Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Of all the fellows I knew in the military, Dempsey was one of those who stands out to this day.

"Dempse" was a short, dumpy little guy who would never be noticed in any crowd, any where--were he the only Anglo in a sea of Chinese, the wandering eye would still wander right on by him so unnoteworthy was he.  Dempse only spoke when spoken to. He watched your lips and face carefully when you talked and it seemed to take him several painful seconds to understand and reply.  He always wet his lips slightly before speaking.  Even then, he spoke in a very halting manner, as if his mind were struggling to string words together. A very weak smile was generally frozen on his face. Everything about Dempsey just moaned, "Born Loser." He had the broken, sad face and demeanor that no person with half a heart--sergeant or otherwise--could mock, scold or ridicule. Everyone left Dempsey alone because it was obvious he was different; if he were not actually "touched," as many of us suspected, then he carried some deep, mysterious wound within, either physical or mental.

It was some time before I learned Dempsey's story. Back home in Ohio or Pennsylvania, he once had a girl friend.  When they graduated from high school, they made plans to marry. And this was good. Given the physical and mental reality of both, it was clear to everyone that neither Dempse or his fiance would ever find another mate, tho they might roam the earth for a hundred years. One night, as he dropped his girl off after a date, Dempsey watched as she crossed the street. The young woman did not see the speeding car until it was too late.

While the rest of us were running wild in the service, drinking, funning, being stupid, Dempsey was locking himself away in his quarters each night with hard stuff and drinking until he reached oblivion. After I left, I never heard more of this fellow but I am sure he was dead within a few years, at most.

Michelle once knew a man. Ed had his future in front of him. Not only was he working on a college degree in history, but Ed's father owned a mortuary. It was expected that the son would take over this very lucrative business when the time arrived. This young man also had a high school sweetheart. One night, as both were preparing for their date later that evening, Ed suddenly returned for something where the family business was located. Entering through the basement, he froze in his tracks. There, laid out for burial preparation, was his girl friend. Unbeknownst to Ed, the young woman had died only hours before. She had drowned in the bathtub after an asthma attack.

Ed soon went to work in the neighboring coal mines. In those dark, dangerous coffins, Ed could not forget, but down there he could at least embrace death the quicker.


Christmas Candy of the Past