(Copyrighted 2007 by the author)
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.
Which I am saddened to say can no longer be obtained! (Effective August 14th 2007)
He was back in town from boot camp before being shipped over. We met at the movies. He was in his uniform. His marine uniform. He was so breathtakingly handsome and masculine and military that my knees went weak. I have always had a weakness for uniforms. Police, military, whatever. We were both getting popcorn before the show, and how I wished that I could get to know him.
While the concession lady was getting someone else their popcorn and soda and waiting for payment, I was standing next to him. We were practically touching, and I was short of breath. If only I had the nerve to strike up a conversation.
As we waited, he was playing with the dog tags hanging around his neck, which he had pulled out from his shirt. It was clearly a nervous habit. He played with his dog tags.
“What the hell takes so long?” he complained audibly when the concession lady was looking for change in the cash register for the lady at the and of the counter.
“Yeah,” I said, picking up on the opportunity to meet him. “I don’t want to miss the beginning of the picture.”
“Me neither,” he said.
“Are you in the army?” I asked. I’m not a total expert on the different uniforms.
“No. I’m in the Marine Corps. The Elite.”
“Great,” I said, “You live in town?”
“My mom and dad live here. I came back to visit them before being shipped over next week.”
“You’re being shipped over?”
“Damn,” I said.
“I’m kind of looking forward to it,” he told me. “I want a little action. I’m sick of boot camp and basic training. I joined up to fight the enemy and see the world, and I’m ready.”
“Great,” I said. “You’re the kind of citizen this country needs more of.”
“Yeah,” he said. But then the concession lady came over and we both got tubs of popcorn and sodas. He started to reach into his pocket.
“No. No,” I told him. “Let me pay for that.”
“Oh, no,” he protested.
“Yes. You’re protecting me and all the other citizens of this country. It’s the least I can do to thank you.”
“Well, okay then.”
He let me pay, which was great, because I knew he wouldn’t be so impolite as to go and sit by himself in the auditorium. He would sit down with me. We would chew our popcorn and drink our sodas in tandem, while gazing across at the big screen.
“My name is Mack,” I told him, as we took seats in the center of the eighth row.
“Chuck,” he answered. He put his popcorn down on the next seat and put out his hand. I put down my popcorn and shook it.
The movie hadn’t started. The lights were still on and people were still coming in and finding seats. I learned that his name was Chuck Wright, or Charles Wright, and that his parents, Ben and Nancy, were teachers at West Chestwick High, the local high school. Ben taught geometry and Nancy taught French. He had just graduated from high school and had been living at home until he joined up, he told me.
I told him my full name, Mack Howard, and that I was the town photographer. I had my own studio on East Lincoln Avenue in one of the shops. I had graduated from Stanton University with a degree in philosophy six years ago, but had decided that photography was my thing. I had always loved taking pictures. Country scenes. Urban scenes. Everything. So if that was what I liked, why couldn’t I make a living out of it? He nodded his head.
I explained that I was now the town’s official wedding and yearbook photographer. I took pictures at all public occasions and celebrations. He nodded his head.
I asked him if he had a girlfriend, and he said that he was banging this chick out in San Diego, but it wasn’t anything serious. He asked me if I was seeing anybody and I told him ‘no.’
Then the lights dimmed and as the picture came on, the buzz of conversation throughout the auditorium slowly sputtered out.
I could hardly concentrate on the movie, I was so conscious of his leg near mine, and a couple of times I shifted in my seat a little so that my leg could accidentally brush against his, but I didn’t keep it there.
After the movie, I asked him to join me for an ice cream soda at Vera’s Tea Shop, which was across the street from my studio, and only a block down from the movie theatre. He agreed to the proposal.
I sat across from him in the booth as I sipped my soda, and admired his strong handsome face. He twisted the dog tags in his fingers, even as he sipped his vanilla soda.
“I have an idea,” I said. “Why don’t you come down to my studio tomorrow and let me photograph you?”
“For what?” he asked.
“Well. You’re sort of like a town hero. I’d like to take pictures of you. I can’t pay you for posing, but I’ll make some nice enlargements for you. I bet your parents would be happy to have some nice portraits of their son who’s going off to war.”
“I guess, maybe, they would,” he admitted. He agreed to stop into my shop around two the next afternoon so that I could photograph him. Then we each went to our own cars and drove home.
I was thinking about him all night long. I don’t like to say it, but I masturbated three times, imagining that I was with him. He was so handsome and so military. He was younger than I, but I felt that he was more powerful and dominant than I was. I kind of wished that I could be his little boy. Isn’t that crazy?
