O’Malley wiped down the countertop. It was early afternoon and the place was empty. That is with the exception of the man who slumped on a corner table, head down, right hand holding an empty glass that was once full of beer.
O’Malley looked at the clock on the wall, grabbed a glass and began to pour. As the clock struck three the door opened and he heard a familiar voice.
“Hey O’Malley! A cold glass of Schlitz!”
“Here you go Charlie!” “O’Malley did you read today’s paper?”
“No I haven’t had time. Why?”
“I can’t believe he is our president! This is why I did not vote for him! I don’t think he is too bright and this proves it!”
“What did he do Charlie? Do you want another one?”
“Yeah, I’ll take another one! This stuff makes me thirsty. Here, let me read you this from today’s afternoon paper!”
WASHINGTON, Wednesday, April 11- President Truman early today relieved General of the Army Douglas MacArthur of all his commands in the Far East and appointed Lieut. Gen. Matthew B. Rigeway as his successor.
“Can you believe that! I bet you if Dewey had been president MacArthur would have marched straight up North Korea to China
and all the way to Russia! But what does Truman do? He relieves MacArthur. The hero of the Pacific! Didn’t he keep his
promised and returned to the Philippines!”
“He was no hero!” A feeble voice came from the slumped body.
“what did you say! O’Malley what did he say!”
“Charlie, let him be!”
“No! I want to know what he said. What does he have against MacArthur? What does a goddamn drunk know about heroes!”
“Charlie, please let it go!” “Why?” “He was there!”
“Bataan!” The voice grew stronger as the slumped man raised his head.
“I was in Bataan! He promised us reinforcements, artillery, planes, provisions and none of it came! We would have fought
to the last man for him had he not left us like bastard children! That’s what we were, the bastards of Bataan! Where was he
when we were force to march. Six days of sweltering heat and humidity! No water, no food for the first three days. Prodded like cattle. Trying not to scream as bayonets punctured the skin! Being hit on the back of our legs with the butts of rifles daring us to fall so they could shoot us dead! Jimmy get up! Come on I’ll help you! Hero! Tell that to those like Jimmy who died! At first I felt sorry for those bastards, their lives cut short by bullets, bayonets and the sharp edges of the samurai swords, but by the fourth day I wished I was one of them.
They were the lucky ones! No more hunger, illness or thirst just ever lasting peace! I was called a hero. I managed to escape! But between you, God and this beer it was not true! I could not walk anymore, just wanted to die! There was a commotion.
One of the filipinos darted for freedom and while he was being used as target practice I slipped and fell down a gully. Palmetto leaves covered me as I lay quiet, expecting a bullet or the thrust of a bayonet. Exhaustion took over and I passed out. I woke up in a filipino hut, hidden from the Japanese. I was fed and mended and then taken to the American resistance force. A hero? Look at me! Am I alive? Bataan, I am just a bastard from Bataan.”
“O’Malley is he OK!”
“He will be fine Charlie. I called his sister, she is picking him up. Want another beer, its on the house?”
“No! I am going home!” “Hey Charlie!” “What?” “You forgot your newspaper.”
O’Malley went back to cleaning the counter and washing glasses in preparation for the five o’clock crowd.
“Where is he?”
“Corner table as usual.”
How much do we owe you?”
“Nothing, it’s on the house.”
“You are a good man O’Malley. Come on Harold let’s go home?”
“OK Vicky. Is the war over?”
“Yes! At least for today Harold! At least for today!”