By Mark Pearson
This short story was originally published on 9/17/18.
This short story is based on a country western song called “Riding with Private Malone” by Metro Lyrics
I love the Chevy Corvette. I always have but it seems that my bank account never had enough black ink in it at any given time during its short life to ever afford one. Then one day I noticed an advertisement that appeared in our local newspaper. Listed in the “for sale” column the ad stated that there was an old Chevy for sale.
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I had just been discharged from the service after being involved in the first gulf war and got a job working the afternoon shift at a small factory. Along with that job, I was taking some college courses in the morning at the local community college financed by the GI bill.
At that time, I needed some wheels to get back and forth between my home, work, and college regardless of what kind they may turn out to be. Up to this point I was borrowing my dad’s car, a convenient arrangement that it was at the time, I knew it couldn’t last, so off I went to the address listed in the ad. I approached a house that had seen better days but I could still tell that the owners were doing their best to keep it up and at least keep it presentable.
An older lady answered the door and after I told her why I was there, she pointed out that there was a small barn out behind the house and if I wanted to look at it just walk around back and have a look see. The driveway wasn’t much more than two one-foot ribbons of fractured concrete that had grass growing up between the cracks. I followed this ribbon back to an old paint faded barn that had a window in the side with one of the panes broken out and a set of swinging doors that were missing paint in some places that didn’t look much better.
The door resisted my efforts to open it and let out a loud squeak as if it was being tortured. Once inside after my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I noticed a large shape back in one corner of that old barn with a huge faded and dust covered green army tarp thrown over it. Leaning against that shape was the odd rake, broom and other lawn utensils that had been placed there and appeared not to have been used in a while. The space by the walls was taken up by piles of old car parts along with a couple of tires that we used to call bald eagles and a few old oil cans stacked next to them.
I moved the utensils from the side of the tarp and reached down and grabbed the edge of it. I slowly lifted it up so as not to cover myself with a cloud of dust. I continued to slowly roll it up in such a way to not let that happen and as I did, I noticed a couple familiar pieces of chrome on the front of the vehicle. Those two angled pieces of chrome that I instantly recognized could only belong to one type of car. No way! I thought. The newspaper classified’s said old Chevy for sale, but to my surprise, this was no ordinary GM product. This turned out to be a 1966 corvette!”
The tarp had done its part well because the chrome on the front still shined brightly and the midnight blue paint job showed no sign of fading at all. As now, I might add, carefully proceeding to remove the tarp the rest of the way, I discovered that it was a convertible and the leather seats and the rest of the interior was still in mint condition. “Unbelievable! What an incredible find! Old Chevy indeed!”
I didn’t think that my small bankroll could suffer such a hit that the owners of this rod would most likely be shooting for considering the good shape it was in but I knew I had to ask.
I walked back around to the front of the house and the lady that I met before was sitting in a lawn chair that was on the porch. There was one just like it folded up and leaning against the porch rail and as I walked up the steps she motioned for me to grab it and sit down so we could talk. I did as she requested and with anticipation mixed with trepidation I set down.
“Well, what do you think?” She asked. I tried to keep a straight face and keep my excitement under control and my pulse rate within acceptable perimeters as in my mind’s eye I could see myself tooling down the highway behind the wheel with the wind in my hair or rolling down Main Street during a summer cruise night and then showing it off at the annual car show. In my mind’s eye, I could see myself being the envy of all the ladies, rod aficionados and other jealous friends of mine. Pulling myself away from my flight of fantasy and back to the present, I asked her why she thought that she or her husband needed to sell the car.
“My husband passed away a few years ago and I now find myself overwhelmed with keeping up this place. I am about to move into an assisted living complex and have no need of keeping that car along with some other things that I can’t take with me.”
“It belonged to my son you see, it was the love of his life. I still remember the day that he first brought it home, he was so proud of that car. He kept it up all the time he had it but I don’t know now even if it still runs” “Why didn’t he take it with him when he left?” I asked thinking that he had gone off to college or something. Her face grew a little sad and it appeared that her eyes begin to moisten as she began to explain.
