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The Short Form

“The Raft”

Peter Orner


“It was late,” he says. “Someone knocked on my stateroom door. I leaped up. In those days I slept in uniform — shoes, too.” My grandfather smiles. His face is so perfectly round that his smile looks like a gash in a basketball. I smile back.

“Don't smile,” he says. “Just because I'm smiling, don't assume I couldn't kill you right now. Know that about a man.”

“Oh, Seymour, my God,” my grandmother protests through the door. “Isn't he supposed to be at summer camp, anyway? Call his mother.”

He looks straight at me and snarls at her, “Another word out of you, ensign, and I'll have you thrown in the brig, and you won't see Beanie Dewoskin till V-J Day.”

“I'll make coffee,” my grandmother says.

“It was late,” I say. “Someone knocked.”