The bell over the front door jingled a little after two the next day, and I came out from the dark room where I was developing some year book head shots.
“You’re here,” I said. “Great.”
“Yeah. Gonna get my picture taken.”
I led him into the back studio where I had my set-up. I had hung a flag up on one of the walls and I got him to stand in front of it.
“Are these gonna be color pictures?” he asked.
“I want to do both,” I told him. “I’ll take some in color. But mostly I like black and white for dramatic effect.”
I lined up the camera and got his upper torso in focus. “Take off your hat,” I told him. It was just too formal. I wanted something more relaxed and more sensual.
He took off his hat and threw it on a chair, and ran his fingers through his sandy colored buzz cut, and stood there.
“Take off your jacket,” I told him. “You have a nice sculptured body. I want to see more of it.” He took off his jacket, and stood there with his head thrown back. As I was focusing he drew his dog tags out from under his shirt and began to play with them. He held them out, so that the chain was taut around his neck. It was a very sexy image. I shot it. Then I shot it in color. Then I moved the camera back a few feet for some full body shots.
“You know what?” I asked him. “I’d like to get something a little more casual. How about taking off your shirt and posing in your undershirt and tags.”
“Okay,” he said, and began to unbutton his shirt. He threw it over the chair where his hat and jacket were. Now I could really see the definition of his biceps and triceps. He had incredible arms. Strong incredible arms. His muscles bulged and rippled as he fingered his tags. I shot him from several angles.
“You’re a very good-looking boy,” I told him.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You have great muscles.”
“Yeah. I know. I’ve been working on them,” and then he flexed a couple of times and I got a little dizzy behind the camera. I got a lot of shots of him shirtless. Sitting backwards on a chair with his arms folded around the back. Standing. All different positions. Then I moved him to the other side of the room, which was a full wall mirror, and I could photograph his front and the reflected image of his back simultaneously. Beautiful shot. Yes.
“Why don’t you take off your undershirt?” I asked him. “Let me get some shots of that bare chest of yours.”
“Okay,” he said. “Sure.” He lay the undershirt on top his shirt on the chair. I took some more shots. He was so beautiful. His strong even teeth when he smiled. His sexy square jaw. I wanted to capture it all on film.
I took a few more shots and made another suggestion. “You know, you have such a great body, you could be a physical fitness model.
“Thank you,” he said.
“So I was thinking that maybe I could shoot a little more of your body. Like maybe without your pants.”
“Hey. I don’t know,” he said.
“Some art photos,” I said. “Very artistic. I think you would look great.”
“Wellll. Well, maybe. Yeah, okay. I do have a great body. Let’s get some pictures of it.”
He had agreed. I was deliriously happy. He uncinched his belt and unbuttoned the center button of his pants. He drew the zipper down and eased the trousers down his strong muscular legs. He had a light matting of sandy colored hair on his legs. It was very sexy looking. The only thing that wasn’t sexy was that he was wearing military issue boxers, which cut off his legs at the wrong angle. They would not contribute to the image of the perfect body beautiful.
“Nuts,” I said.
“What?” he asked.
“Those boxers. They’re really ugly. They don’t flatter you at all.”
“Well, hell. This is what I got on,” he protested. “I hope you don’t expect me to stand here balls ass naked in front of that camera, do you?”
I hummed and hawed a little and then I thought. I kept some of my own clothes at the shop, in case I would ever need a quick change, and I did have some jockey shorts. And I also had a couple of thongs. I like to look at myself in front of the mirror wearing a thong, and then turning around and seeing my naked butt cheeks with the thong strap going up between my cheeks. I liked to pose in the thongs, but I didn’t really like wearing them on a daily basis, because they weren’t very comfortable. They were too tight and constricting in the front. But damn. They sure looked good around the crotch and the butt.
“I have some thongs here,” I told him. “Would you pose in a thong?”
“I guess so,” he said after a few moments reflection.
“You’ll really look great,” I assured him. “Trust me. I’m gonna get some great pictures.”
“I hope your not gonna post them on the internet or anything,” he said dubiously.
“No. No. Don’t be silly. Nothing like that. Just for you and me. And maybe someday if we’re lucky, for a museum somewhere.” That seemed to allay his concerns a little. The museum thing. What a great thought. Maybe someday I really would try to sell them to a museum, if I ever got to be a famous photographer or anything like that.
