Ethel’s Uncle Dan and War

Damon Runyon


September 1.

DEAR SIR the other night my wife Ethel ses Joe if there was a war would you go to it? I ses if there was a war where? She ses why anywheres. Do you have to have a war some special place to know if you would go to it or not?

I ses do you mean a war that the United States was in? She ses certainly thats what I mean. I ses well how on earth did you happen to think of such a thing? She ses O my Uncle Dan was over this afternoon and he was talking about it. He ses there is liable to be a war everywheres before long and that the United States was bound to be in it. Joe would you go?

I ses Ethel all I have ever heard from your Uncle Dan since I married you is something about war. I ses every time he comes to this house to borrow two bucks he fights the one he was in all over again. Ethel ses yes my Uncle Dan was a very brave soldier. I ses yes so I have heard him say. Ethel ses he is the one who saved France. My Uncle Dan and General Pershing was very close.

I ses Ethel I do not know about General Pershing but your Uncle Dan has always been close. I ses I bet the only time he ever saw General Pershing was in a parade. Ethel ses why Joe my Uncle Dan keeps a picture of General Pershing right in his room and he ses he always salutes it when he goes to bed at night and when he gets up in the morning.

I ses yes and that is the hardest work your Uncle Dan does all day long. She ses well Joe you know Uncle Dan lost his health in the war. He caught pneumonia and never really got over it. I ses Ethel he did not catch pneumonia in the war. I ses your Moms told me that he caught that pneumonia when he got back home and it was a year after the war and Ethel ses yes he was weak and run down from the war so it was just the same as catching it in the war.

I ses well I suppose you gave him the usual two bucks and Ethel ses no Joe I only gave him a dollar and it was worth it for the advice he gave me for you. He ses for me to tell you if you are thinking of going to war not to do it. He ses a fellow is a sap to go to war. He told me how he suffered when he was in France. Joe do you know soldiers do not have mattresses to sleep on? Joe would you go to war?

I ses look Ethel in the first place there is not going to be no war with the United States in it. I ses in the second place if there was a war I would not have anything to say about whether I would go or not because they could make me go. Ethel ses now Joe that is what my Uncle Dan was giving me the advice about it. He knows how you can keep from going to war even if they try to make you go.

I ses how? Ethel ses Uncle Dan ses all you have to do is shoot your finger off and that will fix you so they will not want you. I ses well your Uncle Dan ought to have thought of that when they made him go to war and she ses yes that is exactly what he ses. Uncle Dan ses if he had thought of it he would have saved himself all that suffering. He ses to tell you the first finger on the right hand is the one.

I ses look Ethel I am not going to shoot off any fingers to keep from going to war. I ses that would be cowardly and besides I would not have the nerve. She ses yes Joe but what would I do when you was in the war? I ses you would go to work and she ses but think how I would miss you.

I ses Ethel kindly do not worry about something that is not going to happen. I ses before we have another war I will be too old to go. Ethel ses well Uncle Dan ses the situation is very bad. He ses look at all the wars every place right now. He ses everybody in Europe will be in a war pretty soon and then the United States will have to get in because they will sink our ships and drown our citizens.

I ses who will sink our ships? Ethel ses Uncle Dan did not say. I ses did he say when he is going to pay back all those two bucks he has got off us? Ethel ses no but he ses that when you are at the war fighting for your country the profiteers will be grabbing everything in sight here at home like they did when he went to war. He ses conditions will be terrible. He ses they are terrible now.

I ses well Ethel one good thing your Uncle Dan will not be back here very soon with any more talk like that. I ses he will wait until he thinks we have forgot that last buck like he always does when he gets two bucks. And Ethel ses O no Joe he is coming back here tomorrow. I ses well I like his gall what is he coming back tomorrow for?

Ethel ses well Joe the reason I gave him that dollar I told you about was because it was the only dollar I had. Uncle Dan is coming back tomorrow after the other dollar we owe him and he ses he will tell me how I can get to be a nurse if you do not want to shoot your finger off and have to go to war.

I ses Ethel let’s go see a movie and she ses sure Joe there is a good one at the Paramount. That is what Uncle Dan wants the other dollar for. He is crazy to see it because it is a war picture.