Cecelia scattered yellow, crimson, and orange leaves into the Pohantas River below the frozen banks. All night, she had huddled inside the abandoned brick electric company station. Pleasantville, ironically named, had been abandoned after all the factories had closed and relocated to third world countries where labor was cheap and easily exploited.
She drew her U.S. Army jacket closer to her sides. Ten years earlier, as an eighteen year old, she had escaped the humdrum existence of her hometown. Now, she yearned for that existence, but nothing except abandoned store fronts and burned-out factories remained.
Grandma and Grandpa Hutchinson’s gravestones marked the end of her family’s bloodline. They had raised her to be patriotic, to love God, and to love family. And, she did. Her Silver Star for Bravery in Battle had floated down the cold Pohantas River and careened over a rotted log. Her frost-bitten fingers, the night before, had struggled to hold onto that one concrete vestige of the person she had been at twenty-two.
Squatting down on a tree log, she watched rays of sunlight scatter along the tree line in the far distance, just beyond the hills. How had her life come to this? She rolled the question around in her head. Hadn’t she done everything right? Hadn’t she bravely served her country?
Her stomach ached from hunger pangs. She no longer felt her toes inside her wet tennis shoes. Ice had formed a layer over them. Inside her left hand, she held onto a yellow leaf, unable to toss it. Numbness had finally claimed her hands.
Lying back against a tree trunk, she pulled the U.S. Army jacket closer around herself. Frozen raindrops turned to snowflakes. Above her, a nightingale tweeted its song, fluttered its brown wings, and hopped to the lower branch. A blanket of snow laid itself across her.
Her final thought was of living in a musical snow globe. “Thank you for your service. . .” played inside her head.
Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2022
Note: In my community, I have noticed an increase in homelessness. I have noticed an uptick in the number of homeless people holding signs noting that they are homeless veterans. Of course, I have no way of verifying the truthfulness of their veteran status one way or the other. I found a website which I am including here. According to their website, an estimated 40,056 veterans are homeless in the United States each night. This statistic was cited from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. On the website, there are statistics about the root cause of homelessness among veterans. There is also a toll free number provided for veterans who need help.
My short story is written to put a face on homelessness. I tried to envision how a homeless veteran would feel returning home to a small town that had been essentially abandoned due to outsourcing of jobs. Driving through small towns in the United States there are a lot of abandoned towns with boarded up buildings. This is unfortunately the case for many urban areas, as well.
Ask yourself how you can help the homeless population in your community. Ask yourself how you can advocate for our veterans who gave so much for us and our freedom.
Thank you for reading. Please reach out to veterans in your own families and your communities. Leave a comment if you feel so inclined.
God’s blessings to all.