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Full Measure: Chapter 2 Full Measure: Chapter 2
by Bohdan Yuri
2007-06-18 12:43:04
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Josef checked his watch, tapping it as if it had purposely skipped ahead two hours. In the old days this was unheard of, a conductor being late. He couldn't stand it anymore. He banefully emptied the bag of peanuts and proceeded to the Black Note Cafe, across the street.

After each game and on those days where the weather betrayed play, they'd retire to the cafe for a light lunch. It was a warm comfort in a lonely city, to share a cup of tea, with spirits and a friend. He sat at the usual table, near the window.

The new waitress commented on the cuteness of Josef's wool hunting hat as he placed it on an empty chair. "... is that a pigeon feather?" she asked. “They're all over the place, aren’t they? A person needs a hat, if you know what I mean. Seems like they own this town, ...” Josef had to stop her increasing chapter.

"No," he replied, bridling his disdain, "it's a pheasant's. And I'll have a cup of tea, with real cream, no sandwich this time.

"Well, okay,” the waitress agreed, as if she shouldn't have known the usual. "I'll be right back."

Women, Josef reaffirmed, nothing but trouble. It was a love affair with a general's wife that had him sent from the staff to the front - Love, the betrayer of careers. After that any talk of love or sentimentality would forever alarm him. But, there are certain needs...

And the widow, Mrs. Morgan, he cursed her breath as well. It was she who'd bought the hat for him last summer. It was she who'd insisted on his wearing it in the sweltering July heat. "It marks a man's upbringing to be fashionably dressed," she told him.

"But my dear woman," Josef had stretched for an excuse. "On a day such as this, the sun will steam my brain."

"I don't care," she insisted. "It marks a gentleman's upbringing, to be fashionable. Besides, it's so aristocratic-looking." If it wasn't for the free rent, Josef thought...

He’d always hated the aristocracy. He'd tried, but having failed their measure of acceptance, he'd hated what it represented: “...silly, pompous snobs prancing around customized hunting fields, pretending to be brave", was a favorite description. It was a circle of pretension that he felt was denied him because his father had been a simple house painter.

It wasn't until another house painter had opened the gates of glory by leveling the playing field that Josef was finally allowed his proper respect. He noticed the grey skies and picked up his hat to smooth out the line of its feather. But no, he still preferred to show off his thick wavy hair instead. He knew that the ladies still noticed. He glanced at the vacant setting across the street.

Myron always brought the chess pieces, exquisitely carved relics of knightly honors, the kind of honors that Josef had so desperately sought since his youth; pipedreams that were smothered in the smoke of war's reality. Too much, he thought, too much of the past. Is that how old age is spent? He was glad to see the waitress returning with his order. He glanced at the Santa Coca Cola wall clock. "Is that the correct time?" he asked, knowingly.

"Oh yes, well I think so. I mean, I only started working here last Tuesday, no it was Wednesday....” Again, Josef needed an ending.

"That will be all,” he ordered her off with a wave of his hand, hoping she'd never return.

"Suit yourself," she countered his gesture.

Josef spooned out a hint of sugar. Stirring the tea, he allowed a few drops of cream into the whirlpool. Then he reached into his coat pocket and took out a silver flask filled with thirty-year-old French cognac, it flavored his appetite. The only thing the French were good at, he confirmed, as he sipped the elixir then poured a heap into his tea.

Still, he couldn't stop thinking of what may have gone wrong. Maybe Myron was indeed sick. It had been a harsh winter, the kind that crackled a man's decay. And what was the purpose of a priest? Josef couldn't remember if he'd been told. And what of religion, he thought, another curse that bored him. "...A senseless crutch for a weakling's fears..." another stoic opinion.”...Any true man is always in charge of his own destiny, his fate. God, if there is such a creature, merely sets the stage for us to find our own glory."

Josef snickered as he jokingly deduced that it was probably God who'd set the stage for Myron. And the general's wife, another of God's ironic stage scenes, and what of the rest, the cruelest ones, he wondered. Once more he thought of the war and the mortality of twisted burning bodies next to frozen corpses. Nearly all of Josef’s regiment was wiped out during that damned retreat. There was nothing left to save, except himself. America, he thought, would be a new life, to escape the past. An hour passed, and he'd had enough, he paid the bill and a small tip, out of habit this time. And he proceeded home. Maybe Mrs. Morgan would be up for some play?

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