Clara was not quite 5 that day in 1954 while she sat in her bedroom playing with her doll. The sun was shining happily through her windows, and she was singing to herself about a very small spider and a water spout. At first, she was oblivious to the yelling outside. She’d heard it all before. 65 years later, though, she would look back to that day and continue to wonder.
She would remember the feeling of her head snapping up when she heard the car door slam far more loudly than it ever had before. She would never be able to remember the words she heard, but she would be quite certain they were unfit for a 4 year old. She sat there for a full minute, frozen just a little by the unexpected excitement.
Her father had been away in the War for most of her life, and she’d known him a little less than a year, or, just over 20% of the time she had been inhabiting this planet. He yelled often, and often in the middle of the night. Clara’s mother feared him. Clara never did. She didn’t really understand fear. And yet…
The sound of her mother screaming, “No!” frightened her. The sound came from within the house.
His haggard face appeared at the window first. A moment later his hands appeared on the sides of his face, and his large, frightened eyes began to squint. Clara would later believe he wanted to make sure she was there. One hand was empty. In the other was an M1911, or a Colt Government. It caught a spark of sunlight before it, the hands, and the face disappeared.
It was the way the red splashed the window that she thought, for just the tiniest moment, was pretty. She was deaf for nearly a minute, and then her ears were ringing while she cried into her doll baby. By the time her mother found Clara, the doll was dripping.
No ghost was necessary. Her father was more real than any ghost could ever be. When he approached her, smiling, she felt a tinge of joy. When he held up the gun, she closed her eyes, but since her eyes were already closed, it did nothing to obscure the image from her view. The memory was stronger than any darkness could hide. When he put the gun in his mouth, she screamed and woke herself up.
Clara sat alone in her bed, shivering. A memory she could hardly remember had haunted her for 65 years. She longed for an escape that could never come.
She remembered the stories. Foul play was involved. No, that wasn’t true. Mom had found a suicide note in his own handwriting. It discussed the Napalm he had dropped on other human beings. It discussed a deep self loathing. It said the death toll from the Korean War would never be accurately calculated. She wondered if hers would be counted.