I went to a drawer and got out a skimpy bright yellow thong, which worked very well with his light skin and sandy matting. He took them from me, but then stopped. He was hesitant to change in front of me. He was shy about me seeing him naked. For goodness sake. I know they don’t get a lot of privacy in the military. He must be used to having a lot of other guys around in the barracks and the shower when he was naked. Yeah. A lot of other soldiers. But not me.
He was afraid I might be a homosexual who would come on to him. Well. Yeah. I was a homosexual. But I was not going to come on to him. I was afraid.
“I’ll go in the other room, in the front of the shop while you change,” I told him. He nodded. I went into the front room of the shop, and took the opportunity to lock the front door, and put the sign up that said ‘Be Back Later.’
After a few minutes, he called, “Okay.”
“Okay,” I answered and went back into the studio. My god! He looked fantastic. Those long strong muscled legs, and that bulging yellow pouch, and I could see his incredible butt cheeks in the mirror behind him. I got him in a lot of different positions. Then I had him face his own image in the mirror, and I could see he liked what he saw, just as I was liking what I was seeing. I could swear he was getting a little stiff inside the tight thong, just looking at his own sexy self. Yes. He definitely was a little hard. I got it all on film. In many positions. I had him raise one leg up onto a chair and kind of dangle his hand at the side of his bulge, and all the while the other hand was playing with his dog tags. I practically creamed in my pants. Finally though, there was no more to shoot. He had told me he would not pose in the nude. Damnit. I not only wanted to see him in the nude, I would have liked to see him in action in some porn shots, fucking some hot hole. Any hot hole.
“I guess that’s a wrap,” I told him. “I’ll get all these shots developed. If you come in around this time on Friday, I should have everything.’
“Great,” he said. He was waiting for me to go out to the front while he took off the thong and got back into his boxers, but I pretended to be busy with the camera. So finally, he stripped off the thong, (and I could see it all in the view-finder) and I got to see his cock which was still a little hard and pretty big and thick. I think he knew that I was looking at his dick, and it got a little stiffer and thicker. I pretended to be fooling with the focus, but he knew what was happening and he even subtly stroked his balls a little and fluffed his cock out, as he reached for the boxers. Then he stepped into them, and his cock was again concealed. If only I had had the nerve to snap while he was changing, but he would have heard the click of the shutter, and probably beaten the crap out of me.
That night, as you can imagine, as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, but not falling asleep, twisting and turning, and punching up my pillow, I kept thinking of his magnificent body. Those strong arms and legs with the sandy hairs, and his perfect butt, and that beautiful meaty looking dick swaying over his two generous-size, sandy-haired balls. I was so horny. I had such a hard-on. I could not fall asleep like this. I hate to say it, but I masturbated three times during the night thinking of his beautiful body and what it would be like to put my mouth on his thick dick, and look up into his slate-blue eyes as I gave him pleasure. He would hold my hair and dominate my every movement, and ask me if I liked his dick, and I would tell him how much I loved it. I loved it so much. I loved it so much. “AAAAACCCCHHHH.” Another load shot out of my balls. Finally I slipped into a tortured, dream-filled sleep, and when the alarm clock went off three hours later I stumbled to my feet, an exhausted wreck. How would I get through the day, shooting the confirmation girls from Saint Agnes?
The pictures were magnificent. He was imposing in every position, in every state of dress, or undress, in black and white or in color. I salivated over him as I printed each picture. I made several copies of each. I would give him a copy of them all. I couldn’t wait for him to come in on Friday, to show him the beautiful work I had done. He had been captured on camera. Forever. He was now immortal. One hundred years from now, he would still be as handsome and as military as he was at this moment, because of the photos I had shot.
When he came into the shop on Friday, I sat him down in a chair and took out the photos. He looked at one, and then the next. I could see he was impressed. When he got to the ones showing him with a stiff dick inside the tight yellow thong, he kind of looked me straight in the eye and grinned. Like he knew I liked his dick. Well, I did, but so what? He was going overseas, and also he was straight, so I was never going to get his dick, and I was not going to let him know how much I wanted it. It was just too embarrassing.
“Here. I made copies for you. You can take them home and give them to your parents. That way they’ll be able to look at you every day while you’re away.”
“Well, yeah,” he said. “I think I’ll give them this one. I like this one a lot,” he said, and picked up the first picture I had made of his upper torso, still wearing his shirt, but pulling on his dog tags, in black and white. “I look very distinguished,” he said.
Yes,” I agreed. “But I made a whole set for you. Give them to your parents.”
