Maybe he was motherless–his dad beat him because he had her eyes, did it by the tracks so no one would hear him scream. Maybe he was hit by a train trying to rescue a small animal–a dog, probably, or maybe a kitten. Maybe he jumped a freighter out of town, ran away to join the circus. Maybe he lived three days with the elephant man before deciding to set sail as the youngest soldier in the American Navy. Maybe he was an orphan and a child thief, biding his time in the railyard before the police caught up with him. Maybe he never existed–he’s just part of the local lore. Whatever he was, he lingers by the train tracks. You can hear him in the clickety-clack of the wheels, see him in the engine’s steam.
He does not want to be here. He wants to be at home with his wife and infant son. He wants to sit beside the fire and to read and to get up in the morning and to work in the steel mill and to feel the glory of providing for his family. He wants to eat bread and warm soup and meat. He is sick of turnips. He does not want this war. He does not know why he is here, why he volunteered, what pride pushed him to the front. That pride has vanished. In this war, he has no name, no face. He is just another soldier, another almost-dead, for a country without a cause. He does not want the mud, the lice, the cold, the tedium, the vulnerability, the ache, the shit, the angry, the sad, the scared, the lonely. There is no glory in this war.