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Unformatted text preview: chosen to run
straight at me.
A SMALL BUT NOTEWORTHY NOTE
I’ve seen so many young men
over the years who think they’re
running at other young men.
They are not.
They’re running at me. He’d been in the fight for almost six months when he ended up in France, where, at face value, a strange event
saved his life. Another perspective would suggest that in the nonsense of war, it made perfect sense.
On the whole, his time in the Great War had astonished him from the moment he entered the army. It was like a
serial. Day after day after day. After day:
The conversation of bullets.
The best dirty jokes in the world.
Cold sweat—that malignant little friend—outstaying its welcome in the armpits and trousers.
He enjoyed the card games the most, followed by the few games of chess, despite being thoroughly pathetic at
it. And the music. Always the music.
It was a man a year older than himself—a German Jew named Erik Vandenburg—who taught him to play the
accordion. The two of them gradually became friends due to the fact that neither of them was terribly interested
in fighting. They preferred rolling cigarettes to rolling in snow and mud. They preferred shooting craps to
shooting bullets. A firm friendship was built on gambling, smoking, and music, not to mention a shared desire
for survival. The only trouble with this was that Erik Vandenburg would later be found in several pieces on a
grassy hill. His eyes were open and his wedding ring was stolen. I shoveled up his soul with the rest of them and
we drifted away. The horizon was the color of milk. Cold and fresh. Poured out among the bodies.
All that was really left of Erik Vandenburg was a few personal items and the fingerprinted accordion.
Everything but the instrument was sent home. It was considered too big. Almost with self-reproach, it sat on his
makeshift bed at the base camp and was given to his friend, Hans Hubermann, who happened to be the only
man to survive.
HE SURVIVED LIKE THIS
He didn’t go into batt...
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- Winter '13