Reapers’ Portraits: March 1956


Wayne Aldrich was more than deficient. He was an abomination. The man reveled in death. It was not a natural part of life, nor the next step in a person’s journey. For him, it was entertainment. The few times I interacted with him prior to the start of the fighting in Korea nearly ended with me teaching him about violence.

I ended up traveling to Korea, and I spent three years there fighting alongside the Marines at Chosin, then ranging with some of the UK’s Royal Marines, and finally with the fledgling Republic of Korea’s Marine Corps. I saw hard fighting with each, and I was pleased when I returned to Cross and the warmth of my own home.

A few times in ’54 and ’55, I stopped in to see Wayne, but fortunately he was out on those occasions. In March of ’56, however, he was there, as was a reaper.

She was a pretty young girl, appearing to be in her middle or late teens. I watched, sickened, as Wayne attempted to seduce her. There was an almost feverish glint to the man’s eyes as he sought information about death. She deftly deflected his questions, and when he finally finished with her portrait, she greeted me by name, which took him aback. The reaper bade him bring out the ledger, and he obeyed, glaring at me as he did so.

When he set the book down in front of her, she opened it up to the appropriate page and leaned forward to write down her information. She finished, set the pen down and smiled at me warmly, and without affection at Wayne.

“March 18, gentlemen, there’s a nor’ easter coming.” She nodded to me, winked, and added, “Stay inside and warm.”

We watched her go, and as I turned to speak to Wayne, I found him scowling at me. I pushed my coat open and showed the fool one of my Colts. His eyes widened.

“Mind your manners, boy,” I told him. “Or they’ll be coming early to find your replacement.”

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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