“I’ll read my books
and I’ll drink coffee
and I’ll listen to music,
and I’ll bolt the door.”
~J.D. Salinger, A Boy in France, 1945
“A Boy in France” is a short story by J.D. Salinger. It was first published in the Saturday Evening Post, March 31, 1945. Written so long ago, this story is fresh in its telling of the horrors of war.
In the story, a young American soldier finds refuge in a cold and wet, but unoccupied, German trench. As the boy settles in with a letter and newspaper from home, his imagination carries him away from the front lines to a quiet room with a book, a cup of coffee, and music.
“He was young, tired and half sick. But for a few minutes he forgot the misery of foxhole life while he reread a crumpled letter from home.”
The boy in France could be Salinger. Like his fictional character, Salinger served in some of the bloodiest battles of WW2. After returning home, he suffered the long-term psychological wounds of war.
He lay there, opening his eyes, till slowly but surely the little war thoughts, those that could not be disremembered, those that were not potentially and thankfully void, began to trickle back into his mind.
So many years later, PTSD is an epidemic problem for our modern military, and the many civilian victims of war around the world today. Too many plagued by Salinger’s “little war thoughts”… “that could not be disremembered…”
A Boy in France is a short, sweet and sobering read. So bolt the door, and make some coffee, and remember those who can’t forget.
Image credit: “The 2000 Yard Stare” by Thomas Lea, 1944, WW2