From "Wounds" by Andrew Salmon
The grey pall of early twilight muffled the city’s raging at the gradual dying of the light. Thick pewter clouds spanned the horizon, giving the sky the appearance of an inverted bed of coals as they were touched, here and there, with the last rays of the setting December sun between the New York skyscrapers. Such skies always reminded Rick Ruby of his father and the cancerous death dreams die.
His old man had told him once, while on leave before shipping out forever twenty years ago, that overcast skies were a reminder to us down here on earth that sometimes evil is in the air, brewing hate in a cauldron as broad as the human heart, and how easy it was to forget that when the sun was shining and the sky was so blue you felt moved to tears.
However the reasons for Ruby’s mood ran deeper than that. The Christmas season always brought him back to how his father had spent his last Christmas Eve: in a stinking trench in France. That evening, December 24th, 1917, the enemy overran the position and one son of a bitch had buried a bayonet in his father’s chest before the attack was beaten back. His father’s platoon was on the fringe of the battle and was cut off. So his father had lain there, leaking life through a pierced lung while carols were sung and the two armies crossed no man’s land to show family photos, share wine and easy talk until dawn when stretcher bearers finally reached the muddy hole and carted his father off to die at the aid station.
Christmas was a time of hate for Rick Ruby. Hate for the enemy bastard who had murdered his father and hate for cruel fate that had put his dad in that position in the first place. It was irrational, he knew, but years growing up in a foster home, without a real family, skewed things a certain way and Ruby’s hate was the only thing that was truly his.
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