“They called me ‘Bean’ for a spell during the training. I s’pose it was because I was so tall. I didn’t mind it much… but later, when we was in France, some of the fellas started calling me ‘Mean Mr. Bean’.”
A small laugh escaped Miss Lottie and she eyed Albert. Most times when she eyed him like that, he knew he was in trouble. This time though, he cracked a big grin and gave her a wink to boot, just like Mr. Sam would do.
“Now I never did hurt no one that didn’t have it comin’ but when we was fightin’ in the trenches things got BAD. Miss Lottie don’t want me telling you exactly what it was like so you gonna have to take my word on it.”
This time Mr. Sam got the eye. And there was no smiling or winking. He just stopped and took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a minute. Then, he let out a long sigh and continued. “Well, what I can tell you Burty, is that some of them other fellas were the mean ones and the War only made them meaner.”
“How’s that, Mr. Sam?”
“Well, the War was something more than ‘us against them’, especially for us. Oh, we fought the Germans al’right, and we’uhs glad to do it. Not so much because we hated them or what they was doin’. It was more a way for us to prove ourselves as men.”
“You remember looking in that old wooden box Burty? The one with all those newspaper clippings? Do you know where they all came from? Well, I’ll tell you. When I was away, my Mama saved every single clipping she could get her hands on. She was so proud of her Samson. When I come home, she give me that box. And to me, those scraps of paper are the medals I never received from these here United States of America…” He stretched his long arms wide and gave Albert a sad smile. “I used to read through them news stories…” Mr. Sam trailed off. “…the newspaper men, they was doing they part… reporting the war… and I think we darn near surprised everybody with our heroics, but even when they was praisin' us they was keepin' us us in our place. Quick to point out that the heroes in they stories was just porters, elevator boys and whatnot… but at least they was writin' 'bout us, Burty! Heh heh heh! Yep, things didn't change much but I sure had.”
Albert took this pause to chance a look at Miss Lottie. She was still ironing. He had never seen Mr. Sam, nor Miss Lottie for that matter, ever wear anything but what they had on now and she was always ironing. And Mr. Sam was always sitting in his chair in his worn, blue overalls. Albert thought that they must have enough cleaned and ironed clothes inside their house to last them a lifetime.
Miss Lottie was a big woman. Almost as big as Mr. Sam was tall. And Mr. Sam was the tallest man that Albert had ever seen. At least he thought he would be the tallest. He had never really seen Mr. Sam get up out of his chair. His mind had begun to stray from his intended prize. Another quick glance and then, with the quietest whisper he thought he could use for Mr. Sam, said “The shadow, Mr. Sam. You said it was important.” And it obviously was by the way Mr. Sam’s eyes got real big and round. He shot a glance at Miss Lottie, then gave Albert a small nod.
“Not today Burty. Soon.”
Then he buttoned his lips as he eyed his wife again.
End of Chapter
© 2014 Michael O’Connell. All rights reserved.