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Thread: The Purple Heart

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    joseph engraver
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    May 2014
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    The Purple Heart

    The Purple Heart
    “I am going away with your father for three or four days and you are going to take care of your great uncle Earl while we are gone. He is a royal pain. Nevertheless you are to make sure he is entertained, helped to the toilet and fed his breakfast, lunch and dinner and put to bed.
    “Where are you going mom?”
    Well it you must know we are taking a break away from him and I am allergic to that cat of his! He is a difficult man and a lot of trouble to care for. Do you think that you are capable of caring for him?”
    Now my Great uncle and I hardly spoke, but that was fine with me. I was very happy to be free of both of my parents. I could sense the frustration of my mom and realized that this could be the right time to make some money from her agitation. After a quick calculation of the hours and possible money involved, I asked. “Are you going to pay me for babysitting uncle Earl? When I babysit for the neighbors they pay me a dollar per hour and I think it’s only fair you pay me the same.”
    I am only fourteen but I have plans to make millions in the stock market and retire after I graduate from high school. To do this I save every cent I make , I have already two hundred dollars and sixty eight cents in my savings account and with the money I will make taking care of uncle earl I will have at least thirty more.
    She said to Dad; "Do you know what that this boy wants? He expects to be paid for taking care of his great uncle. Can you imagine he would be so selfish with his own family?”
    As I headed into the living room I said, “I am not going to take care of him without compensation mom”.
    “James, Lawrence Whitehead, you are impossible. He is your great uncle. Have you no respect, no honor to your own family?” I could tell my mom was weakening so I said. “Ok mom, I was wrong to ask for one dollar an hour, you are right he is my uncle. I will take care of him and give you a 25% discount. How fair is that?” Mom threw up her hands, glared at me and yelled. “Fair? There is nothing fair about it, but I have no choice as our reservation and airfare are already booked. I will pay you when we return and see that your uncle Earl has been properly cared for.”
    I was winning, and not about to give in.”No mom I want a fifty percent advance deposit, just in case he wants to go somewhere. A twenty dollar bill will seal the agreement. And I promise that I will take good care of him.”
    I didn’t know a lot about my uncle except he had a blue eyed pet Siamese cat named Alice that my mom hated, and only one leg, and he had received A Purple Heart in world two from the Navy. It was four months ago that he was brought into our home when his sister had died and there was no one else in the world to care for him.
    He rarely spoke to any one, and refused to change his cloths. It seemed to me that all he did was sit in his wheel chair, smoking his smelly pipe and petting the cat he had brought with him. His was very skinny, almost completely bald on top, never cut his white beard or the ragged fringe of hair he had left, and because he never took a bath he also stank.
    I went into the living room, the television was on. But he sat staring out the window with that pipe clamped in his teeth. He looked at me for a second then returned to the window. That is when I got the idea to take him out of the house.
    “Well uncle, it is just going to be me and you for the next three or four days.
    Without looking at me or taking his pipe out of his mouth he muttered.
    I heard the entire conversation, I aint deaf, and I think that you should have held out for the dollar an hour. You sold yourself too cheap.
    It was at that moment I knew I liked uncle Earl and I became determined to be the best care taker he would ever have.
    Wanting to know him better I asked him what he liked to read.
    Well I have always been interested in America´s history. Especially, the revolution, civil war and the period of the Indian wars on the frontier and of course the Second World War as I was in it. I have collected quite a few things from those periods.
    Uncle, would you like to go outside, get some fresh air and maybe go to the park?
    He nodded then said
    I would like that nephew, but what about Alice my cat; I can’t leave her here alone.
    We can take her along, she will like the park. There are lots of pigeons, and squirrels for her to chase. Besides she needs fresh air too. Of course you will have to pay me for this extra service, also there are a few conditions.”
    Let me get this straight nephew, you expect me to pay, and submit to condition as well?
    Yes sir, you said never to sell myself too cheap, so I am taking your advice. I want to be paid two dollars an hour, one dollar fifty for you and fifty cents for the cat.”
    My uncle stared at me then took the pipe out his mouth and laughed out loud.
    Now, before I agree to that, what are the conditions you have in that shrewd mind of yours.
    I held my breath and waited after I said. “You need a bath, a change of clothes and a shave.”
