“Only The Dead Aren’t Sons-A-Bitches. . .” Captain Invisible Whispered.

“Look at that old bastard Leroy. . .”

“That son-of-a-bitch is still alive!” a bony arm motions toward another as yet un-fallen soldier, half hidden behind his reinforced oak partition.

With that pronouncement, the table smashes into an uproarious, jovial ruckus and beer glasses clink volcanically near their breaking point, just as their handlers have done so many times before.

Me. . .? I sit as still and quiet as possible, daring not to be noticed by these inebriation stormed troopers.

Please oh please I ask, just let everybody keep doing what they’re doing while I do my part by staring hard at the worn carpets, missing chair feet and anywhere but where other eyes would make contact and remember my presence.

“Oh dammit Charlie!” the yappy, overly observant bartender said last time. “The kid. . . nobody paid the damn kid!”

“Oh for shit’s sake!” some lessor rank soldier then lamented out loudish a half a bar away.

“Brady!” Charlie now relay hollers to a much mustachioed sargeant mid way through an unstoppable story.

“Brady!” Charlie fires another shot across Brady’s bow. “BRADY! For Christ’s sake, your story can wait!”

“No one’s paid the bugler. . .”

A hush falls over the wake with that.

“The kid’s been sitting here the whole time . . .”

“Holy shit, sorry kid. Sorry for the wait and for some of the stories you must of overheard.”

“Here’s your five bucks.” “Next time just ask Leroy the bartender to pay you, okay? You’re really not supposed to be in here. Not for a few years yet. . . okay?”

No.

It wasn’t okay. . .

That’s why this time would be different.

This time I would purposely make myself invisible while waiting to be paid for playing Last Post and Reveille for a departed legionnaire. And I would listen hard to every story told and retold by these farm boys cum soldiers as they endured and tried to make sense of a senseless thing.

The stories liquor unlocked from the memories of these fellows were often disturbing and graphic and yet always ended up manifesting the support of their comrades who themselves struggled with cold, unforgiving demons if a buddy should hold a tent flap of history open too long.

I listened.

Damn right I listened and I learned and was changed as a person by these old warriors, now worrying how they’d be remembered.

Would they be one of the good fellows, remembered with glory and the odd shard of glass?

Or would they be known as old, drunken bastards, crying for others in their broken beers . . . 

Thank you, friend.

Barry out.

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