Innocence, perhaps, caused her to gasp and hold that memory for seventy years:
her leaning against the desk at the nurses’ station, going over meds with the head nurse,
then a young sailor rolling up in a wheelchair. Could they give him something for his pain? His legs and feet are killing him.
She looks down at his scarred face, his narrow shoulders wrapped in a khaki shawl, his hands folded in his lap, then . . .
But I always knew what was coming, even the first time I heard the story. Her grimace tipped me off.
And each time the story was repeated – often three times in one visit –
I chalked it off to senility.
Now looking over the house with only a stick or two of mildewed furniture, the sagging deck, the ragged yard, the downed fence,
I see that story clearly as an explanation –
the two bandaged stumps a warning against the pain of absence.