    He stuck his pipe back into his mouth, bit down on the stem so hard I thought it would break, and said. To hell with that, I am not going to shave off my beard, I don’t like to bathe and these clothes fit me just fine.
    I am sorry uncle, it is only because I want to introduce you to my friends and I don’t want them to think that my uncle who is hero and given the Purple Heart is just some old man who doesn’t care how he looks or smells. He turned back to the window petted his cat, and sat in silence for the next ten minutes. Then he asked .I smell? Never considered that,
    It is true uncle you smell of old body sweat and musty clothes. I would be ashamed to take you to the park, and my friends would tease me forever.
    I want them to see you as I see you: a proud man who lost his leg fighting for his homeland.
    And how am I supposed to take a shower standing on one leg?
    I have already thought of that. You are going to use the Jacuzzi. I will help you in, turn on the water jets and you will just sit, soak, and enjoy the water massage. Then I will wash your hair and beard. Please trust me, you will feel better and definitely smell better.
    Will you please do it, just think of how the cat will enjoy chasing squirrels in the park.
    He sighed, smiled and said, It has been a long time since anyone said please to me...You win nephew, never been in a Jacuzzi before, I will do it, but I will not shave off me beard.
    Happy to have gotten him to agree to a bath, I promised that he could keep this beard. I did not tell him that I intended to trim his hair, and now that I knew he liked history, I also planned to trim his beard so he would look sort of like Abe Lincoln.
    As I filled the Jacuzzi with water I wondered if I was doing the right thing. He was 83 years old and literally on his last leg in life. What if he drowned? Or had a heart attack? I had never seen him naked. What if I fainted when I saw the stump of his leg? Was it all red and inflamed, did the bone still show? I heard him cursing as he undressed,
    Damn old age sure is not for cowards. It takes guts to get here, Are you ready for this pile of bones to take the first bath they have taken in over a year?
    All my doubts vanished when he said, Thank you boy, you are a good nephew.

    I went to his room where he was sitting naked in the wheel chair. I could not help from staring at the stub where his leg once had been. It was not what I imagined, no bone sticking out no blood oozing from it, only the smooth stub. The white skin covering it made it look like a very large thumb without the finger nail. He looked down at the stub and said
    Considering that it was blown off by a mine, the medics and doctors did a fine job of patching me up. Take my crutches and push me to the bath room, I am ready to try out that Jacuzzi.
    It took all my strength to get him seated in the tub. At first he said he could not do it. But I told him not to worry I knew he could make it. Once he was seated in the water, he smiled and said. OK boy let her rip. I turned on the power; the water began to swirl around him. I added some bath salts and soap.
    Soon he was up to his neck in foam and perfumed water. I could not stop laughing when he said.
    When I get out of this thing I will smell like a fancy San Francisco whore.
    I dropped his dirty cloths into the washer. And you will smell even better when these cloths are clean
    It seemed like the right moment so I asked about his leg, so I asked.
    I was twenty three and had just completed my college education. The Navy sent a representative to the university to recruit. They were looking for candidates that had qualifications for officer training. I was qualified but had no idea what to do with me life at that time, I decided to enlist.
    After passing my physical exam and taking the oath of allegiance, they sent me to the naval academy in Annapolis for training. I was put into the Quarter Masters corps. Six months later I finished training and I received my Lieutenant Junior Grade rank along with the assignment to be shipped out to Pearl Harbor Hawaii...They sent me back to San Francisco to be put on a ship along with 450 other fools. After six days of sea sickness, and bad food, I disembarked onto the land of palm trees, tropical fruits sunny beaches, and willing girls in grass skirts: Pearl Harbor. I was quite pleased with my situation in the Quarter Masters corps .It was a position that I was sure to be safe from front line duties and the possibility of being shot.
    It turned out that my first assignment was overseeing the digging of latrines, which was a lot of work and involved a pick and a shovel. Finally I was sent to the QM and given a position in the accounting division.
    One evening I went to the beach with a half dozen newly acquired friends to swim. I was walking next to the surf admiring the sunset when there was an explosion next to me. I was knocked to the ground by the concussion; when I looked down my leg was gone, blood spurting from the stump that had been blasted away by shrapnel from a land mine.
