Of all the things in the world how could he possibly forget about the barrels. They had been given to him to hide and protect and he had forsaken his vow. His belly rolled at the thought of what might happen if they were opened. His grandson's friend had given him quite a scare when he mentioned them at dinner tonight.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid", he cursed himself. They must be taken care of immediatley. He had left the dinner table early and called his one true friend.
Verlin Buchey was at the VFW as ususal. He drank a bit more than he ought to but he was reliable. Not once in 50 years of friendship had Verlin let him down. They had both been in the war and shared a common bond. Verlin was there to help him start his business after they had returned home. He told Verlin to sit tight and he would be right down. He could use a stiff drink right about now.
As he entered the parking lot he noticed the place was running on empty. Strange for a Saturday night. It was ususally crawling with old vets swilling beer and adding on to their war tales that had grown, who knows how long after 40 years. The place was dim and the smoke lingered at eye level. He snorted. The smoke tickled his nose and reminded him of his 2 pack a day habit that had almost killed him. He had been tobacco free for 9 years now. The only guilt he felt was a long fine cigar he occasionally smuggled, out of sight of his wife. Of course she smelled it so he always made it a point to stop here before he went home to disguise the smell with cheap beer and cigarette smoke.
Tonight there was only 5 other patrons. One sat at the bar nursing a scotch. Two were seated at the table nearest the juke box and appeared to be engaged in a game of checkers. Two more were seated at the table by the bingo ball machine. The thing looked like a giant gumball machine and he wished they would at least cover it up when it wasn't bingo night. The thing drove him nuts. Every time he saw it he was reminded of the time Margaret talked him into bingo night. He was seated in this very room surrounded by a hundred nags. Each one hovered over their bingo boards like a child hiding his precious test papers from the kid in the next row. It was confusing and he had a hard time following the numbers. As the evenening pressed on he was able to follow better and won the 8th drawing of the night and was presented with multiple evil eye stares and quiet curses from the addicts around him. He never played again.
At this table sat Verlin accompanied by Frank Coscarelli. Frank had been around longer than his self or Verlin and was friendly to most. However he was Italian and very prone to anger if the wrong joke snuck out. Which was hard to do because most jokes have Italians, Jews or Polocks in them. He sat down and ordered a Jack and Coke,"lite on the Coke", he told the barkeep. "How are ya Frank?", he asked.
"Square as the first wheel", he answered. "I was just waitin for you to get here so I could go home", he said.
"Didn't want to leave Frenchy here on his own ", he smirked. "Might start drinking wine or something".
At that he quietly stood up and left the table. He was followed out the door by a simple,"Wop ya later", administered by Verlin.
" So what 's goin on that brings you here on a Saturday night when I know sweet little Margaret has something on the supper table?", he asked me. "I need your help", I told him.
He then proceeded to tell him about how he was left in charge of the empty barrels from the war and how we, the remaining members of sixth platoon, had smuggled them all the way back from Indochina. He told him there was an awful chemical or something in those barrels and we were afraid to let them back into the wrong hands. We had picked them up en route to Saipan and the outpost where they had been created had been bombed by the Japs. Nothing remained of the site except the barrels on board ship. We were afraid that the government might be able to copy the horrific contents. We made a pact on that island to never let them fall into the wrong hands.
Verlin asked why they had been just sitting in the barn for all these years. He explained that he had meant to take care of them but when he returned stateside the first thing he did was hide them. The second thing
he did, and perhaps the most dangerous, was to forget them. Now they were in the open again. Almost calling, begging to be opened. He knew that two of them were empty but the third contained a small amount left in the bottom of the barrel. He didn't know what type of damage they could do but he didn't want to find out. We discussed different ideas on how to get rid of them. Only one truly stuck in our head and we agreed to start on it tomorrow morning. He finished his drink and bid farewell to Verlin.