How could I not I remember when, as a boy of 10 or so on one of those summer VFW clambakes Dad used to take the family to, I was playing softball with the men – I suppose they were trying to make a man of me – I hit the ball, ran hard for first and the strong peg from short hit me solidly on the left temple.
All the men said it was ok, no big deal, the way men in ballgames do after a few beers and heavy action in the hot sun, with steamed clams, corn on the cob and more beer in the offing, but none of them knew what I knew: that Jimmy P’s older brother, one of the godly older guys of those childhood days, had recently died in his sleep after being struck on the temple by a baseball thrown to first.
None of the men – though all had just returned from horrors of war unimaginable on the directly personal level – knew that, even as I stood there safe on first, the shadow of death was falling over me in the golden sunlight: I could see the grinning skull beneath the hood of darkness that this very night would come for me, that would take me into its bony embrace; none but I knew that this was my last day on earth, this moment – and this – and this – each the last of its kind, ticking away unstoppable…
The men went on playing in carefree survivor cameraderie as I stood there dying toward the night that would come as surely as all ends come. I had no words to say to their words, felt no joy in their joy, it was all over for me, my number was up; I beheld the mere veneer that being was, all this play and heedlessness of what was truly going on always in the depths of moments, a mere ten years of life passing before my eyes, a state of mind that went on until I realized once more that all the soda at the clambake was free!
My life has been gravy ever since.