    Funny I never felt any pain. My friends did their best to staunch the bleeding and then carried me to the medic. As you can see I survived and four months later I was given a wheel chair, an artificial leg as a souvenir, a nice pair wooden of crutches, one hundred twenty dollars pays, along with the Purple Heart.
    Then shipped back to California along with my duffel bag and a trunk containing things I had accumulated as souvenirs. Two weeks later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, so you can see I am not a war hero at all, just a casualty of war. That is all there is to the story. Now get me out of this water before I shrivel up.
    With a bit of effort I got him to stand, turned around, into a bathrobe and seated on the edge of the Jacuzzi. I gave him a towel to dry off, got the wheel chair into position and he seated himself.
    How do you feel now uncle?
    He lifted his bony arms, stretched, and then he gave me a broad smile and said.
    I feel five years younger, thank you.
    I pushed him in front of the mirror. Now I am going to make you look another five years younger. I am going to give you a haircut and just lightly trim up your beard. The smile disappeared, the scowl returned, but he did not say no. He looked at his reflection stroked his beard and said, Get me my pipe and let me think about it.
    When I brought him his pipe and it was firmly clamped once again in his jaw. He nodded and told me to give him a haircut, while he thought about the beard. There was not much hair to trim, but I took my time trying to do a neat job of it. Uncle Earl sat watching his reflection, and then he said,
    I suppose a trim won’t hurt, and it will grow out if i don’t like it. OK, nephew you can cut on my beard, but not too much.
    His answer was more than I had been hoping for. Uncle, I have an idea about your beard, wait while I go to the living room and bring you a picture of a famous man who had a beard. There is one that I am sure you will like.
    When I returned, I gave him the picture of Abraham Lincoln. He studied the photo intently, looked in the mirror, studied some more, then said.
    He is skinny and looks as though life has worn him out, just like me. My beard is white and his is grey, I like it and will be well pleased if you can cut mine like that.
    One hour later my uncle took me in his arms and kissed me on both cheeks. Then said,
    Let’s go to that park, I want to sit under a tree and feel the fresh air and sunshine on my face.
    I took his cloths out of the drier, and I gave them to my uncle.
    Can you dress yourself uncle? He answered with a growl.
    Of course I can; I am not totally crippled, give me time to put on my other leg and these things back on.
    Twenty minutes later, he was neatly dressed with his ribbons and the Purple Heart medal pinned to his shirt. I got him seated in the wheel chair, Alice jumped up, and she made herself comfortable on his lap and we went rolling down the side walk headed for the park.
    As we rolled along he suddenly said.
    I thought your friends will be impressed if I put on my medal and ribbons. Now as they have no idea how I lost my leg. I think we could exaggerate a bit, give them a war story they will talk about for a long time. What do you think?
    The thought that he was willing to do this for me was over and beyond the call of duty. I instantly developed an over whelming affection for this old one legged man.
    “Uncle, what I think is you are the coolest man I have ever known.”
    He smiled and said.
    And you are the best nephew I have. Now let´s go to the park, I want to ride on a swing, and turn Alice loose.
    I didn’t stop to think that I was his only nephew. Even if I had, it did not matter.

    A Day in the park
    There was no one near the swing set as I got him out of his chair, gave him his crutches and managed to put him in a seat and he laughed.
    Push me, I what to feel the wind in my face and see over the tree tops.
    I pushed and he went higher and higher, laughing louder with every push. I became afraid he would lose his grip or balance, so I let the lost momentum slowly bring him down to the ground. As soon as he stopped, he looked around and panicked.
    My cat, where is my cat? Then he saw her half way up a tree stalking a small grey squirrel. He called to her and she obediently came down, waited while I got him back in the wheel chair, then she jumped onto his lap, curled up and began to purr. This was the moment that my plans completely change.
    Up to now I had been planning to charge him for everything I had done, the bath, haircut, cutting his beard, even taking him to the park and pushing the swing were all cost tabulated in my mind .
    As we rolled along the pathways of the park, he would ask me to stop so he could smell a rose, examine a plant or even listen to the birds chirping in the brush. I suddenly realized that I loved my old, frail uncle. I asked him if he would call me James and stop calling me nephew.
