From “World Without Love ~ A Collection of Short Stories that Together Tell a Story” (page 75):
Les Could Have Been More
I guess I never really knew Les Godfree. There was a gulf between us. (He was a few years older than I was; when you’re young, that makes a difference.) But I liked Les and looked up to him.
One day, my dad warned me that Les was “… troubled.” So I sort-of-understood maybe why I felt such a connection with him. But I wasn’t the reason Les felt connected with our family; that was because of my father.
Like my father, Les was a gifted natural athlete. Like my father, Les played football, basketball, and baseball and was always on the winning team. Les was famous in our town. The same way my dad had been famous in his.
It wasn’t unusual for the athletes my dad coached to hang around our house after school and on the weekends; it happened all the time. But Les was special. He hung around far more than any of the others. So much so, in fact, that we got used to Les being at the dinner table.
I always liked it when he stayed.
But the first time Les came back from Vietnam, he was different.
And it wasn’t just his haircut. There wasn’t as much life behind his eyes as there’d been before. He was patient with me – kind even – and he listened to the stories I couldn’t wait to tell him. But there was more distance between us than before. I could fell it. It was unmistakable.
I asked him if he’d killed anybody over there.
“Just Charlie,” Les shook his head.
I asked what it was like to kill someone.
Les told me his job in Vietnam was to ride on the landing skids of helicopters and protect the craft and crew from enemy fire. Les told me he was good at his job.
The second time Les came back from Vietnam, I could tell he only came by our house out of a sense of obligation, and little else. He wore his uniform and remained rigid the entire duration of his short visit. He seemed to want to speak only to my father, and even then, only in short, blunt sentences.
I tried to ask him questions about Vietnam, but he didn’t hear me. He didn’t stay long.
I followed him to the door. I asked him if he was going to play football at the University of Oregon when he got out of the Army.
He told me he’d volunteered for “… another tour of ’Nam.”
Just before he got away, I followed him out to the driveway and managed to ask if he was still riding on the runner-parts of the helicopters and shooting at Charlie.
“Yeah, it’s what I do. I’m good at it.”
He turned and walked down the driveway and none of us ever saw him again.
Thank you for reading.
Get instant access to the complete collection of Dallas Doctor’s short stories (and more) at Patreon.com/dockity
Support Ringo and Doc on their worldwide adventure for as little as $1/mo and you’ll instantly receive the 1st & 2nd collections PLUS all the new stories, as well as all of the “Travels with Ringo” stories. (For $5, you can get all of that PLUS the Doc’s novel “god’s favorite band” and more …) So join us today. You’ll be making dreams come true!