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To Serve

A Short Story by Lawrence Kirsch


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The smoke surrounds him, irritating his already tired and bloodshot eyes and making it increasingly more difficult to breath.  His legs are tired and beginning to cramp.  He can't stop to rest - no time.  Such punishment, he thinks.  He doesn't want to be here.


As the night wears on, his weariness begins to overtake him and his mind wanders.  Thoughts of his first semester in college ripples through his brain.  His friends.  The things they use to do.  And there were the parties, too.  Yes, the parties.  Too many of them, he thinks.  That's why he failed out and that's why he was here.


Some people even suggested he would be better off - that he should go, that service was good.


It was not good.  He knew that now.  He was scared.  There were times when waves of fear threatened to drown him, leaving him trembling in his wet and worn-out boots.


His mind wanders further.  He imagines hearing his mother's voice the day he joined.  She was pleading, "he's only a boy, only eighteen - he's not ready for this!"


Suddenly, he is bumped by one of his buddies - blood rolling down the side of his young friend's face.


"What happened?"

"Flying glass.  I was stupid - I should have seen it."  The bloodied friend rushes off into the darkness in search of a medic kit.


My God, such insanity, he thinks.


The smoke is thicker now.  His eyes are deep red.  He can barely breathe.  Off to his right there is a loud crash, and a scream.  He ducks from instinct, then makes his way over to the point from where the sound came.  Another of his buddies is on the ground clutching his twisted arm.  Half way up the forearm the broken bone pushes against the skin - resembling a second elbow.


He backs away at the hideous sight.  It is too much.  Fear envelopes him.  He can hear his heart pounding in his ears.  He grasps for air - the smoke, always the smoke.  He runs towards the back - all he wants to do is hide.


Suddenly he hears the words.


"Last call.  Last call for tonight."


Thank God, he thinks.  Tonight he won't even bother collecting his tips just so he could get out of this bar as soon a possible.

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