“He got drafted back during the Vietnam war and of course he couldn’t take it with him to the army so after his basic training was over and the day before he left, he backed it into the barn out back and there it has sat all these years.” She gazed off into the distance and reminisced about the only time she ever went for a ride in it. “He had the top down and we went speeding down highway 32. I remember he had Hank Williams blaring loudly on the radio as we rode, he went ever so fast!”
“I can’t remember ever going that fast in a car before, nearly scared me half to death. He just smiled as he looked at my terror-stricken face and told me not to worry because he was a good driver and he wouldn’t let anything happen to his car much less his dear mother.”
“What was his name?” I asked wondering if I ever heard of this young man before. Private Andrew Malone. She responded, now with a tear rolling down her tanned and wrinkled cheek. He never made it home he didn’t come back from Vietnam. He looked so proud in his uniform the day he left, here, let me show you a picture of him” She said as she slowly got up and opened the screen door. It slammed shut behind her as I set there thinking about what she had said about her son and wondering how much it must pain her to part with his pride and joy.
It was about five minutes before she returned and I began to think that she may be having second thoughts about selling the car. The old screen door creaked and she stood there with an 8 by 10 glossy in a cheap metal frame that showed gold laminate had peeled off in places. Under her arm was a small photo album and in her other hand was a glass of what appeared to be ice tea. She handed me the glass even though I never expected her to put herself out by making one for me. Being a warm afternoon, I graciously accepted it and she set back down in the lawn chair.
She held out the photo in the worn frame, it was the standard government issue showing him in his uniform that included his camouflage helmet. She then commenced and opened her album which included some baby pictures, pictures of all the usual things that proud parents take of their children. Here he was as a cub scout, a boy scout and a player on one of the local little league baseball teams. Here was a blond kid that could have passed off as any normal American teenager anywhere in the country. There was one of him at bat, one of him playing third base and one of him standing on third after smashing a sizzling triple and driving in several runs in the process. She proudly explained that event as she gave a running commentary on each photo that I looked at.
One of the photos that caught my eye was one that showed him in a pair of greasy jeans and sweatshirt standing out in front of an old familiar auto repair shop that I remember driving by several times in the past. I knew that unfortunately, it had gone out of business a few years back.
The last picture she showed me was of him standing next to that blue corvette all smiles and as proud as he could be. “That was how he was able to get that car in the first place. He was a good mechanic and a good worker. He was good at mechanics but it seems that he was never able to get the reset buttons on that radio to work properly so he left it set on a country station.”
“I know that this place would sure look a lot nicer if he was here to mow and trim and paint the house in places that need it.”
I was wondering why she was going through all this effort in telling me about her son and how much he loved and cared for that car. It was like she was sizing me up or maybe setting me up to get a better price. I remember that one episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Barney is dead set on buying a car and this sweet old lady from Mt. Pilot gives him a snow job about how the car she was forced to sell was only driven by her late husband on Sundays and no faster than 35 MPH.
Mrs. Malone didn’t appear to fit into that category so I figured that she just wanted to talk about old times with someone that appeared to her to be about the same age as the boy she had lost. It also didn’t appear that very many people were dropping by for a friendly chat as the driveway such as it was didn’t appear to show any evidence of a lot of vehicle traffic.
I made the usual comments that I was sorry for her loss and about how he must have been a great kid and too bad that I wouldn’t ever have the chance to meet him. It appeared that she had many fond memories of him and that she was glad to share them with someone even if it was a guy that she didn’t even know.
She went back to the photo of him in his boys’ scout uniform and said. “He was proud to go and serve his country. We didn’t have a lot of war protesters down this way but I knew that he didn’t approve of what they were saying or doing but they still had that right. It is a shame that they never realized at that time and some of them even now don’t realize that it is exactly what he was fighting for, for their right to protest. I just wish that this nation and our leaders would have had the will to win it or never got us involved in it in the first place. Not like world War two where we stayed at it until it was finished.”
