Rossi (deathpixie) wrote in nano_wrimo,

11. The Empty Chair.

I remember, as a child, seeing Dad at the Sergeant's Mess one evening. There was to be a fancy dinner and we were to join the rest of the Army brats in the rec room while it was on. I remember Dad showing us the dining room with the table all laid out; starched white tablecloths, shining silver cutlery, fine china, sparkling glasses. And Dad pointed out to me one seat at the head of the table. A place was set, but, he said, no-one was allowed to sit there.

"Why not?" I'd asked, ever curious.

"Because that's the seat for the ones who can't be here," he replied. "It's always kept empty for them."

Twenty years later, I had dinner at the Returned Servicemen's Club with some work colleagues. After the playing of Taps, we sat, and I noticed again the empty chair at the head of the table. As a child I had imagined it as being haunted and had half-expected to see the ghost of a soldier, killed overseas. As an adult, I knew it was haunted, in a different way; it was haunted by memories, of those lost in the service of their country, or in the years beyond. Gone, but never forgotten, there will always be a place left for them.
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