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I said nothing, but she went on, "When they raised the flag, MacArthur sang . . ." And she launched into a rendition of My Country Tis of Thee. I thought she would fizzle out after ". . . of thee" but she knew the all words and finished the song.

She told me about the war: the ships, the Americans, the Australians, the Japanese, the dead, the living, the wounded, the food shortages, the starving . . . and lots more about MacArthur.

"What state are you from?" she asked.

Now she had me. No matter what I said she would want to know if I knew her American boyfriend of 50 years ago.

"Queensland," I said.

"I don't know that state, is it near California?"

"No, it's in Australia."

"Oh, you're Australian then. I had a boyfriend from Australia, he was from Sydney, perhaps you know him."

Well ... I almost knew it.

She invited me to the park to talk about her long lost boyfriend, but I suddenly remembered an urgent appointment.

"Oh, you're in a hurry. Well good-bye, I pray to God that I will see you again."

I walked a block before looking back. She was shuffling slowly down the road in her blue shawl, still clutching the plastic water bottles, and I suppose, thinking of her boyfriend of 50 years ago.

 

Allan Miller, December 2008

  Copyright © 1995 Allan Miller

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