    He looked back at me and said. I will if you stop calling me uncle, and start calling me Earl. Now it is past noon, I don’t know about you James, but I am hungry. Where can we find some food? I am ready to eat a hamburger, fries, with a strawberry milkshake. You find them and I will treat.”
    That was an easy request; after all, we were in San Francisco where there was a fast food stand on every other street. Yes Sir, hang onto Alice and we will be eating cheese burgers in five minutes. Fifteen minutes later we were sitting in the shade of large white pine tree in the park, Alice was purring and comfortably seated in his lap, and Earl was slowly eating his burger. While he ate he told me the war story that he had invented to impress my friends
    A war story
    The day Pearl Harbor was bombed I had gotten up early, taken my shower, and was in my skivvies making my bunk when I heard the first flight of bombers pass over me. At first I thought they were ours, then I heard several loud explosions and that made the windows shatter, I ran outside just as a flight of Japanese planes passed fifty yards above me, I could see the insignia of the rising sun painted on their wings and the pilot at the controls. They were coming from the East, and the morning sun was shining brightly behind them. They came with the deadly fury of killer wasps. Their engines shrieking like banshees from Hades. They were strafing and bombing the airfield, smoke and flames were rising from burned out planes, trucks and buildings, oily smoke began to fill the air. I knew that I had to do something.”
    He stopped talking, took a drink of his milkshake and gave some of his burger to Alice who had completely given up on squirrels and settled once again on the lap. Then he knocked the doddle from his pipe replenished the tobacco, lit it and puffed away contentedly. I sat impatiently for him to continue. After another sip of his shake he asked, “Well do you think your friends will believe this fabrication James”?
    Wide eyed, I nodded my head and said, “They sure will uncle Earl:” He put away his pipe, petted Alice, smiled at me and said, “In that case I will see how I can end this little fabrication” And he began again. “There was a twenty millimeter Anti aircraft cannon a hundred yard away. Without thinking I ran to it, loaded the first round into the chamber, climbed into the gunner’s seat and began firing. The first tracers were way off target; I adjusted the lead on the next plane that came into view. Still I missed my target, increasing my lead I fired another burst...then I saw flames coming from the cockpit. Not wasting time I aligned my sights up with another, fired a burst at it and it exploded into a huge fire ball. Then a bomb exploded in front of me, the heat and the shock wave was blinding, but I managed to recover and began firing again, my vision was very impaired and I don´t know if I hit my target. There was another explosion near me and I felt my leg being torn from my body. From out of the smoke, dust and fire, someone picked me up from the ground. That is all I remember until I recovered consciousness in the emergency room, looked down and discovered my leg was completely gone. And that is how I received this Purple Heart medal and recommended for the Navy Cross. Now let´s go find your friends and see if I can remember this lie.”
    We got to the basket ball court just as the game was ending, I knew every one of the players, and they all came over to find out why I had missed the game. I explained that today I was taking care of my great uncle, saying as I did so that he was a hero in the attack on Pearl Harbor in1941 and that was where he lost his leg, and because of that he had received the Purple Heart medal over fifty years earlier. Then I showed them the blue and gold medal with George Washington s gold portrait centered in a field if cobalt blue silk pinned to his shirt. To my surprise he removed the medal from his chest, handed to the nearest boy to look at. Then he said, “You may pass this around so everyone can get a good look at it. And I will tell you how I lost my leg and got this medal.
    Then he told his war story. I could see the admiring looks my friends gave him. He was no longer an old man without a leg; he had become a man that they would remember for the rest of their lives.
    After all had touched and admired his medal , when they gave it back to him, he held it in his shaking hands as tears formed in the corners of the faded blue eyes.
    Then he took the presentation case out of his pocket, placed his Purple Heart in it and handed it to me.
    I want you to have this. Now take me and Alice home, I am tired. I have had a long day, and tomorrow I want you to take me to town.

    A Trip to Town
    I was barely awake when I heard the toilet flush. Then he came hobbling on his crutches into my room. “Rise and shine James, I have a lot unfinished things to do today. I want to have a good breakfast and get an early start. Is there sausage or bacon in the house and can you make Pancakes?”
    With my eyes still closed I said, yes sir.
    Good! , now you get up, while I fix coffee and open a can of tuna for Alice.
