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War Games

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War Games
    War Games Those days there were four of us.Even our parents knew enough not to bother uswhen we went off for God knows whatat any odd hour. They knew it¶d be the river,finally, after all day in the woodsout behind the ruined church.They knew it¶d be the river we¶d come to, just to lie in a beached boat, bait a line,cast and wait, while we all four talkedabout what little we knew about all there was.When we talked, we talked war,not real war, but the wars they taught us:the Indian one with Custer and arrows and horses,and the first one when Rebels in their buckskinsstood against bright red Hessians and the nameswere Ticonderoga and Boston and Valley Forge.We talked of books where Knights wereand Long-bowmen and lances and keepsand Crusaders until our bamboo fishing poleswere spears and twigs were weaponsand the tears in our tee-shirts were wounds.The stream-beds running to the river made good trenches and the full-size polystyrenemachine guns they sold in Foodtownand the mortar, in Meyer¶s Toy Store,with its supply of plastic shellswere things we schemed to own.   When we were through, we all went hometo hear about napalm and bombersand other villages not anything like our own.Those days there was war, a real one,and what little we knew, we knew because of the Evening News and the slow roleof the names of the dead over the blue screenswe stared at every night after supper.After each abbreviated rank,after the initials and the names,there were the places the names came fromand sometimes they were close: Summitor Jockey Hollow, where my Aunt lived,or Piscataway, where the first houseI remember was. Not always and not often,I saw a name I recognized and the slowwonder came about who the man had beenand why he had left and what he had become.Those days there were four of us:old enough to dream ourselves heroes,too young to understand what heroes know.
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