The Army was requesting information from Rufus Harms, a failed and forgotten private
from the era of Vietnam. Detailed information. Information Harms had no way of giving. His
finger navigating true even without light, Harms touched the place in the letter that had
first aroused fragments of memory drifting within him all these years. These particles had
generated the incapacitation of endless nightmare, but the nucleus had seemed forever
beyond him. Upon first reading the letter, Harms had dipped his head low to the paper, as
though trying to reveal to himself the hidden meanings in the typewritten squiggles, to
solve the greatest mystery of his mortal life. Tonight, those twisted fragments had
suddenly coalesced into firm recollection, into the truth. Finally.
Until he read the letter from the Army, Harms had only two distinct memories of that
night twenty-five years ago: the little girl; and the rain. It had been a punishing storm,
much like tonight. The girl's features were delicate; the nose only a bud of cartilage;
the face as yet unlined by sun, age or worry; her staring eyes blue and innocent, the
ambitions of a long life ahead still forming within their simple depths. Her skin was the
white of sugar, and unblemished except for the red marks crushed upon a neck as fragile as
a flower stem. The marks had been caused by the hands of Private Rufus Harms, the same
hands that now clutched the letter as his mind careened dangerously close to that image
Whenever he thought of the dead girl he wept, had to, couldn't help it, but he did so
silently, with good reason. The guards and cons were buzzards, sharks, they sniffed blood,
weakness, an opening, from a million miles away; they saw it in the twitch of your eyes,
the widened pores of your skin, even in the stink of your sweat. Here, every sense was
heightened. Here, strong, fast, tough, nimble equaled life. Or not.
He was kneeling beside her when the MPs found them. Her thin dress clung to her
diminutive frame, which had receded into the saturated earth, as though she had been
dropped from a great height to form the shallowest of graves. Harms had looked up at the
MPs once, but his mind had registered nothing more than a confusion of darkened
silhouettes. He had never felt such fury in his life, even as the nausea seized him, his
eyes losing their focus, his pulse rate, respiration, blood pressure all bottoming out. He
had gripped his head as if to prevent his bursting brain from cleaving through the bone of
his skull, through tissue and hair, and exploding into the soaked air.
When he had looked down once more at the dead girl, and then at the pair of twitching
hands that had ended her life, the anger had drained from him, as though someone had
jerked free a plug embedded within. The functions of his body oddly abandoning him, Harms
could only remain kneeling, wet and shivering, his knees sunk deeply into the mud. A black
high chieftain in green fatigues presiding over a small pale-skinned sacrifice, was how
one stunned witness would later describe it.
The next day he would come to learn the little girl's name: Ruth Ann Mosley, ten years
old, from Columbia, South Carolina. She and her family had been visiting her brother, who
was stationed at the base. On that night Harms had only known Ruth Ann Mosley as a corpse,
small--tiny, in fact--compared to the stunning breadth of his six-foot-five-inch,
three-hundred-pound body. The blurred image of the rifle butt that one of the MPs smashed
against his skull represented the last mental sliver Harms carried from that night. The
blow had dropped him to the ground right next to her. The girl's lifeless face pointed
upward, collecting droplets of rain in every still crevice. His face sunken into the mud,
Rufus Harms saw nothing more. Remembered nothing more.
U.S. ebook sales up in 2012, but rate of growth is slowing(May 16 2013) In 2012, trade book sales (i.e. non academic book sales) rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth...