My Veteran

Sunday, The Sabbath, the seventh day of creation, a time for rest and reflection. For more than fifty years I have believed , and find no fault with any of those holy descriptions.

Religious quotes take on different meanings  over the years, and these days, if you took to the street and stopped any male between the ages of 18 and 30, and posed the question ,”what did God accomplished on the seventh day”, without missing a beat, his answer would probably be, ” he created football-what else”. I can’t disagree with that. Historically speaking, It’s plausible that a few thousand years ago ,on some vacant lot in Jerusalem, a group of kids were  tossing around  an inflated camel bladder. That is, until their mothers made them cease the silly game, afraid that they would break their little necks. And with that ancient parental declaration, the game ceased, and was lost to mankind until sometime in the late 19th century. It’s makes a man wonder what else was lost.

A few Sundays ago, I invited a couple of buddies over to watch the big game, Dallas against the Eagles.  Father Frank, our benevolent and supportive priest at ” Our Lady of Perpetual Repentance”,  gave most of the men an early discharge from mass so we could make it home for the kickoff. Quietly, the men filed out of the chapel, exiting to feminine hisses of

” blasphemer, sinners”. As “I departed”, my lovely wife offered me a lip quivering snarl. I thought it best not to point out that she had a piece of bagel stuck in her front tooth.

Arriving home, I warmed up the flat screen and headed for the kitchen. I opened the fridge, no beer. I went to the pantry, no chips, no bean dip, no nothing. I panicked. Thirty minuets to kickoff. I made it to the Sun City “three letter” grocery in record time.

I found the store overrun with packs of wandering males, lost and searching for the items on their list.

The chip isle was a mosh- pit-the dip cabinet was empty-one frozen pizza left, “it‘s mine” I yelled.  Frantically, I headed for the beer section. The bodies were 5 deep, grabbing anything that is cold and alcoholic. I waded into the melee.

Beside me was an old gentlemen, late eighties, in tow to a shriveled up wife of about the same age. He reached into the cooler and pulled out a six pack of his favorite brew and placed it in their cart, next to the frozen dinners and the case of Metamucil. His wife, aghast, announced; ” you know we can’t afford that on our pension, put it right back, now!”. The old man offered a weak defense, ” it’s only a six pack and you know I have to have my beer when I watch my Cowboys”. Not to be. She stared him down and he returned the treasure.

I noticed he wore an ancient Don Meredith jersey and a ball cap with a veterans patch, Airborne, it read, WWII, the real boys- boots on the ground after falling a mile- a soldiers soldier, tough as boiled leather.

You know that feeling, when something needs to be said, but you can’t spit it out?

I wanted to blurt out,  ” don’t let that dried up old Battle Axe take away your beer. Damn, you fought on the beaches and the fields of France, you killed Nazis, dodged bullets with your name on them, thumbed your nose at the Third Reich and Mussolini. You held your mortally wounded  buddies as they drew their last breath, calling for their mother, as they started their journey home. You deserve to have your beer, tell the old Battle Axe to take a hike”.  I couldn’t say it. It would have made no difference, so I grabbed my beer and moved on. I watched them as they shuffled down the isle, he slowly pushing the cart, she berating.

I needed some shampoo, so I made my way over to that isle. There in front of the beauty lotions, stood the old couple. “Ms. Battle axe” was tossing bottles of creams, lotions and astringents into their cart like a conveyer belt, seemed that the pension covered those items.

As I neared their cart, the old man, with perfect timing pipes up, ” you know we can’t afford all those expensive lotions on my pension, put that crap back!”

Battle axe wheels around on her Rockport walking shoe and fired back,” I need these things to make me look beautiful .”

The old veteran, squinted his eyes, snarled his lip and said, ” yeah, well a six pack of beer accomplishes the same thing, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.”

Everyone on the isle witnessed their exchange. Their chuckles, impossible to stifle. Embarrassed the old couple, with crimson faces aglow, retreated down the isle.

I caught up with them, and offered my hand to the feisty old fellow. He shook my hand and gracefully accepted my impromptu, sputtering speech of  appreciation for his service. My words finally exhausted, he looked me in the eye, winked, and gave my hand one last shake, squeezing my fingers like a small vice. We both smiled.

Without hesitation, I took my case of beer and dropped it into their cart.

“Battle Axe” piped ” he doesn’t need that”.

In my most polite and official manner,  I  replied, ” It’s compliments of the  Dallas Cowboys, Mam” , and with that, I turned and walked away.

The old veteran yelled out, ” Sonny boy, hey son”

As I turned to face him, he raised a gnarled old fist and yelled ” Go Cowboys”. I returned the salute, and continued on my way.

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