Juanita Creehan was a waitress in a piano bar near Camp Pendleton, California. She had been a widow for twelve years, and her most intense memory of her marriage was an imagined one: Patrick’s death in the Chosin Reservoir. After Starkey got back from Korea, he and Mary came to her apartment, and he told Juanita how it happened: they were attacking a hill, and when they cleared it they went down to the road and heard that Patrick had caught it. Starkey went over to the second platoon to look at him.
“What did they do to him?” Juanita said.
“They wrapped him in a shelter half and put him in a truck.”
She thought of the road of frozen mud and snow; she had never seen snow but now when it fell or lay white in her mind it was always death. Many nights she drank and talked with Starkey and Mary, and she asked Starkey for more details of the Reservoir, and sometimes she disliked him for being alive, or disliked Mary for having him alive. She had been tolerant of Mary’s infidelity while Starkey was gone, for she understood her loneliness and dread; but now she could not forgive her, and often she looked quickly into Mary’s eyes, and knew that her look was unforgiving. Years later, when she heard they were divorced, she was both pleased and angry. At the end of those nights of listening to Starkey, she went to bed and saw the hills and sky, and howitzers and trucks and troops on the road. She saw Patrick lying in the snow while the platoon moved up the hill; she saw them wrap him in the shelter half and lift him to the bed of the truck.