“Did I mention that my late husband fought in Korea? He was a sergeant in the Marines, he got a silver star and a purple heart but he never told me how he earned it. To this day I don’t know if he ever told Andy about it but I expect at some time he did. One thing he always talked to both of us about was how the people he saw in Korea lived in absolute squalor compared to us, and how miserable they had it in the cold winter months, especially the children a lot of them being orphans. He was always thankful that he lived in a land where he could raise a family in peace and safety and not worry about such things and he never let us forget it even when things got rough. He said that it was the reason that he fought and I’m sure that was why Andy was so proud to serve.”
“Well, enough about myself please tell me a little about yourself,” I told her that recently I had gotten out of the service after a tour in the Middle East. “Other than before joining up, I lived kind of a sheltered life but I wasn’t what you would call one of those snotty-nosed brats that seem to permeate my generation now. “
I am putting myself through college, and I have a decent job that along with the GI bill allows me to pay for it. I still live at home with my mom and dad but I do most of the maintenance and lawn care so they don’t have to hire someone to have it done. We live on the other side of town so maybe that is why we have never run into each other before. I love country music myself and except for some lyrics that stress immorality I enjoy it. At least the lyrics that are portrayed in most of the music allude to a sense of personal responsibility, honesty, integrity, and patriotism that I try to emulate.”
I hoped that my answers satisfied her and caused her to think that there was someone who wasn’t going to abuse that car or “rag it out” like she told me her son used to say after he worked on one of the cars that a friend or acquaintance owned and whose parents had fit the bill for it including the gas and insurance. He could tell who paid for it just by seeing how it was taken care of.
After a few more of her inquiries, she finally got around to the reason I had come for in the first place. I didn’t mind the time that I spent talking with her, in fact, I actually enjoyed it.
I honestly believe if I would have acted restless or in any way let it show that I was in a hurry or uninterested in her ramblings about her son, the conversation would have ended a long time before it did and I most likely would have left her place minus a car.
I told her that I had a thousand dollars in cash that I had saved so far but that she could consider that only as a down payment. She thought for a moment and then said that a thousand dollars would be plenty. “Are you sure? I said, trying not to fall out of that fold up the lawn chair. “Yes, I am selling the house and what I will get from the sale will cover the move and then some. I have no need of anything more but I wanted to make sure that my boy’s car was going to a good home and to a responsible person before I moved.” I assured her that I would take good care of it for her and her son, for Andy’s sake.
That is how I found myself the proud owner of a 1966 corvette convertible. I returned the next day with the cash and after counting out the bills I slipped an extra fifty into the pile while she wasn’t looking. If I told her that I was going to give her extra money I knew that she would insist that I take it back so I didn’t tell her. She had me come in and sit at the kitchen table as she rummaged through a folder to find the title. “Here it is,” she said as she pulled it out and then she stopped and stared at it for a moment. “I was just looking at his signature. It has been a long time since I looked at anything that he wrote or signed!” she softly said with a sigh.
I didn’t stir or make any comment as I thought it would break the spell by interrupting her thoughts so I let her take as much time as she wanted before she finally handed it over for me to sign. I already had written out a bill of sale so she wouldn’t have to and after she read it she said that it was just fine. I told her that if she still wanted to talk some more that I was at her disposal. “No that is alright, I’m sure that you may have some homework or your job to get to so I won’t take up any more of your time.”
“It has been a pleasure son and I hope you didn’t mind an old ladies’ rambling’s about times past. “Believe me the pleasure has been all mine ma’am! I said as I rose to leave.
She handed me the keys and told me to just go ahead and pull it out. I walked out the back door and out to the old barn and opened the two doors. I noticed that as I did, it seemed that the squeak wasn’t as loud or the doors as hard to open like they were the day before. It was as if they knew that the lone occupant of this old barn under that old dusty tarp was finally going on to a better home.