“I don’t think I’ll give them these,” he laughed, and pulled out the thong pictures. “You can have these. You can look at me every day while I’m away.”
“I will,” I told him. He knew I had the hots for him, so why deny it? “I’ll look at these every day until you come back.”
“Deal,” he said.
I wondered what kind of a bargain I had struck.
The day when he was shipping over came and went, and I thought of him all the time. The image of his almost naked body, with his strong arm bent at the elbow, pulling on the dog tags around his neck. It was ever-present in my subconscious.
I wish that I knew his parents so that I could go over and talk to them, and ask them what they had heard from him, and know that he was all right and everything. I wish I had asked him to write to me, not that he would have, but I hadn’t even suggested it. Why did I have to fall in love with an impossible dream instead of someone who might someday come to care for me?
I kept doing my work, shooting my pictures, trying to forget my grand passion as the months went by. Would he be coming home soon? Would he come to see me? I got in the habit of drinking wine at night, to try to get to sleep. It seemed to help a little. I had his pictures on the night table next to my bed. I looked at them all the time. The thong ones, especially.
One night in April, I was working late in the shop developing the Miller wedding photos I had taken the previous Sunday, and making photo-book size pictures plus enlargements. I was really tired and wanted to go home, but I wanted to finish with these pictures. I drank a couple of glasses of wine to relax me. I was making an enlargement of the bride holding her wedding bouquet, when I heard the bell tinkle in the front shop. Someone had entered. I came out of the dark room and went into the front shop. It was late and I probably should have locked the door, but I had forgotten. The lights were off, and it was pretty dark. I could only see things by the light of the streetlamps coming through the front window.
“Who’s there?” I asked.
“It’s me, Mack,” said a voice, and my heart flipped in my chest. It was Chuck. He had come into the shop. He was back.
“Chuck,” I said. “You’re back. When did you get back?”
“Today,” he said.
“And you came here?” I was inexpressibly overjoyed. He had been thinking of me. He had come to see me on his first night back.
“Yeah. I thought maybe you might want to take a few more pictures of me,” he said. “Kind of take up where we left off before I shipped overseas.”
“That would be great,” I told him. “I’d love to. Come into the studio.” I could hardly see him in the darkness of the front shop, but when I led him into the studio and looked at him, all the old longings returned. He was so handsome. So military. So desirable.
“So how was it over there?” I asked him.
“It was nasty,” he said. “Real nasty. But I don’t even want to think of it. I want to forget. You got any hard liquor here?”
“No, I don’t,” I apologized. “But I have some red wine. Can I offer you some red wine?”
“Sure, anything,” he said. I went into the darkroom and got the bottle and got a glass. I came back and handed them to Chuck. He put the glass on a table and put the bottle to his lips. He drank gulps of red wine. Right out of the bottle. All the while he drank, he was pulling at the chain holding his dog tags.
I started to set up the camera, but now he was unbuttoning his shirt. I had planned to start the shoot with him fully dressed, but he was way ahead of me. He kept undressing until he was down to his armed-forces issue skivvies. They still looked ridiculous and unflattering. We looked into each others eyes and we both laughed.
“You still got that tight yellow thong?” he asked me.
“I sure do,” I said.
“Go get it,” he told me, and as I walked to the drawer, he dropped his skivvies. He was standing there naked with a big thick hard-on. But I was not going to make the first move. He was a straight man. It would have to be he who wanted something to happen. I handed him the thong. He took it, and smiled, his eyes never leaving mine. I really wanted to look at his hard-on, but he might consider that impolite, so I just kept looking into his eyes. He stepped into the thong, and pulled it over his stiff dick, but barely. His dick was pulled up, and it was so long in its erected state that the knob of his dick pushed out over the waistband and was extremely visible to me. My knees started to get a little weak. I wanted to lick the shiny smooth head of his penis. I wanted to feel it against my tongue. I wanted to taste him.
I posed him in a lot of different positions, and took many wonderful pictures. Against the wall. Standing in front of the mirror. Sitting in the chair, and then turned around on the chair with his arms around the back of it. These pictures would certainly be internet-worthy, I thought.
“Hell. Fuck,” he said. “This thong is too damn confining.” And then he slipped it off, and his stiff dick was sticking out perpendicularly in front of him. I stared in amazement and froze.
“Take some fucking pictures,” he said. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? Pictures of my big stiff dick?”
“Yes,” I said, and started to shoot away at high speed from every angle. He held it out and pointed it toward the camera with one hand, while pulling at his tags with the other.
“Is my cock photogenic?” he asked me.
