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FRIDAY FICTION: Demon of the One Year War

by K.D. Senior


Percy tied his apron in the back and took a deep breath. He knew it was going to be a long day. He grabbed the broom by its handle and began to sweep the floor; he knew Mr. Hopkins would complain if he didn’t at least see him sweep. This is what life after war was like. At least it was not the trenches, he thought to himself. During the course of his day, he reminisced about what his life was like before the one year war. Percy didn’t have to wonder what it was like after; he lived that day by day. He figured that this was the best it was going to get for a negro veteran in 1922. Still, he was grateful to Mr. Hopkins for taking him in, ’cause work was scarce after the war. While stacking cans, sometimes out of the corner of his eye he would see grenades. Some of those times when cans dropped, a slight gasp would escape his lips, followed by a sigh of relief when he realized he was not in the trench but a grocery store in Harlem, where he now, in contrast to his former glory, grudgingly swept the floor and stacked cans. 

He tried to remember the smell of his mother’s cooking, but like many things before the war, the memories seemed to evade him. He remembered how that memory carried him through hours of kitchen detail. He wished it would somehow carry him through this. One thing the Army taught Percy to do well was how to hate menial tasks, such as the one he was currently engaged in. Mr. Hopkins sauntered in from the back with a morning paper wrapped in his chubby fist. “Mornin’ Percy, I see you’re sweeping, and I ain’t even have to tell you!” said Mr. Hopkins as he took his seat at the counter, unlocking the register. “We got four cases of canned peaches that need stacking, so after you’re done with the store, take a break and then get to it.” Percy paused for a moment and recalled a portly master sergeant named Wilkins. He talked rot sometimes, but he was still good people.“Yessir.” Percy grinned to himself and popped to attention. “Don’t you start with that army bullshit.” Hopkins said. “No, sir, wouldn’t dream of it.” Percy went back to sweeping. He laughed to himself.

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