When my dad dropped me off that morning, he insisted that I bring along a five-gallon gas can and a spray can of quick start starting fluid because he reasoned that what gas that may be left in the tank may not be good enough to fire it up. A bottle of STP gas treatment would also help so I opened the hood to see what kind of engine it had and to my delight, it was a 427 V8.
The engine compartment was almost as clean as the interior but there was one thing wrong. “No battery!” After listening to Andy’s mother tell about how he was so meticulous in caring for this car, I figured that it had to be stored here someplace. I was right, on a table that I could tell once served as a workbench sat the battery and an open-end wrench that I knew would fit the terminal end bolts. I picked up the battery and the wrench and took it over to the car and placed the battery in its cradle. I attached the terminals and indeed, I got a slight spark as I did so. I opened the driver’s side door, got in and settled into that leather bucket seat and stuck the key into the ignition. I paused for a moment before I turned it on.
The first thing that happened was a blaring tune came blasting out from the radio’s speakers. A country and western tune, “Hank Williams, how appropriate!” I said out loud as if I thought the old barn would somehow understand. The way those doors opened for me earlier that morning, I thought that maybe it did.
I didn’t look in the glove box the first time I was there but I thought that maybe the owner’s manual possibly may still be inside. When I reached over and pushed in the latch button, the manual fell out along with a folded-up sheet of paper. I picked it up, unfolded it and found it to be a note that was written by the previous owner and this is what it said. “My name is Private Andrew Malone and if you are reading this then I never made it home. This car was once my dream and pride and joy but now it belongs to you. And though you may own her now, remember that you will always have me riding along with you.”
It was signed by Andrew Malone. I didn’t realize at the time that he would someday keep that promise or even how he possibly could.
I looked at the gas gauge, it showed less than a quarter of a tank so I figured that I would pour my gas in along with the gas treatment. This I made sure that I saved a little to dump into the back butterfly that was on the carburetor to help prime the engine. I knew what the back two barrels on that Rochester four-barrel looked like. I twisted off the wing nut that held the air cleaner cover that had 427 prominently printed on it and took it off. There it was, that four-barrel carb that I knew without seeing, knowing that the back two-barrel holes that led into the Edelbrock intake manifold were so large that you could practically stick your whole hand inside them. I sprinkled a little gas into the carburetor and quickly hopped back in and hit the switch.
That starter cranked a couple of times and the engine coughed a couple of seconds more and then came to life with the loudest, most beautiful sound ringing in my ears. It ran a little rough but I knew that it wouldn’t take much to correct, after all, it had been sitting here quietly for an awfully long time.
Hank Williams was done crooning and some other singer was cranking out her tune. I believe it was Loretta Lynn but I didn’t care. Listening to that engine roar and then settle down to a somewhat smooth growling sound and with the radio blaring, I was in heaven. The walls and what was left of the still unbroken window panes vibrated. The inside of the barn began to fill up with the smell of exhaust in spite of the broken window pane so I quickly got out and replaced the air cleaner cover and dropped the hood. I hopped back in, pulled the door closed and crunched down on the clutch peddle, put the floor shifter into first and eased down on the gas. It responded immediately when I let out the clutch and felt it move under the power of that massive engine. I slowly rolled her out past the barn doors, stopped, got out and reverently closed those two doors that had protected this fine machine for all those years.
I pulled along the side of the house making sure that I stayed on the two ribbons of busted concrete and as I passed the porch I saw the mother of the last past proud owner standing there with a Kleenex dabbing at her eye as I went by. I know that the sound of that engine had to be bringing back more memories. I just hoped that they were all good. I thought about stopping and showing her the letter but I realized that it was specifically addressed to the next owner, me. I pulled out onto the street and turned around and waived. She waved back and then slowly turned and opened that squeaky screen door and disappeared inside. I never heard that last squeak or the slamming sound that it made as it closed as I still had the sound of the radio and the throbbing sound coming from under the hood and the two cherry bomb mufflers ringing in my ears as I slowly continued down the street. I didn’t want to jump on it right then and spoil the illusion that she had of me but I couldn’t wait to get it out on highway 32 and open her up.
