“Verdy, y’all can’t smoke in here no more, it’s the law now…” The young bartender spoke to the elderly man on the barstool, looking at the cigarette drooping from his wrinkled mouth. His hands shook slightly as he made multiple attempts to light a match. His matchbook read “Happy Haven Motel, Rte. 12, Convenient To Interstate 504” in embossed gold letters. Someone opened the bar door, briefly sending the bright white daylight into the place, and everyone who looked towards it squinted, then looked away again. Verdy’s fifth effort with the match paid off, and the bartender frowned slightly, watching the match flame nearly reach the man’s yellowed fingers before he waved it out, pulling deeply on the cigarette. Verdy either didn’t hear, or was just ignoring. He sipped from his glass of beer, staring towards nothing.

“Ah, Chris, just let him be. No one here’s gonna bother him today. Veterans Day.” Carl, the bar owner, settled next to Verdy on a stool. “Verdy? How old you now?”

The old man took another sip of beer and did not look at Carl or Chris. “85.”

“Well, how’ bout that, look at you! You’re doin’ alright, ain’tcha, still gettin’ out. Beer’s on the house today,Verdy, just so’s you know.”

“Alright. Yeah.” Verdy’s cigarette ash grew long, and Chris brought out one of the empty peanut bowls for Verdy to use. The ashtrays were all gone. The VFW post had closed, Verdy’s social center for all these years, so he started coming over to the bar, only two blocks from the Happy Haven. All his war buddies were dead, and he didn’t have much to say to those boys coming back from the Middle East at the VFW anyway, children talking about it like it all was one of their video games, bragging and hooting, drunk.

“Chris, you go get Verdy here something to eat, OK?” Carl motioned at the bartender, who in a few moments returned with a plate containing a wrapped roast beef sandwich, a few potato chips, and a pickle on the side, and set it in front of Verdy. The old man glanced up briefly at him, nodded, put his smoke out in the peanut bowl, and began to unwrap the sandwich.

Carl continued to speak to Chris, patting Verdy on the back. “You know, Verdy here was quite some hero, weren’t ya, Verdy? You took down a whole lot of Japs, din’t ya?”

“Is that right? Now that’s sure something!” Chris smiled, polite but somewhat condescending, as if he were addressing a small child. The old man did not answer either man, but kept chewing his food.

“Yeah, they don’t make ‘em like these guys no more. Back then’s when everyone knew how to take care of business. We’d all be speaking Japanese and German and eating rice and sauerkraut for breakfast if they hadn't kicked some serious ass!” Carl clapped Verdy on the back one more time as he spoke; Chris laughed. “Well, Verdy, you enjoy that sandwich now, and stick around as long as you like.”

Chris thought a moment, and moved a little closer to the old guy, bending down and raising his voice a bit, articulating his words in a more pronounced way. “Verdy. Now that’s an unusual name. I never heard that before. What is that, a family name?”

Verdy crunched a potato chip, a few crumbles falling on his chin. “Short for Verdant. Verdant Greene. “Verdant” is the French for “green.” My mama named me. Green Greene. She was from Charleston.” He seemed to be speaking to the pickle on his plate.

Chris and Carl laughed again. “Ha ha! Well, Verdy, that’s pretty funny. Green Greene! That’s like some spic called Blanco White! Ha!” Carl snorted after his joke.

“Carl, I didn’t know y’all spoke Spanish!” Chris grinned.

“Ah, I just pick some up from the cleaning folks…that shit’s too fast for me to understand!”

“I hear ya. It’s all jibber jabber to me.” Chris took a small towel and wiped some water from the bar.

“We just shot them all.” Verdy’s bony, mottled hands were resting on either side of his plate.

“Come again now?” Carl turned his head to look at him, and he and the bartender quieted.

“We was suppose to take them all in. Round ‘em up and take ‘em in, alive. But that ain’t what happened.” Verdy picked up the pickle, took a small bite, and kept speaking, never looking up. “We took every single one of those men, no questions, shot each one in the head, and then did the same to their women and kids and the old men. Piled ‘em up like firewood, torched ‘em. Dug a pit and put what was left of ‘em in there. Threw their gear in the pit too. We did like we was told to do. You didn’t want to end up in the pit with the Nips for backtalk. Ain’t no room for traitors.” He paused and turned his head over to Carl. “You did what you was told. And you was told to tell anyone who asked, that village was abandoned.”

The door opened again, casting light onto Carl’s face as he stared at the old man. A burst of hollered greetings shot through the air from a group of men by the pool table as their newly-arrived friend walked over to them and the door shut again. Verdy eased himself off the bar stool and pulled the contents of his right pants pocket out and left it on the bar: a five dollar bill, some loose change, a gum wrapper, a bus transfer. The AC/DC song the pool players selected from the jukebox began in a crash of chords and noise as Verdy slowly made his way out of the bar, light filling the room once more before sunset.