Some of these characters and settings are created by others, particularly the commissioner of the work.
Dinner had been lovely, but then, dinner was always a pleasure at the Hawthorn residence. Wade always enjoyed his time here–it was so much more pleasant that the rest of his time in town, constantly struggling to fill his quota of new recruits to send off to the jungles in the east. Here, in this beautiful antebellum manor, it was like nothing was wrong at all–no war, no protests, no riots. While he was certain that the Hawthorns kept up with the news, they made no mention of unpleasant topics over dinner conversation. Everything was bright, the conversation easy, the wine flowing. He did his best to not get too caught up in the ease, however–a wealthy man like Mr. Beauregard Hawthorne the Third didn’t invite a man like Wade, a hound mutt with nothing prestigious going for him beyond his position as the county’s army recruiter, which, in a time of war such as this, could open the strangest of doors, at times.
Now, however, dinner was finished, and Wade had retired to the study with the family patriarch for a glass of bourbon and a pipe–and for a chat, Wade assumed. He tugged the cuff of his dress uniform straight–Beauregard Hawthrorn showed him to a firm armchair and poured him a glass of bourbon. They chatted about the town for a bit, and a little about the war. Both of them knew what the chat was really about, however–the draft. This was not the first wealthy family that had welcomed Wade into their home, to plead for him to keep their sons from having to enlist. He found the conversations rather exhausting at this point, only because they had all grown so desperate. And so, he waited for the elderly hound to make his pitch.
“They should have never allowed camera over there. War never looks nice through a lens. I, for one, don’t need a play by play of how many we’ve lost, and where. All we should be hearing is about how we’re winning,” Beauregard said with a huff, blowing a cloud of smoke from his snout as he did. “I’m not surprised, really. Most of the men of character were lost in the great wars, after all. All we have now are cowards who pretend at honor, but wouldn’t know it if it was looking them right in the eye. Cowards, and men looking to make a buck off the young men doing the real work of fighting off the stinking commies. If you ask me, the press is in on it. They’re trying to undermine national morale! They’d be perfectly happy to let a red fleet sail right into San Francisco–they’d broadcast it as a great victory for America!”
He continued on like this for quite some time, and Wade only half listened. He’d heard it all before, after all, the last time he’d been over here for dinner half a year back. Wade generally considered himself to be paid well enough by the army to have patience with men like Beauregard, and he threw in an occasional courteous nod at all the right pauses. It wasn’t polite, after all, to disagree with your guests about that sort of thing in these parts. Civility, after all, seemed to be the only thing holding the country together these days.
Not that Wade was a communist by any stretch. No, Wade was, more than anything else, tired. Tired, jaded by war, sick of sending more and more men away, only for his superiors to demand ever larger quotas from him. It was easier to grow cold to it, to keep your emotions locked up tight. Desperation could be contagious, and he liked his position–besides, he had a family to support. It only bothered him slightly, that the young men he shoved onto the bus each day were only a few years older than his son. More likely than not, he’d get sent off too, just as he had been. War was, more than anything, a business, and Wade was tasked with finding the raw materials to keep the machine humming along, wherever they ended up fighting.
Beau heaved a sigh, and for a moment, Wade wondered if he was finished, and what he might say. Thankfully, he continued, sparing him the effort. “I was one of them, I should say. When I was younger. Idealistic. I thought I knew how things worked. I thought we could all get along. It takes war to understand the world, to understand yourself. I learned that in the world war, as you know.”
Wade nodded. Beau was well known in these parts not only as a fine coonhound of well bred stock (though the rumor that his great parents had been from the same litter was naturally horrible slander, never to be repeated in town, unless you were looking for an invitation to duel) but also as a war hero with a purple heart, and a slight limp to use as an excuse to talk about it. Wade always made sure to thank him for his service, when he saw him. It was both polite, and when he did that, he was less likely to hear the story of his wounding in France yet again. It was dull, mundane, and Wade had heard of far worse injuries from more capable storytellers.
“I want my son to learn it too. He has, so far, refused to enlist, and so I fear I am forced to use…rather extreme measures. I want him on a bus to boot camp tomorrow, Wade, I honestly don’t care if you hogtie him and throw him in with the luggage.”