IN 1966

 I was in San Francisco, in that big park downtown, you know, the one they kicked the homeless out of? Anyway, this was back in the day when it was full of hippie protesters. Protesting was looked upon as bad then, by some people. They said, “Why don’t you get a job.” Remember when they protested for civil rights in the south? The home town people called anyone from the north “outside agitators.” That was then. Now you’ve got the hometown people going to D.C. with their anti-abortion signs and it is not a problem. Interesting.   Well…anyway…where was I? Oh yeah, there was this guy in uniform, Army. He was sitting there striking matches and talking to himself. I stopped and listened. He struck a match and said, “In this day and age.” Then he let it burn out and dropped it. He struck another and said, “Dog my cats.” Same thing. I sat down on his bench and I said, “Would you mind telling me what you’re doing there?” He never turned his head. I looked down and the matches were in this little souvenir cable car match box, cute little thing. Then he said, “I am done with the Army now. I did my time righteous. A year in Vietnam as a capper on the deal”. Then I noticed how the hand that held the match box looked funny. It was an artificial one, plastic or rubber or something. I waited. After a bit he looked up, then over at me. He smiled. He said, “Don’t worry, I ain’t nus.” Then he said, “When I was about fourteen I was at my grandma’s house. My two uncles had both been in World War two. When they were in Europe they sent her match book folders. They took the matches out for safety. They both died over there, blown to bits. Anyway she had a huge pickle jar full of these. They were from Italy, Nazi Germany, Holland, Belgium, everywhere. They had girlie pictures on ’em, airplanes, all kinds of cool stuff. I sat the in the chair they made me sit in on visits. She had these crocheted doilies on the chair arms. They were pinned down. My bored hands moved around and I started to pull a pin out. She ran over and slapped my hand, hard. I kept staring at that jar. Finally I said, “May I look at those match folders?” I thought how cool it would be to dump those out on he rug and look at them. She looked at the jar and then at me. She laughed and smiled, then she said, “Absolutely not.” Then she took the jar and put it up in a high cabinet so I couldn’t even see it. Anyways, I bought this cool matchbox here because I know she would like it. She was always using those damn old expressions.” He struck another match and said, “Time will tell.” It was the last one. Then he crushed the little box and tore it in half. He got up to leave and I said, “See you in the funny papers.” He gave me a very serious look. “I just bet you will he said. I have no doubt about that.”

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