    After I finally was up, dressed, and awake. I went to the kitchen and found a box of Hungry Jack´s old fashion pancake mix, milk and smoked bacon. Following the instructions on the box I soon had a stack of pancakes sitting in front of my uncle. I expected him to eat the whole pile, but he ate only one, along with two pieces of bacon. Then he pushed the plate away.
    Eat, eat James, you are going to need the energy. Today, we are going to the city. I want go to the bank, talk to a lawyer, and go to an auction house to get something appraised. Do you have any identification you can bring with you?
    Yes I do uncle; I have my library card, a social security card and my learners driving permit, and a savings account card.
    Good for you nephew, bring all of them with you, they might come in handy
    A bank, lawyer and appraisal from an auction house sounded ominous to me. I asked.
    Uncle, is there some kind of financial trouble you are in? He finished his third cup of coffee, called Alice who immediately hopped on his lap. No trouble, I just need to put some personal things in order. Now you call a cab, while I package something that I need to take to town. He petted Alice and she began to purr, then he said,
    You Alice; are staying home There are too many oriental restaurants that would like to find a place for a fat cat on their menu. Now I had never seen him without Alice, and this worried me even more
    I wondered what he was up to, as I cleaned up the mess I had made fixing pancakes that he hardly touched.
    It was one hour before the cab arrived. My uncle was waiting impatiently in his wheel chair outside. He was very agitated. He said,
    Leave the chair here. Today we are travelling light and I will be using my crutches .I don´t like to leave Alice home but she will be fine for a few hours. Then he told me to go back into the house and bring out a package he had left on his bed.
    On his bed I found a heavy package wrapped in news paper. I picked it up and rushed out to the cab, surprised to find my uncle already seated and waiting for me with the door open. The cabby opened the trunk, I put the package in, and then my uncle said to the driver. Take us down town to 2052 Mission Street.
    While we were riding he told me that he intended to have the package appraised, and wanted to see how the appraiser would react when he saw what it contained.
    I was dying with curiosity. Uncle; what is in the package?
    He laughed, and then put his arm over my shoulder as he said .You will have to wait James, I want you to be surprised. And then the cab pulled up to the curb.
    Let’s sit at that bench for a bit James. I am a bit tired and want to just rest and smoke my pipe, and watch the people as they pass by. Once he got his pipe lit and was enjoying puffing on it he said,
    James at one time this street was overflowing with America’s best and bravest youth. All of them dressed in Navy, Army, and Marine uniforms. Thousands of them never returned.
    I consider myself very fortunate to be able to sit here and thank God for keeping me alive this long. When I returned from Hawaii, my sister Lillian met me in San Diego .Together we returned to San Francisco, rented a small shop with living space in the back. It was on this very same street that we opened a pawn and loan business.
    Lillian took care of the accounts and paid the expenses, many of the soldiers had not the funds to even pay their passage home. I made loans to them using the small savings we had to loan money on the souvenirs they brought home with them as collateral. Eventually the shop flourished, we ran that business for almost fifty years. Then this spring Lillian died. I closed the shop and liquidated its inventory, that is when you mother and father decided that I needed to move in with them.
    Funny, that for all the years I have known them, it is the first time they have any interest in my welfare.
    I am sure it has to do with money, and who I am going to leave it to. That is why I need to go to the bank this afternoon. They may be surprised at how little I have left. But I will make sure they are not disappointed. Now I feel rested. He handed me the mysterious package and said.
    It is time we go and get this appraised. Now you hail a cab and we will go to Bonham’s auction house to see what they think this may be worth.
    Upon arriving, we went into the Bonham building where met a security guard who asked my uncle what was in the package. I was surprised when uncle Earl said what I had been carrying around all morning was a Japanese sword.
    He called the Arms and armor department, and then he directed us to be seated.
    We waited for at least a hour before a fat man wearing thick glasses, baggy pants and a tee shirt with large black question marks printed all over it showed up.
    Sorry to keep you waiting so long, you have no appointment and I was in a meeting, I would have turned you away but I am very interested in seeing your sword. Let´s take a seat at that table where you will be comfortable-Once we were seated and before seeing it he asked. Where did you find it?
