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From first glance this man seemed to carry himself above everyone else. Thin, graying hair once black that came down a few inches above his eyebrows, also aged and greasy, was hidden under a dusty faded cap. He had aged lines that ran across his face, small sags in his face that added to his pale complexion. He had a small scar to the right of his lips; a reminder of the things he did and the things he wished he hadnít. His eyes were incredible. They seemed to give off a light of their own, and glimmered like candles. Inside the bloodshot white were layers and never-ending layers of gray lines; you could almost say they were silver, which crossed each other perpetually in his eyes. They seemed to go on forever, and if looked at too closely a person could spend the rest of their lives trying to see the whole of them. Thin cheekbones were barely visible under a day old beard, which also hid yellow teeth. They were rarely seen anyway; he rarely smiled. He didnít look handsome anymore, but gave hints that he was when he was younger.

He was not short, nor very tall; somehow it was very difficult to judge his height. Perhaps it was because there were too many distractions to him, too many features that kept one staring endlessly and yet still seem like there was so much to this man that was hidden. And there was.

The man had a lost sense of humor in him. Something about him made you want to tell jokes, but you also knew that he would never laugh at any of them. He hadnít laughed in many years. Nevertheless, he had a spark in him that lived without hope, but wasnít quite dead.

He was quiet, but not weak-voiced. The strong silent type, if there was a type he fit in at all. He had a way of avoiding attention with his quietness, but also of being strikingly noticeable at the same time. He had outlived his years of glory, and now wished to be left in peace, a feeling he was unfamiliar with. Solitude and recluse were small condolences for this depleted man.

Never really developing favorite places to visit, he wandered and went where his body took him. He never really looked comfortable where he was, like heíd rather be somewhere else. He was a lost soul in a sea of masses, and people took little head to him.

He was muscular. Nothing had yet hampered his strength, and nothing looked like it could. His power seemed passive; he looked like he didnít realize his strength and didnít care. It was startling to see glimpses of weakness behind his broad shoulders and developed arms, but it occurred from time to time. Behind the built man was a crippled warrior barely continuing. Arthritis bit into his hands, which showed protruding veins behind cracked, insipid skin. Carrying anything more than a bag of groceries sent a pain from his back, token of a torn ligament healed under minimal conditions. He was always tired, there was a heaviness that weighed down his eyes, he wanted to just lie down and go to sleep, rest the aching in his bones. The worst by far was a thick, puffy scar that ran from his left hip up to the bottom of his right shoulder. No one ever saw this scar; he made sure to keep it hidden from view. He suffered in silence, he never complained or did anything to lessen his pain.

The man looked as if he was in his fifties. He stood straight but walked looking neither down nor up; not proud of whom he was but aware of his undertakings. He took everything in stride and didnít mull over failures or achievements. He regretted many things heíd done, but realized he had not wasted his life. He was accomplished and burned out.

He didnít view the world cynically, but wasnít happy where he was. Too many things had happened to him. He was but a grisly person living in a ruthless world, and didnít ask for mercy when harsh fate came along. He simply faced what came head-on and waited for it to ride out. He had a pained, weather-beaten, tough look that penetrated your face and made you wonder what he had gone through to deserve such a hopeless feeling of dread to capture his essence.

This form of living had destroyed any thoughts of religion inside him. He saw nothing God had done for him, and he saw nothing he could do for God. If there was such a god, he and God left each other alone, and he preferred it that way. He had no contempt for those who were believers; he favored minding his own affairs and let others do the same.

It would not be inaccurate to say that he lived without emotion. Trying to be happy reminded him of too many things, and being unhappy kept him indoors blankly watching basketball all day. He chose to live without feeling, eating without taste, seeing without color. This was the easiest way to get past the day, wasting away his days doing mindless tasks. This was in a way comforting; knowing that the next day will be exactly the same as that day; without excitement, without expectancies, and without disappointment. It would be bland, like the day before, and the day before, and the day before that.