I tested the breaks a few times before I hit the highway just to make sure that they would still stop this speeding bullet and each time I hit them I could tell that they were as solid as the character of its previous owner and of his parents who raised him. They were and they did. A month passed by and practically everything that I imagined that first day happened. All the girls that I passed gave me a second glance as I drove by and all my friends were envious and wondered where I had gotten the bread to blow on such a fine machine. I didn’t tell them how much it cost me out of respect for the memory of Private Andrew Malone and his mother, I just said that it’s a long story and left it at that. I took it to the shop that my dad frequented and they helped me fine tune the engine. I pulled and cleaned the spark plugs and put in a new set of points and condenser in the distributor and had the timing reset but other than that, not much was needed to have that engine running smooth. The plug wires were still in decent condition and all the lights and turn signal indicator were all still working Weekly washing, waxing and keeping the interior and carpets clean became a regular routine for me because I had a promise to keep to the previous owner and his mother.
It was about that time when some unusual unexplained things started to happen. What things? You may ask, well strange eerie things spooky things, not in a bad way, but just strange things anyway. While I was driving home late some nights after working third shift I would get the feeling that someone was in the car with me. At first, I was almost afraid to look because if I did and someone was in that seat, I would most likely freak out and wipe out the “Vette” and myself in the process. It was weird because it appeared that I could see the silhouette of someone riding shotgun beside me.
One time when I passed an area that had a patch of light shining on the pavement, I could swear that I saw a blond-haired teenaged kid looking at me with a grin on his face that showed me that he approved and that he was enjoying the ride. But what was really strange was that he had on a uniform, a Vietnam era camouflage uniform. I had seen enough of them in the history books and on TV commentaries to know what that era uniform looked like. I knew that it was impossible but it could be no one other than Private Andrew Malone inside that uniform.
It caused a shiver to run up my spine and the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. In spite of all that I was seeing I was able to keep my composure as well as keep the “Vette” on the hard stuff and between the lines. As I incredulously did a double take, he appeared to be laughing. He was there for just a moment longer and then he was gone. I figured that it was just my imagination and the thoughts that continually ran through my head about what the previous owner’s mother had said about him was causing me to experience this. I know this sounds crazy but several times even when I would take one of my friends, even my girlfriend out for a spin late in the evening they would say something in a certain way and I would look over at them and I would see him setting, grinning back at me instead of who I was riding with. I would stare at them and almost forget that I was still driving at a high rate of speed and they would yell at me to pay attention to the road. “Are you alright man? You’re acting a little weird staring at me like that! It’s as if you’ve just seen a ghost!”
I am not one to believe in ghost’s either but an old song popped into my head, I think the name of it was, “Strange things happen in this world.” It was about this guy who took a girl to a dance and loaned her his sweater and after he took her home he remembered that she still had it. He goes back to her house to get it and a man answers the door and in effect says, “Not only are you mean and cruel to even inquire about my daughter, but you’re also nuts, my daughter has been dead for a year, in fact, it was last year to the day that she died!” So, he leaves her house and goes to the cemetery and while there, he finds his sweater lying on top of her grave. I know that it was just a song but I begin to think about what must have been going through that kid’s mind when all of this went down and here I was having a similar experience.
I also know that I should have talked this over with a minister, counselor, or a shrink but I didn’t want anyone to think that I was cracking up, I know it wouldn’t be a good thing for my employer to get wind of this story either. He may want to get rid of me just in case of the possibility of me going Postal on him and reducing his already short workforce by a few more employees.
After a while, I got used to having my passenger, real or imagined riding shotgun with me as it seemed to give me something to concentrate on as I drove home late at night. I even found myself talking to him by making comments like “You sure kept this thing in fine shape” or “How many times did you wash and wax this beauty or did you ever top it out on a straightaway?”
