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Mortal Wounds

by Eddie Jeffrey

One night, at the age of nine and nearly three quarters, with the covers pulled over his head, reading by flashlight the dirty book that had been making the rounds at school, Richard Aldinger, quite to his astonishment, experienced his first orgasm. A few months later, when he was ten going on twenty, playing Army with some friends, he fell out of his sniper’s lookout, a crabapple tree he had climbed countless times before. It being a crabapple tree, he did not have far to fall, and he did not suffer any broken bones, merely a tiny scratch on his head just above his right ear. It bled so profusely, however, that it sent first his friends into shock and then Richard Aldinger into hysterics. “I’m too young to die!” he yelled, and took off running for home. “I’m too young to die! I’m too young to die!” His mother heard him and came through the kitchen door and into the backyard to see what all the commotion was about. She saw the right side of his head, his neck, and his shoulder covered in blood. She ran to him and caught him and screamed for Richard Aldinger’s father to call an ambulance, but Richard Aldinger’s father, who had served two tours in Vietnam, laughed and said it was probably just a scratch, there was nothing to get bent out of shape about, that the boy would be fine. Upon hearing this, Richard Aldinger, who idolized his father, made a brief, though valiant, attempt at transforming what he had perceived only a millisecond previously as a mortal wound into a mere toddler’s boo-boo unworthy even of the tiniest of band aids. He failed miserably by fainting. When he came to, his mother was cradling his head in her lap in the back seat of their station wagon. Richard Aldinger saw his father’s face reflected in the rearview mirror as he drove, a half-smoked cigarette protruding from the corner of his mouth. His eyes never left the road.

Eddie Jeffrey’s father retired from the Army in 1987 and served two tours in Vietnam with the 18th Engineer Brigade. Eddie earned an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2009 and lives near Baltimore, MD with his wife, daughter, and two dogs. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming with Copaiba Press, Thrice Fiction, Chaffey Review, Murky Depths, JazzTimes, and The Alexandria Times, and he is a reader for Baltimore Review.

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