The .45 was in the box it’d come in when the commanding general of the base at Quantico had awarded it to me. My wife had put it up, and as far back on the top shelf of our bedroom closet, as she could. She and Pat had taken Julie to the shopping center for some things I hadn’t been informed about. I pulled the box down and opened it. An eight-by-eleven shiny picture of the general handing me the automatic was the first thing I saw as I opened the special box. I carefully removed the Colt from the red velvet interior of the oak wood box. The words “Clark Custom, Shreveport, La.” burned once again into my forebrain. They were carved into the metal in cursive, not like the printing underneath that described the weapon itself. The Marine Corps Association had paid a lot of money to have the weapon specially accurized. I knew that because my dad had been in charge of the Coast Guard Pistol Team for years when I was younger. A Clark .22 or .45 was prized over all other accurized pieces for use in competition.

I sat with the Colt in my lap. It was the only weapon I’d touched since leaving the A Shau Valley. My right hand slowly, almost all on its own, curled around the grip. The gun was loaded with factory ball ammo since hollow points wouldn’t explode effectively at the relatively slow speed a .45 bullet travels. Possessing the Colt once more made me feel warm and secure, but, as I sat there breathing carefully in and out, I knew there was really no truth in that. Not for the place I’d returned to. There was no security in having a gun if using the gun would almost certainly involve going to prison, not to mention adding another to the many dead who haunted my waking, as well as nighttime, hours. I thought of the slime ball in the ward, who’d insulted both my wife and me. I’d shoot him in less than a heartbeat, and I’d shoot him several times, I knew. But I could not. I wasn’t in the A Shau anymore. I was a training command Marine who would shortly not be a Marine anymore at all. I looked at the front door, closed against the middle of the living room wall across from me. My bullet placement would be perfectly executed if that man came through the door under threatening conditions.

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