Text inspired by writer Patricia Ann McNair's daily journal prompt #2: I always thought.
I always thought that my grandfather was a war hero, who had fought in World War II and killed German soldiers during a midnight raid on his unit, when they were cornered with their backs against a stone cliff and only dense trees in front of them, obscured by the thick darkness of night on the Italian mountains, their attackers blasting away at them from the natural cover, disposing of five men in my grandfather’s platoon in seconds, and presenting my grandfather with the certain prospect of meeting the same fate, until with a loud roar he charged forward at the wall of invisible attackers, the bullets pinging around him but missing him, as he let loose with his Sten machine gun, swinging the barrel from side to side like a fireman dousing a blaze from above, not knowing what he was hitting or where he was going, until he heard the click that told him his magazine was empty, and he realized he was standing in a clearing, many yards from where he started, surrounded by the bodies of ten Germans, six of them dead, four of them groaning from the wounds he had given them. I always thought this of my grandfather because that’s what he told me. Except it turned out that not a word of it was true. He had been too old to join up, and he was also a miner, which meant that he worked in an industry considered essential for the war effort. He had nothing to talk about from the war, except for the fact that he worked underground and hewed coal out of the earth, and got his back broken in 1943 from a roof collapse in the mine. He so much regretted missing the war -- his war, he called it -- that as soon as his grandchildren were old enough to talk, he told them stories like this. It was only many years later, when I was nearly a grown man, that I found out the truth: that my grandfather was not, in fact, a war hero.