“It’s beautiful,” I told him.
“Maybe you want to do something more than take pictures of it,” he said to me.
“Like what?” I asked. My heart was pounding. I knew what he was suggesting, but I tried to play dumb.
“You know what,” he said. “Like maybe you want to suck my big cock? I know you’ve been dying to suck it. Haven’t you?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Well, now’s your big chance. You may never get another. Get on your knees.”
I dropped to my knees obediently in front of him, and put the camera on the floor. I took his warm stiff dick in both hands and made gentle circular motions around the staff.
“Suck it,” he ordered me.
I took it in my mouth. It was everything I dreamed it was going to be. It fed me and filled me. My handsome Chuck. My spectacular marine. I had his big thick dick in my mouth and I got to work on it. I was going to give him unbelievable pleasure, so that he would always come back for more. I was going to give him the service that I hoped no one else, male or female, would ever be able to provide or equal.
“Oh, yeah. That’s so good. Your mouth feels so good on my dick. There were so many nights over there when I thought what it would be like to have you sucking on my dick, and I was sorry that I hadn’t let you. I was stupid.”
I stopped sucking his dick, but only to lick his thighs, and groin, and balls, and the smooth flesh behind his balls. I moved behind him and began to tongue his firm cheeks. He bent slightly at the knees and at the waist so that his ass was pointed directly at my face. As he bent a little lower, his asshole became visible. I knew what he wanted. He wanted me to lick him there. I did.
“Oh yeah, guy. That feels great. So fucking great. I love the feel of your tongue in my hot hole. Get it in there. That’s it. That’s it. That’s so fucking great. I wish I’d had your tongue in my bunk over there, I can tell you that. I didn’t get nothing for all those months, so now I’m gonna get it all. Come around and suck my dick again.”
I crawled around and knelt in front of him. He straightened his knees, and played with his tags as I nursed on his male udder.
“Oh, fuck. Oh. Damn. Fuck. I’m gonna come. I’m gonna shoot my hot load into your mouth, guy, okay?”
“Yes,” I said. “I want you to.” And I went back to suctioning it with my mouth, and within seconds his hot jets spurted into me. A liquor more delicious than the red wine. I drank it up.
“That was great man. Really great. You’re a good cocksucker,” he told me.
“Thank you,” I said.
He smiled at me and took another swig from the wine bottle. He tilted his head all the way back. He was emptying the bottle down his throat. I watched him drink and fiddle with his tags. He was so beautiful.
“I guess I better get going,” he said.
I watched him put on his clothes, and button up his shirt.
“Maybe we’ll do this again sometime,” he said.
“That would be great,” I told him. “Anytime you want. Come by. Or maybe you could come to my house some time.”
“Yeah, maybe. And maybe next time I might want to stick my cock up your ass and fuck it. Would you like me to fuck your ass? Would you like that?”
“Yes,” I told him. “I want you to fuck my ass. I want to feel your big hard cock inside my body. I want you to shoot your cum into me from the other end.”
“Well, maybe sometime, I might just do that,” he half-promised. Was he just teasing me? Would he really come back?
When he was dressed, I let him out of the shop. It was way too late to finish up the wedding photos. And I was way too drunk and way too tired. I locked up the shop and drove home. I hadn’t come myself, so I looked at the pictures on the night table and jerked off. I drank another large glass of wine. Then I nodded off.
When the alarm went off the next morning, I shut it off. I would allow myself to sleep a few more hours. I fell into another sleep. A deeper sleep. I don’t think I even dreamed. Finally I woke up and looked at the clock. It was almost noon. Fuck. I had to get down to the shop and finish the wedding photos.
It was so late in the day that most of the parking spots on East Lincoln Avenue were gone, and I had to park two blocks down from my shop, which would not be good, because I needed to run out every hour and put a quarter in the parking meter.
I walked toward my store, and as I passed Swanson’s Stationery store, the newspaper on the outside rack caught my eye. It was the West Chestwick Morning Bulletin. I saw the picture on the front page. My picture of Chuck. The one he liked, wearing his shirt. It was a big blow up on the front page. So the whole town knew that he was home. Our local hero.
Then the headline under the picture caught my eye, and I almost fainted on the sidewalk where I was standing. “LOCAL HERO KILLED IN ACTION.”
