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Thursday, January 13, 2011

38. Guns

C.W. called Monday morning and inquired if the wife was there. When I said no, he asked if he could come over. This was strange on two counts. First, I had never heard him sound so grave. Second, it was totally unlike him to ask permission. Usually he just barges in. I said come on.

When he arrived, he was in the shape of a World War Two army officer, complete with bloused trousers indicating paratrooper status.

“Request permission to enter,” he said. He was as solemn as I had ever seen him.

“Permission granted,” I said. I still wasn’t sure whether or not he was carrying out some joke.

He walked in, removed his hat, and eased into a chair while maintaining a perfectly straight posture.

“Coffee?” I said.

“Nothing, thank you.” He took a long time gathering his thoughts. Finally he said, “I suppose you heard about Dick Winters … Major Dick Winters.”

“Yes,” I said. “He died a couple of days ago.” As most folks know, Richard Winters was the real soldier who inspired the creation of the lead character of the TV mini-series, “Band of Brothers.” He was a member, and ultimate commander, of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He and his comrades make the jump behind German lines as part of the Normandy Invasion. His unit also survived the encirclement of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

“Damned shame,” he said. “Good officer. Should have gotten the Medal of Honor.”

“Yes,” I said. “But why the interest and get-up?” I immediately regretted saying it. This was a C.W. I had not known before and the hurt in his eyes seemed real.

“Know what he said when the war was over?” he said.

“What?”

“That he wanted to find a quiet peaceful place to spend the rest of his life. He also said he would never harm another living creature.” He paused and thought for a moment. “They say he stuck to the promise.”

I sat in my chair and didn’t say anything.

“I guess you heard about the shooting out in Arizona as well?”

I had. A mentally disturbed man had opened fire at a meeting held by a politician. He had killed six people and wounded a number of others, including the politician.

“What’s with your country and the use of handguns?” he said.

“I don’t know.”

“This, this …” he struggled for words. “This obsession isn’t showing up in other countries, from my studies and those of my colleagues in other sectors.”

“I don’t know,” I repeated.

“Dick, he was a first rate warrior when he had to be.”

“Yes.”

“Afterwards, he didn’t seem to have a lot of use for violent hobbies.”

“No,” I said. “And that seems to be true of many who faced war and survived.”

“This weapon used in Arizona,” he said.

“What about it?”

“It has no other practical appeal than to inflict damage on a victim?”

Richard Winters
“As far as I know.”

“No sports application?”

“No.”

“Just a desire to inflict harm?”

“I’m afraid you are right.”

“What then? What causes this uncommon fondness for firearms?”

“There are those who correlate it with the relative size of a male’s penis.” I tried to lighten the conversation a little.

But he took me seriously. “That wouldn’t explain women like this Sarah Palin," he said. He thought about it for a few seconds and then added, “Of course there is this supposed female motivator called ‘penis envy.’”

“Don’t tell anyone that I said that,” I said.

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