July 2006/Volume Seven/Issue Two
Keith Wood
Veteran's Day

The parade was scheduled
to move through downtown
in about an hour.

I wasn't much on parades.

Rick's place was close to home,
so I stopped there.
His prices could have been better,
but they kept away the riffraff,
as Rick liked to say.

There was just one guy at the counter,
with one arm.
At the end of it was a pint of Old Crow.

The right sleeve of his coat
was folded up to the shoulder,
and sewn shut, next to a USMC patch.

Rick was behind the register,
waving his two good arms
at the guy: "I ain't selling you that whiskey.
Take your drunk ass on home!"

I made my way over to the wine section.

Rick wasn't giving him any sympathy: 
"I ain't telling you again."

A black and white sign above Rick's door read:
"We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

The German white was on sale.
Handlebar mustache Kaisers
grinned at me from the labels,
spiked helmets, marching boots.
No swastikas, though.
We had helped do away with them
long ago.

With three bottles in tow,
I went to stand behind the Marine.
He had been celebrating early.
Trust me. 
He'd be lucky to make it to the parade.

Gently resting the pint on its side,
the Marine fished out his wallet,
which had a “Hotel Cambodia” patch
sewn into the front.
He threw down a five.

Rick snatched up the pint
and put it back on the shelf.

I was too young to remember that war.
Supposedly it was one we lost,
or just abandoned.

The Marine took a step back,
then another, loosing his balance.

Rick reached out, grabbed the front of his shirt,
then led him to the door.

When Rick came back, he rang up my wine.
Leaning in close, he whispered:
"Can you believe the nerve of that guy?"

I couldn't stop staring at the five
the Marine had left behind,
another dead president
bearing bad news.

"Yeah," I nodded. "Yeah I can."