    I did not find it I bought it after the war from a returning marine. I have had it for over fifty years and need this appraised... The appraiser asked my uncle to unwrap the bundle. Uncle Earl gave me the package and told me to remove the wrapping. The first thing I saw was a white and blood red silk cloth.
    At that moment the appraiser took hold of my arm, looked at the cloth and said.
    I think it will be better if I do the unwrapping.
    I looked at my uncle not sure what I was to do. He nodded his head saying, Go ahead James, he his more experienced in these things. I watched as the cloth was unwound.
    Excited, I said, it’s a flag. I could see that the appraiser was also excited as he said. This is not just a flag; it is the Imperial flag of the Japanese navy.
    With the flag removed the sword lay exposed on the table. The appraiser but on a pair of white gloves picked it up and began to study the markings embossed into sheath, he drew the sword from the sheath studied the gold tassels attached to the swords grip, and then he asked the guard to bring him a magnifying glass. While we waited, he said to my uncle, this appears to be a very rare item that belonged to high ranking naval officer, and the flag is most interesting. Do you want to put them up for auction or sell it outright?
    Uncle Earl nodded his head saying as he did, he indeed want to sell both the flag and the sword.
    Let me complete examining the blades forging, engraving and maker’s proof marks and then I will be able to give you cash price for these items.

    As we were walking out of the auction house with the bank draft and appraisal letter, I asked,
    Uncle Earl, did you know that your sword was worth thirteen thousand dollars? He did not answer me instead he lit his pipe, and then he said. You must be hungry, let´s find a Chinese restaurant...When we were seated and the food arrived, he finally said.
    No James, I did not have any idea of its value, and I am sure that the auction house will sell it for at least fifty percent more. But what is more interesting to me is that I have three just like it put away in a trunk. And, there are more trunks in storage, full of rare things I have collected over the last fifty years. Now I think it is time to have some Chinese food for lunch.
    I was very hungry and ate all the Shrimp Chow Mein and Spring roll, but my uncle only ate his rice and drank his tea, then read his fortune cookie. What does yours say uncle? He handed it to me to read. “You will go on a great adventure.”
    Now James what does yours tell you? I broke mine in half pulled out the white slip of paper and could not believe my eyes when I read “Good Fortune is near “
    I was worried that he was not eating and asked him why he was not hungry?
    Don’t you fret, James I am saving my appetite for the right occasion?
    He asked the waitress to call for a cab, paid the bill, and we sat in silence until it showed up.
    As I helped him into the cab he said, Let´s go to your bank first, I owe you for the day at the park; I want to put this check in your savings account.
    I thought he was joking, and did not believe my uncle.
    Uncle Earl have you lost your mind, you must be going senile. He laughed so loudly that the cabby turned to see if he was having a fit. With tears of laughter and a huge smile he said.
    No James, I am completely sane. I have precious little time left , and if I don’t give this money away it will end up in my estate and your parents and lawyers will get it, but as long as I am alive I can give it to anyone I care to and I care that you should have it on one condition. That you promise me you will take care of Alice after I die.
    I promise you Uncle. Then I began to cry.
    Don’t cry James you have nothing to cry over, now let’s put this money in your account .What bank do you have you savings account with? I dried my tears and wiped my dripping nose on my sleeve and said. It is the Bank of The west on Bush Street.
    Cabby, Take us there and wait for us. The cabby shrugged his shoulders looked at us in his mirror and said. The meter on this cab don’t stop running until I shut it off .It ´s your money and I aint got no place I want to be.
    As I helped my uncle out of the cab and into the banks lobby. He said.
    James it has become a long day for me, I am feeling a bit tired. I will just sit here enjoy the air conditioning. You take the check and have it deposited into your account.
    At the tellers window I presented my saving book and gave him the check, then told him that the man sitting by the entrance was my great uncle and he had endorsed the check. He looked over to where he was sitting, then went over to him and asked for his identification. Five minutes later I had a new savings account balance of $ 13, 200 and 68 cents.
    Uncle Earl looked very pale as I helped him into the cab. When we were seated he said to me.
    Let’s go home nephew. I would like to take Alice back to the park, listen to the birds singing and the children playing.
    Alice was watching from the window when we arrived home. I sat my uncle in his wheel chair, opened the door and she came outside and immediately jumped on to his lap. He petted her, let out a long tired sighed and said.
