Rumpled and worn, just like his suit
Tom is 5’9" and about 150lbs. His eyes are always bloodshot, and his clothes are usually wrinkled. One look at him and you can tell he is someone who has the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. He is approachable and friendly, but even when he smiles there is always a shadow of something deeper and darker about his eyes.
My name is Tom, I am broke, a drunk, and slinging beer in a dirty speakeasy that isn’t even important enough for the police to raid. My life wasn’t always like this. Not too long ago I was an up and coming lawyer with a new job at one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston. I graduated near the top of my class from Harvard Law, and my future prospects looked great. I was engaged to my college sweetheart, and starting my first job. Then the Zimmerman telegram was intercepted, and the U.S. declared war on Germany, and I was drafted along with my younger brother Steven.
Ours was one of the first units to arrive in France, and after a little training, we were sent to the front. The first few months were pretty quiet on our front, then everything went to hell. Nightly barrages, massed charges, and death. All around me was nothing but sickness and death. I saw friend after friend die, some from bullets and shrapnel, others from disentary and disease. Between the mustard gas and the stench, one could barely breath. The human spirit can only take so much before it just gives up. I was well on my way there, when a particularly strong German force swarmed our trenches. My brain was in a fog, and I just stared as a German soldier dropped into the trench right in front of me and raised his bayonet.
From the corner of my eye I saw a blur, it is Steven, and he throws himself at the German. Sadly, the German saw him coming, and turned the bayonet on my brother and skewered him. Still I couldn’t move, I just watched the enemy soldier stab my brother two more times. I was brought out of my fog by the sound of whistles, and the German soldier climbed up the side of the trench, and ran back to his line. My legs were working again, and I moved to my brothers side, and began screaming for a medic. It was too late, he was already dead, and it was completely my fault. All I had to do was pull the trigger on my gun, and the German would have been dead, and my brother would still be here.
That kind of thing doesn’t leave you. It takes up permanent residence in your psyche, and slowly eats you up from the inside. After Steven’s death, I just moved around like a zombie, unless someone directed me, I just sat there, and routinely missed meals. It became clear to my superior officers that I was useless on the front line, and I was moved to a support role guarding supplies. With nothing to distract me from the pain, I began drinking. At first just a little bit to dull the pain during the day, but before long, I was drunk from sun up to sun down. The war ended before I could be court martial-ed, and I went back to Boston.
Back in Boston, things just got worse. Word of what happened the day Steven died arrived before I did, and everyone blamed me for his death. My older brother Wayne refused to talk to me, and my kid sister Susan just burst into tears when she saw me. Within a month I was fired from my job because of my drinking, and a few months after that my fiance left me. My parents did their best I suppose, but eventually even they got tired of having me around the house in Boston, so they suggested I go to Hansen were my Aunt is still living on the family farm.
With no other options, that is what I did. About 5 acres of the farm were mine, so I purchased a few horses, and started planting crops. That first planting season was disastrous, I spent too much time in town drinking, and the crops just withered in the field. I didn’t even bother planting the second season, and used most of my remaining money to buy a small house in town, right across from the only bar. The next few months were a complete blur. One morning I awoke on the floor of the bar looking up at Lee the owner. “Boy, if you want to kill yourself so badly, just do it already, and stop getting sick on my floor. Now, if, on the other hand, you still want to live, you need to find a reason to get out of bed every morning. I can offer you much, but since you seem to spend so much time here anyway, why don’t you start by cleaning the floors.”
My head hurt too bad to argue, so I grabbed a mop and started cleaning. I still spent most of my time drinking, but I managed to keep my senses about me most of the time. Before long Jonas gave me a shot at bar tending, and that went pretty well. There were a lot of people in town that needed help, and I began offering my legal expertise for those in need. I didn’t charge, but people would give me what they could afford. Sometimes it was some fresh produce, occasionally a chicken or pheasant, and one old coot even gave me his old truck. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Steven, and the hell that went on over there in France, but at least I have a reason for getting out of bed each morning.