Several months later I experienced the most memorable and also the most terrible episode of my life, a night that I almost didn’t survive. On that particular night after work, I decided to take a different road home. In fact, it was highway 32. I never used to take that way home after work because it was a little out of my way. Most of the time when I drove on 32 it was during the day so I wasn’t too familiar with all the curves and exactly where they were located. It had rained pretty hard earlier that evening so the road surface was still quite wet and slippery.
I was doing a little over the speed limit when it seemed that an unexpected curve caught up with me. As a result, I overshot the edge of the road and even to the best of my driving experience and ability, I lost control in the gravel on the shoulder and went wide into a ditch. The car rolled over and slid headfirst into a concrete opening of a culvert with me still in it. I hit hard and the next thing I knew, I was smelling gas. It was then that I passed out. When I came to, I was up on the side of the road lying on my side overlooking the ditch and facing the culvert where the car had come to rest but in its place, all I saw now was a lump of burning steel, fuel, fiberglass, and rubber.
“How did I get up here?” I shouted aloud not expecting anyone to answer. I rolled over on my back and when I did I almost passed out from a severe pain that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. When my eyes focused again, a couple of people were standing over me and other people were standing behind them. The person standing over me said, “We were coming from the other direction when your car went down that embankment, rolled over and caught fire. It went up pretty fast and at the time we thought that nobody could have survived such a crash but when we got stopped we saw this guy in an army uniform pulling you out from under the car. He picked you up and brought you up out of that ditch and laid you down right here. By the way, he was carrying you it looked as if he was removing a wounded comrade off a battlefield. He just picked you up and ran up the embankment and put you here! My wife and I were the first ones to get to you and see if you needed some first aid. By that time other people were also stopping to see what was going on or to offer assistance if it was at all possible.”
“When I looked around for the soldier that brought you up here, he was nowhere to be seen, he just plain disappeared. When I looked for him to thank him for his bravery he was gone and nobody seemed to know where he went and some said that they never even saw a soldier. It was as if he vanished into thin air and if I hadn’t seen it or him with my own eyes I probably wouldn’t have believed it either!”
About a half hour passed before an EMS unit arrived and took me to the hospital. All during that ride all I could think was how did someone who only existed in my mind and in the loving memory of a still-grieving mother pull me out of that burning wreckage and run up that hill with me thrown over his shoulders. The only thing I could say was that it was Private Malone but how was that possible?
I may never know if it was Andrew Malone or not, all I do know is that by some miracle that is totally unexplained, I’m still alive and able to convey this story.
It was a couple of months before I was completely recovered and after that, I had to acquire a new set of wheels. The good thing was that the Corvette was covered by a good insurance policy so the check I got from them was for a hefty amount. My new ride doesn’t come close to that blue corvette but I am thankful that I survived that terrible ordeal and am alive and am still able to drive anything.
Years have passed since that accident, I graduated from college, got a good paying job as a salesman and married that same girl that I used to take for rides in that Corvette. I travel a lot on company business so one day as I was driving through Virginia on business, I felt compelled to stop at Arlington Cemetery and look up Andrew’s grave. I found it and stayed there for a while allowing past memories to run through my mind. After I was there meditating for a while I then decided I might as well cross the Francis Scott Key Bridge that leads into Washington DC. I went to the Vietnam War memorial and looked up his name in the directory. I know you are not going to believe this because this is where it really gets weird. The directory stated that his name appears on panel 32W and also, his name is exactly the thirty-second name from the top. After seeing this, I began to walk down the row of panels looking for the panel which contained his name. It was impressive and somewhat eerie as I walked down the row and gazed at all the names etched into the surfaces on that highly polished onyx colored wall. There his name was, etched on panel 32 about halfway down exactly 32 names from the top. Some artist a few years back has made a painting of an older man standing in front of that wall wearing a faded camo jacket with his head bowed and tears running down his cheeks and his hand is on a name inscribed on that wall and inside the wall is the ghostly figure of a man in battle fatigues with his hand outstretched touching his. Around his feet are the scattered remains of flowers and a medal or two lying in the grass at his feet. My eyes began to glaze over as I thought that I could almost see Andy’s face smiling back at me from inside that black slab. I blinked back the tears that were forming in the corners of my eyes mourning the loss of a boy that I never knew. The sight of that wall with all those names listed on it and seeing that picture will always be part of my memory and will always be a moving experience for me as I think back on that whole day.
