Black sedan pulls to curb
Quick death of engine
Two military uniforms unfold
Black dress shoes march up steps
Doorbell chimes warning
Your son, your son

My husband’s hand reaches
For the brass knob
No, I want to scream
Don’t open it

I back step into living room
Oven mitt on each hand
Sit on edge of couch, muscles rigid
This is not happening, I reassure myself
Not here, not this house

Low voices at door
My eyes dart around room
Find comfort from photo on mantle
A little boy smiles back
My heart thumps wildly

My husband leads the men inside
To me
He sits down, grips my arm
His face already crumpled, wet with tears

Don’t they know it’s almost dinner time
These men with thin-lined mouths
Furrowed brows, slow gestures
Supper will burn

One shuffles his feet
Mr. and Mrs.…
We’re so sorry…

I stare at the black mole on his left cheek
Its irregular edges
Pale, smooth skin surrounds it
This grown boy whose lips move
Won’t stop moving

Shot down, enemy territory, killed in combat…

Strange hum begins in my throat
Fills my ears
Blocks out all sounds
The room, house, neighborhood

I shake my head back, forth
A mistake, I tell myself
Avert my eyes back to the little boy
Just a visit
Everything is fine
My son is fine

My husband jerks forward
Oh, God, he cries
Both men grab for his shoulders
He collapses to knees, hands
Body shaking, heaving
He retches violently onto white carpet

God, indeed, I want to swear
A foul-smelling mess
I race to kitchen for paper towels
Wonder what has come over him
In front of company, no less

I’ll never get that stain out.

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