Those who knew him would have agreed he had a strong mind. After everything he had been through, he had never considered suicide or mutilated himself, and was never an alcoholic. His beliefs were firm and his principles strong, and he never wavered from his consistent, though insipid, lifestyle.
There were few exceptions to his standards. On the annual day of the death of his wife, he would drink himself to sleep, followed by many sleepless nights; lost in memories from yesteryears left only to him to remember now. This was one of the few times he cried during the year.
Another omission to his regular routine was on July 16th. He would bring one of his army knives out of his footlocker, and cut a thin line across his hand to let droplets of blood fall into his sink, an honorary tribute to a man he encountered during the war, the one who gave him the scar that ran from his thigh to his shoulder. He would then wrap his hand up and spend the day inside thinking about the experience.
It had been only a month since he had been drafted into the war. It was 1970. It was nighttime and he was making rounds, protecting his camp from ambush. He paused, thought he heard movement, and then heard other members from his brigade talking loudly. He kept walking. Again he heard a noise, this time louder, and he turned to face the noise.
He turned, saw a Vietnamese running at him, bayonet out and only five feet now, how could he have let the soldier get so close to him? He started pawing at the gun at his waist, no time for that; the soldier was nearly on him now, he dove backwards as the blade came slicing through the air. He fell backwards and the blade entered his hip, chipping the bone, and came up scraping his ribs and finally getting caught under his collarbone. It wasnít a deep cut, but an excruciating one.
He pulled out his gun with his good hand, and shot the Vietnamese in the leg. The man screamed and fell backwards, and both were face to face on the ground. For one locked instant their eyes met each other, and then the man lifted his gun and shot the Vietnamese in the face. He remembered the look of fear and the way his face braced as he realized he was going to die, and then all he was gone, a look of shock with a bloody hole in the center. The man could literally feel the soldierís soul leave his body. During the whole the time the man had not uttered a sound of pain. A moan escaped him, and he fainted.
He awoke in a military hospital, patched up but breathing. The cut was not deep, except in his thigh, but it was enough to get him sent home. A wound like that was called a ďmillion dollar woundĒ; one bad enough to get a soldier deported, but not bad enough to kill. Doctors told him the blade had entered his hip and he would never walk again, but he would live. Three months later he was walking on his own, with no cane or support. He went home looking for his family and parents, but they had received a letter telling them he was missing in action, for he was until he was found in the marshes, and they had moved west quickly after receiving the letter. No one was able to contact them, and that was the last he ever heard of his family again.
He received a purple heart; he had prevented an ambush by firing the shots and warning his comrades, and he received a sturdy monthly government pension. He would be able to stop working in ten years to have enough to survive on, as long as he didnít buy luxuries.
From there he lived life slowly, recovering from everything and getting adjusted to his new lifestyle, when in 1973 the United States withdrew its soldiers from the war. He needed to get a job and get on with life. He became a salesman, selling shoe polishing kits door to door. He sold the monthly bare minimum; his unenthusiastic demeanor made some customers happy, but most uncooperative.
He had lost faith with the world outside him, and he became depressed. He went through his days with a sullen appearance and aged much faster. He fell farther and farther into his failing lifestyle until he started eating less and sleeping more.
Then he met his Nicole and his life turned around. They married and lived happily for two years. They tried having kids for a year, to no avail. Finally Nicole became pregnant. Life had never been happier for the man, and he looked like he was going to finally settle down with a family. He and Nicole chose to name the child Gregory if it was a boy, Amelia if it was a girl. In March Nicole gave birth to the child. It was a miscarriage. Nicole also died during deliverance.
The man fell back into his hole quicker and deeper than he had before. He lost trust in the world he lived in. This was the start of his downfall. He realized the world gave no exceptions to people, and that only the strongest survived. He started to fall into his schedule of holding no desires, only to get through the day. On May 21, he died in his sleep. No one discovered his death for three days. No one appeared at his funeral. He was buried in a public cemetery, with no inscription on his tombstone. He surely was a lost soul.


The following comments are for "from first glance..."
by Ilan Bouchard

Author's Note
By the way, if this isn't topnotch, cut me some slack. I'm thirteen and this is my first attempt at an actual story like this.

( Posted by: Ilan Bouchard [Member] On: February 23, 2004 )

THough the piece is good at descriptions the said descriptons overweigh the actual content of the story,maybe rewrote with a little less imagery it can be more taut.Slack?Yes.

( Posted by: RightingIt [Member] On: February 23, 2004 )

You're only 13 and youíre pumping out this material? I'd say more power to you.

This piece lacks dialog, but stands on its own without it. Whenever you reveal his inner mind, like "he lost faith", "chose to live without feeling", etc., it would read significantly more artistic if you'd have him say something appropriate and memorable.

Again, not bad for a 13 y.o.



( Posted by: Teflon [Member] On: January 3, 2005 )

I WAS thirteen when I wrote this, thankfully I've aged since then. I think I wrote this mostly as an exercise in character description after I realized I rarely included any. From there I added some more, but never planned on letting it turn into a short story. Thanks for the comments.

( Posted by: Ilan Bouchard [Member] On: January 3, 2005 )

Ilan - first glance
You were thirteen when you wrote this: I won't be able to write anything as good as this considering I am already in my late twenties, except maybe in my native language.

I just think you rushed a bit the part where Nicole, their child and he were one by one dying, when you should have used the opportunity to make your story better by being consistently descriptive - you have been all throughout except in that part I say. What's wrong with adding a bit more length if it's for the better?

However, I enjoyed the read very much.

( Posted by: peterpaulino [Member] On: January 4, 2005 )

Hm... I had rushed it in hopes that the impact of all three deaths would be... dramatic? I don't know. It seemed to work when I wrote this, but that's what criticism is for.

( Posted by: Ilan Bouchard [Member] On: January 4, 2005 )

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