About that time a park service employee happened to be walking along the wall occasionally stopping to talk to people who were standing there. He came up to me as I was doing a rubbing of Andy’s name on those slips of paper that the park supplies you with. He asked me if this boy was my son or relative. I said no, in fact, I never met him but I know his mother. “You see I bought this kid’s car from his mother, a 1966 Corvette.” I could tell that he was interested as he went on to explain that he likes to hear different stories about those whose names appear on that wall.
I told him that I have never shared the story about Andy with anyone. He paused for a moment then added that it may be cathartic on my part to talk about it with someone and he was in no hurry. So, without going into all the detail I told him about the add in the paper and about meeting his mom and what a thrill it was to drive that “Vette” for the short time that I had it. When I got around to telling him about the seemingly ghostly appearance of Andy in the seat next to me, he didn’t even bat an eye.
I thought that at that point he would blow me off as just another one who had flipped out but since his demeanor didn’t change I continued my tale. After I was through sharing this story, I realized that a load was actually being lifted off my mind. When I had finished, he shook my hand and patted me on the shoulder and walked on down the walkway and again stopped to talk to someone else. I walked away in the opposite direction and as I did I noticed a bit more spring in my step, it had turned out to be a catharsis after all.
As I was walking away, I thought back to the time when I finally went back to visit Andrew’s mom at her new home and broke the news to her that her son’s car was totaled. It was right after I got out of the hospital that I went to visit her and gave her the particulars as to what happened and to say that I was so sorry that her son’s car ended up that way. Of course, I omitted the part about Andy. All she could say was that she read the account in the newspaper and understood that accidents happen regardless of how we try our best to prevent them. “It is good to see that you are alright and appear none the worse for wear in spite of it all!”
During that conversation I asked her if she was up to telling me the circumstances leading up to her son’s death but only if she felt like talking about it. She said she didn’t mind and commenced to do so.
“Andrew was in a convoy that got ambushed and his best friend got shot. He was in a jeep ahead of Andy’s and he saw it go down into this ditch and roll over. His friend was trapped under that jeep and his wounds prevented him from getting out on his own. Even though Andy was exposed to enemy fire he ran down that embankment and pulled him out. He picked him up and ran back up that hill and got him to safety. As he was laying him down under some cover and yelling for a medic he was hit and he died right there! I know all this because the guy he saved sent me a letter explaining what happened the day Andy died. He said that Andy saved his life that day.”
I asked her if she knew the name of the guy he saved thinking that maybe I would try to look him up someday if that was at all possible. “Yes, I still remember his name, it was Private Gordon Wilson, yes that was the name he gave me in the letter along with his address, I still have that letter here someplace.”
And that is when her face took on a strange expression as if something shocking had just occurred to her. I wondered if she noticed a peculiar change that came over my face. “Why, that’s your name! Your name is Gordon, isn’t it?” she said in utter disbelief.
“Yes”, I said to her as the hair on the back of my neck stood up, again! “My whole name is Gordon Andrew Wilson.”
Mark E. Pearson was born and raised in Kansas City, Mo. In 1970 he moved to Michigan where he met and married the girl of his dreams, Mary Lou Davis, together they have two sons. He attended Briercrest Bible Institute in Saskatchewan, Canada, and later received his associates degree in business from St. Clair Community College. He was a bookkeeper and worked in retail sales for 30 years and has spent the last fifteen years as a Jeweler at Coughlin’s Jewelers in St Clair, MI. He is a voracious reader of history and as a result of being an avid reader he began to write short stories and articles for editorial columns and magazines on current events and comparing and relating past events to current happenings.
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