days.

I wasn’t sure whether to cry or to take it like a man, whether to look like a caring mother or the stone cold complexion of a father. I didn’t have much time to make up my mind, so I just stared into the cereal bowl, trying to see past the cornflakes and past the milk into something that resembled the unknown. I never got the chance to do anything though; my brother had stood up and picked up his pack.

"Can someone drive me to the bus station?" he asked.

Nobody stood up immediately.

"You can’t blame the draft on me you know."

Nobody answered him again, only the sounds of newspapers crinkling filled the air. He set his pack down, and slammed his fist on the table. My father slammed down his papers and stood up, towering over the table and reaching the same height as my brother.

"You could have gone to school, gotten a job and started a life! We were willing to pay, just to avoid this day, the day where you leave, and all that we get back is a sheet of paper that says how sorry the goverment is about your death, when they really don't care!" he shouted, making me drop my cereal spoon into the cornflakes.As my father screamed in my brother's face, I saw the determination in his face. My father's anger was fueling my brother's engine to leave this house. My father began to get louder, his face turning red. Then my brother picked his pack up and my father stopped shouting. My brother walked over to me and dug inside his pocket, looking as if he needed an extra dime for the bus.

"Dad, I think you're scaring my brother, and I would like you to stop," he stated very calmly. "I don't want him to remember this moment whenever he thinks of me."

He continued to dig in the pockets of his coat, his soft hands searching for something, maybe a parting gift, or a present before he left? I wondered these things as I dug back into my breakfast. I finished my flakes and waited patiently for my big brother to magically pull something out of his pocket. After about five minutes, and seaching though all of his pockets, he pulled out a necklace, a wooden cross with a brown string around it. He dropped it on the table and pushed it over to me. I picked it up and examined it, feeling the soft pine attached to the rough string. On the back there was an indentation, carved in initials of his first and last name. I looked up at him and smiled, even though he did not. My brother kneeled down beside my chair and held my hands that held the cross.

"I want you to keep this safe for me, okay? I might not be back for a while, and I want to be sure that this in a good place, understand?"

I smiled at him and promised that I would.

He stood up and turned to my father, and said that he could find a ride from a friend. That's when he picked up his pack again and headed over to the door and placed his hand on the handle.

"Will you even come back? Will you be home for Christmas?" I called.

He let go of the doorknob and turned to face me. He looked in my eyes, and I in his. We looked for a couple of seconds before he replied back.

"I don't know, I don't know if I'll be back for Christmas. Or New Years or even President's Day. This war could go on for a long time. But I do know one thing about this war. It's just like all of the others, and even though we may be the most powerful country in the world, I will leave you with this."

I squeezed the cross in my hand, tears forming in my eyes.

"War," my brother said. 'War never changes."

© 2010 Pepper

Author's Note

Do anything.

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"I just stared into the cereal bowl, trying to see past the cornflakes and past the milk into something that resembled the unknown."
This short story was very well written but I particularly loved the line above. Well done.

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Added on December 26, 2010
Last Updated on December 26, 2010




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