My breath caught in my throat. This was some mistake. He had been in my shop last night. This was some terrible mistake. I picked up the paper and read on in front of Swanson’s. It said that our local hero, Charles ‘Chuck’ Wright had been killed overseas in the war, by an IED, an improvised explosive device. His handsome young body had been ripped apart in the explosion, but that they had shipped the remainder of his remains back to his home town of West Chestwick, and that there would be a memorial funeral service for him at 9 a.m. the next morning, and that the mayor would deliver a eulogy for our brave lost young boy.
I started to cry. I dropped the paper, which I hadn’t paid for, onto the sidewalk and stumbled down the street to my shop. This was some awful mistake. He had been in my shop the night before. I had sucked his cock. I knew the taste of him. He was not dead. I went into my studio and took all the films out of all my cameras and developed them. I had proof. In a few moments I would see his glorious naked body and his glorious erect penis on the different films. In color and in black and white.
I was in a very bad state. While the film was developing, I needed a drink, so I picked up the wine bottle, but it was empty. Of course it was empty. I had stood here and watched him drain the last drops from that bottle. Of course it was empty. I went to the cabinet and tore the seal off a fresh bottle. I didn’t even get a glass. I raised the bottle to my lips and swallowed, as I had seen Chuck swallow last night.
I went back into the dark room and continued to process the film. The pictures of Chuck weren’t there. There were pictures of the wall. Pictures of an empty chair. Pictures of the mirror reflecting empty space. But he wasn’t in any of the pictures. This was ridiculous. I had shot over fifty photos. He had stood against the wall, against the mirror, sat in the chair playing with his cock. How could this be? I didn’t even want to think what this might mean. Was I losing my mind? I sat down in the chair and drank from the bottle again. And I tried not to cry, but I failed. I went to the front of the shop and locked the front door and put up the sign “Be Back Later.” Then I went back into the studio and sat down in the chair and gradually emptied the entire bottle into my stomach, as I swallowed the wine and the rest of my tears.
The next morning I got up early and drove to the West Chestwick Funeral Home. I got there around 8:30 a.m. The place was very crowded. I saw Mayor Merton, and I saw several of the town selectmen, and seated in the front row were a middle-age couple, whom everybody was coming over to. Obviously they were Chuck’s parents, Ben and Nancy Wright. Ben looked like all his hopes and dreams had been robbed from him. He stared blindly at the closed coffin, even as people spoke to him. Nancy was crying into some tissues. She never stopped crying. The way I had never stopped crying the day before.
Standing on an easel next to the closed coffin was the photo of Chuck in his marine uniform shirt, his hand playing with his dog tags. The photo I had taken. So handsome.
By nine o’clock the place was really full. I found out later that they had closed the high school for the day, and a lot of his old teachers were there. They had been his parents’ colleagues, and his classroom teachers. Everyone had loved Chuck.
The mayor got up on the podium and began his eulogy, about how Chuck was a great patriot who had sacrificed his life in the service of his country. About what a wonderful son, what a wonderful friend, what a wonderful neighbor he had been. He offered his condolences to Ben and Nancy Wright on the loss of their beloved son. Then other people who had known Chuck came up to speak about him. Store owners, teachers, old classmates. Nancy kept crying into her tissue, and I again began to cry.
After the service, the family was going to accompany the body to West Chestwick cemetery where Chuck would be buried. I decided that I would not go to the graveyard. I had only known Chuck a little. I didn’t know any of these other people. But I was grieving so badly, I wanted to share my feelings with his parents. I went over to them, and said, “I’m so sorry for your loss. Chuck was such a wonderful young man.”
“Did you know him?” asked Nancy.
“Yes,” I said. “Just a little.” And then I pointed toward the photograph displayed on the easel. “I’m the town photographer,” I told them. “I took that picture.”
“Well, thank you,” said Ben. “Thank you for that beautiful photograph of our son. We will always treasure it.”
“Thank you,” I said, but before I left I shook Ben’s hand and I don’t know if I was being too familiar, but I leaned down and kissed Nancy on the cheek. She was Chuck’s mother, and I wanted to do that. I had loved her son.
I guess I will always wonder whether Chuck’s spirit had come to me that night in some miraculous way, or if it was all just some crazy dream, some wish-fulfilling delusion. It’s such a coincidence, though, that the night he came to me, or I imagined that he came to me, was the very night when his body had been shipped back to West Chestwick, which I hadn’t even known about until the next day.
And such a loss. My handsome Chuck. Gone forever. Now there was no longer even the possibility that I would make love to him some day. He was gone. He no longer existed. He had been robbed of his whole life. What a tragedy. My handsome young marine, with his sandy buzz cut, and his slate-blue eyes, and the dog tags around his neck. He was always tugging at them.