Prompt Sixty-Seven

You are a military officer responsible for going to people’s homes to tell them that a family member has died in combat, is a prisoner of war, injured, missing in action, and the like. Describe one of the notification scenes.

I stood quietly on the sidewalk, staring up the front walkway to the white house at the end. The lawn was empty and perfectly manicured. The swing on the porch swayed lazily in the breeze. I could see movement in one of the first floor windows and knew Mrs. Carter was home.

Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself and walked up the path to the front porch. I rung the doorbell and waited. Light and hurried footsteps made their way in my direction. The door opened and on the threshold stood not Mrs. Carter but a young boy of maybe five or six.

“Billy!” called a breathless voice from the other room. “What did I tell you about answering the door?” A woman entered the hallway and approached the front door. She smiled apologetically at me but it quickly disappeared as she took in my uniform to be replaced by a look of concern and fear. It was an expression I was all too familiar with.

“Mrs. Carter,” I began, watching her place her hands on her son’s shoulders.

“W-why don’t you go upstairs and play, Billy,” the other woman said, her voice shaking. The little boy ran away and I could hear his footsteps ascend the staircase.

“Mrs. Carter,” I said again now that I had her full attention. “I’m sorry to inform you that your husband Lieutenant Colonel Carter died in the line of duty.”

Her reaction was immediate. Her eyes swelled with tears, she covered her trembling lips with her hands, and she sank to the floor as her heaved with sobs. No matter how many times I had seen this happen I was still not used to this sight. My heart broke every time I watched another’s break.

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