“Would it be OK if I take Sam to the Lounge Car to get a coke?” the soldier asks my mom. They’ve been talking for a long time. My dad’s asleep in the seat next to the window.
My mom says “Yes” and the tall soldier takes my hand and we start walking to the back of the train car. This is fun. It’s hard to keep my balance. The train is swaying back and forth, but he keeps holding my hand so I don’t fall down. I like the sound when we go from car to car. The clack, clack of the wheels on the rails gets loud when the door is opened and the sound of the wind is very loud. And it’s real cold. When the door closes it’s warmer and not as noisy.
“So you’re five years old.” The soldier says.
“I’m five and a half!”
I like the soldier. He’s big and tall just like my Uncle Roy and Uncle Melvin. They’re my mom’s brothers. I wish I had a brother. There are lots and lots of soldiers and sailors on the train. I don’t think I can count that high. But I know what year it is. My mom told me. 1942.
“Oh, here we are.” He lifts me up and sits me on a tall bar stool. It has a soft shiny red leather seat and red leather arms. I’m sitting up on my knees so I can be taller.
“Whatta y’all have?” the bartender asks. The soldier looks at me.
I say, “A Coca-Cola.”
“Sorry, we’re all outta coke. All we have is ginger ale or tonic water.” The bartender says.
I don’t know what those drinks are. The soldier says we’ll each have a ginger ale.
“So, Sam, your mom says y‘all are from Fort Worth, Texas and you’re moving to D.C.” the soldier says to me.
“Yes, we’re moving to Washtun, D.C.. My mom and I have been looking at a sightseeing book about all the things to see there. My dad’s going to work for the Navy.”
“Here’s our drinks.” The soldier says.
I start to take a sip and the bubbles go up my nose. Then I sneeze. This tastes funny. It sure doesn’t taste anything like a coke. I sneeze again. Finally I’m able to take a drink without sneezing. There’s a bowl of little fish crackers. I like those.
“My Uncle Roy is at ‘napolis and Uncle Melvin hopes he’s going to get to fly a plane and Uncle Pat is going to be in the Army just like you. I don’t know what to be when I grow up. Oh, and Uncle Bill is in the Army in Arkansaw.” I continue saying.
Well, we finish our ginger ales and the soldier says, “I better get you back to your mom and dad.”
When we get back my dad’s awake. My dad invites the soldier to go have a smoke. My dad smokes a pipe. I have a play pipe. When I grow up I’ll smoke a real pipe. The soldier says he has to get off soon at Chattanooga, but he’ll go have a cigarette with my dad. He says good-bye to me and my mom. He and my dad leave us and go to the smoking car.
My mom has tears in her eyes. I ask her what’s wrong.
She says, “The soldier is going to fight in the war.” I don’t what that is, but I think she’s worried about her brothers.
I don’t remember the soldier’s name. I wonder if he survived the war.
Uncle Roy graduated from Annapolis and was on a destroyer in the Pacific.
Uncle Melvin flew a fighter plane over Germany. Ten years later he was seriously injured while flying a jet fighter plane.
Uncle Bill was in the Army Air Force but didn’t have to go overseas.
Uncle Pat was taken prisoner by the Germans and was in a prison camp for the duration of the war.
by Sam Glenn
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