"Mamá, Mamá, dónde está?" he murmured.
Delaney went to the boy and sat beside him. The boy's need and uncertainty - perhaps even fear - were almost tangible. He patted the boy on the back, swift, steady pats like an extra pulse, and spoke in a low voice. It's all right, boy. You're safe here. You will eat. You will sleep. Your mama will be back. But as the child's sobs ended, Delaney could sense unspoken questions rising in the warming air: Where am I, and who is this man, and where is my mother? He placed his hand fi rmly on the boy's back, steadying him the way he had steadied so many people who were injured, hurting, confused, and full of fear. On beds all over the neighborhood. At last the child fell into sleep.
The clock told Delaney it was two thirty-seven in the afternoon. The end of a very long morning. He stood up as silently as possible and put some fresh coals on the fi re. And now? What now? The letter. I must read the letter from Grace. He fought off a shimmer of dread by thinking only of the immediate needs of the boy. I can lay out a bed for him on the floor, made of blankets and pillows, just for tonight. Or take him to one of the two bedrooms upstairs. But what if he wakes up in the dead of night? I can't have him roaming the stairs in the dark. Christ . . .
His own exhaustion was eating at him now. As he undressed and donned pajamas, he wondered about Eddie Corso. About who shot him and why. About whether he would live. As always, questions but no answers. He'd have to wait. The nuns had taken Eddie into their consoling hands. Now he had other things to do. Or one big thing. He had to read the fucking letter.
Copyright © 2007 by Pete Hamill
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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