It was a spring day—Margie took a basket of wet clothes out on the porch and gulped in the warmth and freshness of the air. The only thing troubling her in this fine weather was that she had not received a letter from Lee in quite some time. But she heard about all the great Allied victories across Germany, and was somewhat relieved, thinking that he was probably too busy ending the war to write letters—and he would be coming home soon anyways.
She walked out to the front yard where the clothesline hung, and started pinning garments to the line, happily watching them flap in the breeze. Margie smiled to hear Lovely mooing contentedly from the barnyard, enjoying the spring weather also. She laughed a little to think of herself out in the sun laboring like the other farm women she had so dreaded—and despite her fears she was becoming like them, and strangely, she didn’t seem to mind. She understood why they stayed on their farms, it was their land, and it felt good to work the earth, to raise crops and keep animals.
Margie looked up from her work and frowned to see a man walking down the lane. It wasn’t Avery, and she couldn’t think of anyone else she knew who would be coming. All the men were busy out in their fields. She didn’t want a stranger interrupting the quiet pleasure of a spring day. He was walking very slowly, it was odd to watch.
And then he came closer, and she gasped. It looked like Lee—but it couldn’t be him.
She walked out towards the lane to see him better.
He waved and shouted,
“Margie—I am back!”
She ran towards him, the moist earth like a sponge under her feet. As she approached him she noticed his arm was in a sling, but was too happy to worry about it.
“Lee, you’re here! I didn’t think you would ever come back.” He wrapped his good arm around her and kissed her face, both of them laughing with joy.
“I didn’t think I would ever make it either—but I am home now.”
They stood still for a few minutes, just looking at each other and trying to recover the lost months. Finally they walked down the lane together, hand in hand, like they had come home on their wedding day.
“What happened to your arm?” she asked as they neared the house.
He sighed and looked troubled.
“Oh, I’ll tell you about it later, I want to see the farm first.”
So she led him down to the barn to see Lovely, and to see the newly hatched chicks. They looked at the garden, some brave vegetables already peering up through the still-cold earth. She pointed to the clothes blowing on the clothesline. They sat on the porch steps together, smelling the scents of spring.
Avery soon appeared, and was sent to get Eva and Wilson so they could all celebrate together.
It was very late before Wilson, Eva and Avery said good-bye and headed for their own home. Margie was sitting beside Lee, tracing patterns with her finger on his arm.
“You said you were going to tell me what happened to your arm,” she reminded him gently.
“Yes, yes, I know. I will.”
They were silent.
Finally he began.
“It was in a small village, and I got in a fight with a loony man. He had a knife, and…and, well, he did a lot of damage to my hand. By the time we got a doctor to look at it, there was too much infection, and they had to amputate it.”
“Oh, Lee…I am so sorry…” she whispered.
“No, Margie, that’s not all.”
She looked up, surprised.
“Would you call me a coward for escaping something that I believe is wrong?”
“I don’t think so,” she answered slowly, not sure what he meant.
“Something else happened in that village,” he continued. “We were sweeping across Germany, and winning. But we had to be careful. Although they were losing, we couldn’t afford to make mistakes. This village where I was wounded—Elsteraue—is where they decided we would make a base for supplies. We didn’t want moles—people to spy on us and report to the Germans about our every move. So we had to search the village and get them all out of there. I was sent to a house a couple miles out of town. We wouldn’t have known it was there except there was a light shining in the window. So I went to see what it was. There was a woman in the house, no one else. I don’t know if I can explain this…it sounds so strange now. But that woman looked just like you. Her eyes, her hair, everything, just like you. And her name was the same. Her husband called her Margie too. She was waiting for her husband to return from the war—he was fighting for the Germans of course. They had a farm, and she started telling me about how she was waiting for him to come home so they could grow a garden together, and plant the fields…Margie, I just couldn’t make her leave. I couldn’t stop thinking of you, waiting for me here on our farm. I realized what the war was all about—how could we be fighting evil when we forced innocent women off their land? I would be outraged if some country came over here and did that to you while I was away. How can we say this is a moral war when we’re killing thousands of children and women? And that old man who hurt my hand—Ralph and the other soldiers killed him.”
“But of course they should have, look at what he did to you,” Margie interrupted.
“No, I am not done yet. So I left that woman in her house, I didn’t make her leave—how could I? And I realized I couldn’t keep fighting, I couldn’t pretend we were doing a noble thing. So when I saw that crazy man waving the knife, I provoked him. I made him hurt me. I did it on purpose. I could have stopped him, I could have grabbed the knife from his hands, he was just an old man, I could have easily overpowered him. But I didn’t. I let him plunge that knife into my hand—my right hand. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fight again. But I didn’t know they would amputate my hand. But that’s what happened. And so how could I fight, without a right hand? They sent me home, since I was worthless.”
They were both silent.
“My only regret is that Ralph killed that man. It wasn’t his fault, it was mine for provoking him to do it. So now what do you think of me? I didn’t want to tell you earlier, I wanted a few happy hours with you, before you knew what a coward I was.”
She smiled and put her arm around him.
“How could I think you were a coward? Not many men would be that brave. You’re my hero, Lee, I am proud of you. How can a man be a coward for standing for what he believes in? And what man could be a coward for sacrificing his pride, his position, and even his body for what he knows is right?”