    It is good to be home again. Now please take us to the park, I would like a chocolate milk shake. Do you think you can find that for me there? I was relieved to hear that he wanted to eat something and said.
    Of course I can uncle; I also know where to find a great ham sandwich with tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce on pumpernickel bread. I was happy to see him smile again, but sad when he answered,
    That is good James. If you want one buy one for yourself. I will just sit here and watch Alice chase the squirrels.
    The sun was settling into the horizon, the air had turned cool and the fireflies began to glow in the park. He looked at the flower s and said,
    I think that amongst those roses will be a nice place to spread my ashes.
    When we finished eating, Alice jumped onto his lap, I knew it was time to go home and help him undress and put him to bed. As I pushed him along the walkway he began to ramble about his life.
    I never married or had children, but I wish I could have had a son. When I came home from Hawaii I decided that no woman would want a half man, so I stayed a bachelor and lived with my sister, we lived on my pension and the income from the pawn shop.
    The sword I sold today I bought for forty dollars in 1947, you can see that it has appreciated in value over the years. I have many things from the Pacific and Europe wars .I also have a large collection from the civil war and the Indian wars out west...I have absolutely no idea of their worth, but I know that they are valuable.
    When I die and they become part of my estate and they will go to your parents. And if that happens they will want to get rid of them and call someone from The Salvation Army to take them away. That is why I am going to give them to you as payment for taking such good care of me.
    James, I wanted to show you my collection today, but I became too tired. Tomorrow we will have to go back to the city, I want you to see my collection and I still need to go to my bank.
    I expect your parents will return soon, and then your job of taking care of me will be done.
    I am very tired now please take us home and feed Alice before you retire.
    I had to wake him in order to undress him and put him into his bed. With tears flowing down my cheeks I put away his artificial leg, folded his clothes and put them on his dresser and went to feed Alice her tuna fish, then I turned on the TV but found nothing of interest. After she had eaten, she jumped into my lap and stayed there until I turned out the lights and went to bed.
    It was impossible for me to sleep. My uncle’s conversation and the thought of his collection kept me awake until I felt Alice jump onto my bed and curl up near my feet.

    He was up at sunrise; I could smell his coffee brewing. I found him in the kitchen, dressed in his bath robe and opening a tin of tuna for Alice while she pranced around his crutches. He looked pale and grey, but he smiled when he saw me.
    Do you ever feed your cat anything but tuna uncle?
    No James, if you read the label on all the different brands of cat food you will see they all have, “Not for human consumption” on them. Now why in the hell would I feed my cat a product that I am not supposed to eat? I am fixing a piece toast with peanut butter and marmalade do want me to fix some for you?
    Uncle you need to eat more than a piece of toast, you don’t look well and I am worried about you.
    James, I told you that I plan to eat a good meal. I think that I am ready for a rib eye steak, mashed potatoes and maybe green beans in butter, and a glass or two of win tonight. Now you stop worrying and eat what you want, then fix me a bath in that Jacuzzi, then we will be going back to town.
    He put the tuna in a bowl and gave it to Alice, and then he ate his toast and finished a second cup of black coffee.
    This time he willingly got into the Jacuzzi and soaked for a half hour. When he was finished and I had dried him off and helped him to dress, he again kissed me on both cheeks and said,
    Thank you James, I feel much better, now call us a cab and we shall go to town. Today you are going to see my collection after I stop at my bank.
    When we were parked in front of the Wells Fargo Bank I got out and opened the door for him, then helped him out of the cab. He adjusted his crutches stood up tall and straight, then told to wait for him. He turned around and walked towards the bank.
    As I watched him go I could see that he was having trouble, at one moment I was sure he would collapse. I went to him but he refused my arm.
    I am fine, now please wait, I need to do this on my own. I will not be long.
    Then he left me and disappeared behind the automated glass doors .I could tell he was determined to go alone and told the cabby to wait. It seemed to take forever, but then I saw him slowly making his way back to where I was standing.
    He put a bank bag and some envelopes on the seat and let out a sigh of relief.
    There, James, that business here is finished, now we go and see the collection.
    I helped him into the cab and he gave directions to our next stop .As we rode, he said.
