He sat in a half-empty room on an old sofa, staring into TV screen with glassy eyes. There were usual news about restoration of cities, construction of roads and new hopes. The war ended, but … what now? Now he has little left: free telecast and a sofa. It beats the hell.
He was called up for military service one of the last, whether for personal achievement, or just because his address was lost – he didn’t know. When he met the other guys from his squadron, he curled his lip: all were skinny, stooped and pale. “Scrubs” he thought then. Unable to become an insider, he remained a foreign native, and no one claimed.
After a short training there was the first combat mission in the ruins of once populous city. That morning he remembered the commander’s heavy glance and a dead silence among the men. Than came deafening sound of gunfire, bloodcurdling explosions, the first dead man in front of him. His memories of later events were all jumbled together in his head, comprising separate flashbacks. His squadron was surrounded … he appeared to be far away from the rest … saw an enemy looking in their direction… the enemy had a grenade… he ran, jumped and managed to disarm the enemy… Unconsciousness … Why he just didn’t shoot?!
When the doorbell rang, he knew who it was. Volunteer was almost the same age and had somehow strained smile. “I brought some food and … here, as you requested.” said the volunteer. “Thank you,” he said dryly, and took the packages. “Can I help you?” volunteer suggested hesitatingly. “No” he snapped. The guest quietly left.
Returning to the sofa, he put products aside and picked up a big gray package of a rectangular shape. He hesitated a little, then unfolded it and stared at the cover of the book: “The best sportsmen of the country. Track and Field”. He vaguely muttered something and began to read the content. It was easy to find: a tanned smiling guy flying over a hurdle at the stadium looked at him from the thirty-seventh page. Verbose article with praises and enumerations of his achievements was placed on the same page. He didn’t read.
The pile of medals in the corner wasn’t a good match to his wheelchair. He confidently moved into it and put the second gray package on his lap. A horizontal bar was fixed in the doorway. Rapidly deploying packet, he took out a rope. “That will do”, he said and threw it on the bar. Then he made two loops at the rope ends and …
Volunteer came a week later and found the veteran rather happy. “I’ll walk!” he exclaimed confidently and pointed to the device attached to the bar, “I almost did.” “Oh …” volunteer was confused and stared at the two ropes at the horizontal bar. “Do you need something else?” “Yes … find out whether any stadium remained in the city.”
Closing the door, he knew: the old sofa and TV are to be sold. He needs new shoes and a uniform.