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Donna Flood
Where's the Cake?

If he held his arms stiff out with palms pressing against something, but nothing, as if he were holding a door shut, then maybe, he could stop the world from intruding upon him. By far, the bottle, ever available, was more and more his friend, and became his way of putting this guard between him and the need to face simple, trite; yet, unsolvable problems in the world around him.

As a fair young blond Adonis he had been trained to step into the Viet Nam war's ugliness. After all, that could be solved. Electronics, technology, air craft, militia, and many more great inventions made it into a possible task. The unity of trained men coming together gave the circumstances something to be worked toward as a group. It wouldn't be until later they found they had underestimated the enemy.

After retirement from the military there could have been a slowing down, and ending to reaching up, but the drive built into the man by society would not let that happen. There was, after all, the possibility of education. He went forward then, working and striving, pushing until he accomplished his goal, which allowed him to be rewarded with good paying employment.

Now today, here he was at the place where he had been dropped. Wielding a sword, fighting, struggling for victory for nation and for self was quickly removed from him, like a magician jerking a scarf away for the observer to no longer see a white rabbit, who had just been at that spot. Instead of glory and medals, here he was left with the bland realities of the nuances of a simple conservative society, set up and controlled years before by another status quo.

For those who had lived among the two's and three's of the area, they had learned to gather to themselves their own ways of balancing their lives, something akin to a boy playing with a roly poly bug. It might not be a great achievement, but it kept away boredom and after all, was something there to do, to give a feeling of power and accomplishment. Touch the bug, watch it roll up, protect itself.

All at once Stan realized he had been dropped not by parachute, but by circumstances, into a war zone. Oh, there were no visible evidences of such. For anyone looking on, certainly there was total peaceful living. The shock was that the war was a cold war. There were no lines of demarcation, no them, no us, no enemy, and who were your friends? He turned this way, that way, trying to establish a plan for attack only to be nipped here and there with annoying issues, for which he could not cope, since he had no training for the battle at hand. The more he worked at the problem the more it became like a straight jacket, holding him securely with no hope of escape. The people who had been his valued models were now the ones who could do nothing more than hand him a drink.

Stan slept a deep sleep, one to be brought on only by a drunken stupor.

If his mother and his father slipped through his unconsciousness in dreams of another day when they were living, his mind only could reach out to them, but not touch them. They had put this personality into the man and it had served him, up until now. How could he do anything, but in a manly way reflect upon losing them so close together in time?

As was the way of the women in the town, who were sometimes like children. No! Not even children, but more like infants. They were like a baby who sees something transpiring before them with no way of helping or harming the outcome. It was with this mentality they discussed Stan's slipping away from them.

Arlene shook her head in a worried way. "He looks bad." "He does."

"He is listening to all the wrong people." "They are sharks grasping up every little parcel and crumb." Arlene looked truly at a loss.

"I know." Jessica agreed. "I know." "There is no way out for him."

Jessica felt very alone, helpless, and totally unable to even hold out a hand to an old friend. The world had become too complex for them all. What could she say? How could she place in his hands a key. The life and living of the small community had hundreds of variables built into it. The sometimes fickle ways of it could not be taught, no matter what dreams anthropologist, mental health clinics, or even good hearted people had.

When Jessica walked away from the meeting held by recovered alcoholic men and women, certainly nothing was sure and solved. However, now, after hearing these dedicated men and women, who were clean and standing tall in a battle against an abstract, warlike, enemy, she all at once began to feel a little lightening of the sorrow that had rested upon her shoulders. They emphasized the "God thing," or necessity for prayer.

"I can't do anything else." She sighed. "I can do that, and I will."

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