Acierate

by Pierce Nahigyan

It was the late ’60s, American business was strong, and Jeremy came back from the war to a place already prepared for him in the factory. It was a riot of sound, and one color, molten orange, when everything else was black and ash. The hammer came down on the iron, the metal hot enough to twist the air itself, and as the foreman led him through the factory, the two of them garbed from head to foot in heavy protective suits, he was hypnotized by the sight of the men knocking the blazes about. He watched the acieration through thick black goggles, felt the heat on his face, a strong, bold heat, so unlike the wet fingers of Cambodia, all day long, all night long.

When he left the factory that first day he stopped outside the gates. The cold Michigan autumn kissed him, then made with the rougher stuff. And after the blazes, he was into it. He reached for the icy bars and braced himself in the gale.

A man on his break, ashes smeared across his forehead, was smoking a cigarette against the hood of his car. He pulled it out of his mouth to ask, “Are you all right?”

Jeremy nodded. “It just feels so damn good to be back home.”

The man flicked his cigarette. “What’s your story, kid?”

Jeremy just smiled. “This is it, sir. This is all it is. I’m going to marry Emily King. I’m going to work at this here factory. I’m going to come home to a nice warm dinner and give my wife a nice warm kiss and, God willing, we’re going to have us some wild little kids.”

“What about the war?”

He shook his head. “It’s still out there if you’ve got a TV. I threw mine away as soon as I got back.”

“My wife really went crazy for that new color TV.”

Jeremy smiled. “I’ll have to drive mine crazy the old fashioned way.”