    There is a storage unit where I have put all the things I have collected over the years. The sword is one item that I sold from it. The reason I sold it is so you would have a better understanding of the potential value of my collection. Not because I needed money.
    Today, I will make arrangements for all of it to be shipped to your home. These trunks and cases contain memorabilia from the Revolutionary, Civil and the Indian wars, pistols, swords, flags, uniforms, bayonet, medals, photographs and much more. They are very heavy, too heavy for us, but I will arrange for them to be shipped today. I am sure everything will be delivered to your home by this afternoon.
    There is so much that I want to explain .But I have saved books on the value of things such as these, and I am sure you can figure it out what to do once you study them. You are a bright boy, and I will be well pleased if these things help fund your education.
    When we arrived at the storage company, he stopped at the office and picked up the keys, and then we opened the storage unit. It was not very large, it was dark but I could see four large military style trunks on the floor.
    He gave me a set of keys and said. There is two hundred years of history in those trunks. You will find the contents well packed away, safe from mildew, mice, and moths and rust. I have not opened them since I had them brought here after Lillian died.
    I was overwhelmed by emotion and I began to sob as I said.
    Uncle, I do not want you to die for a long time, I want you to live, I love you and I don’t want these things you have cared for.
    I know you love me James, and you must know that I love you.
    You are so very young and I am sure you cannot comprehend death.
    I want you to understand that every one’s life is a series of steps, each one bringing us to its inevitable end. One of the most enjoyable moments in my life has been meeting you, and finding a person that can be rewarded by my existence on this earth. I could never have told you anything about them, but I know that the storage company would sell them, you parents will give them away to the Salvation Army and they would be scattered everywhere, and my total life would be meaningless. I am not giving you an easy task, you will have to spend many months researching each item if you want to find the rewards they can bring .Do you understand how I feel?
    Here are the keys to the trunks and an inventory letter that goes with them; this is not the right place to open them.
    Now we go to the office and get these things shipped to your home. With your help tonight I will fix dinner .We need to buy steaks, vegetables, and a bottle of good California wine, cognac, and chocolate ice-cream for desert.
    We had been home not long when the delivery truck drove up to the house. Looking very pleased, my uncle told them to take the trunks to his room and deposit them there. After settling the bill he said.
    I feel much better. Now we will take Alice to the park, where I can enjoy the fresh air, late afternoon sun and look at the roses. Tonight, we will have a good meal together, and I promise I will eat everything.
    That night he did eat everything and drank two glasses of wine. After dinner he gave me the bank bag and two notarized letter´s he had had written for him at his bank.
    This, James is all the money I have. This letter confirms that I am giving it to my niece, your mother and her husband as payment for the care they have given me.
    And this letter gives you the four trunks as a present for the wonderful time i have spent with you. Now would you open that bottle of brandy for me James? I am tired and want to have a good night’s sleep, and a bit of brandy is just what I need.
    I said, I hope sleep well uncle, and then i helped him to bed. I returned to the kitchen, opened a can of tuna for Alice and cleaned the table, and then I went to bed. As I was falling asleep Alice curled up next to me.
    In the morning I woke late. Alice was gone and my uncle was still not up.
    I went into his room and found Alice sitting next to him. There was a note on his bedside table along with a small navy blue leather case. The note said, Open this up now.
    Inside I found The Navy Cross.
    I touched his hand and felt his flesh cold as ice. My heart was shattered by a devastating sadness. Four days later I took Alice to the park and scattered my Great Uncle Earl´s ashes amongst the roses.
    The End

  2. #2
    joseph engraver
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    sorry for the punctuation

  3. #3
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    next door to the lady in the vinegar bottle
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    I would really like to read these, but the text taxes my eyesight. Would it be possible to skip a space between paragraphs?

  4. #4
    joseph engraver
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    I would really like to read these, but the text taxes my eyesight. Would it be possible to skip a space between paragraphs?
    How do I edit my story?

  5. #5
    TheFairyDogMother kiz_paws's Avatar
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    Excellent story, Joseph.
    Enjoyed immensely.
    Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty
    ~Albert Einstein

  6. #6
    joseph engraver
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    Kiz Paws
    I am pleased that you found The Purple Heart a good story to read, I thank you for taking the time to comment, it has made my day much brighter

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