If it Works the Way They Hope It Will

Damon Runyon

DEAR SIR out of a clear sky last night my wife Ethel ses Joe, do you think they have fixed it so there will never be another war? I ses why, Ethel, I hope so. I ses what made you think of that?

Ethel ses well, a number of things made me think of it, I guess. I was over to Mrs. Tyler’s this afternoon again and she was sitting there with her hands in her lap looking at a picture of Willie. She sits that way nearly all the time since she finally heard from the war department that he was killed.

I ses I am glad you go to see her, Ethel. I ses Willie was a good son. Ethel ses yes, and I got to thinking what a terrible thing it was that Willie had to go all the way from this little corner of Brooklyn to the Philippines to get killed and Jakey Levine to Sicily and Freddy Williams to Germany. Joe, it made me sick at heart.

I ses well, it was too bad, Ethel, but that is war and she ses yes, that is war and it is war that you still go around limping a little when you used to walk so quick and proud and it is war that Tommy Katz has only one leg left and Richie Smith is out of his mind from his nerves and so many boys from this neighborhood are hurt or sick.

I ses whoa, just a minute, Ethel, I ses you are not talking like the girl who was so cheerful when I went away to the war and laughed and sang to me and made me feel like I was only going on a picnic somewheres close by. Ethel ses well I was not laughing or singing inside, I can tell you that, but if I had let on how bad I felt you would have felt bad too, because my feelings seem to be catching to you.

I ses yes, I think they are, Ethel. I ses, sweets, I feel just as bad about the fellows from this neighborhood as you do, but there is nothing we can do about it except to always remember them and try to be nice to the ones they left behind like Mrs. Tyler. Ethel ses I will always remember them, Joe, but it makes me very sad that there are many people who have already forgotten them, and my Pops ses it is always that way.

I ses I suppose it is, sweetheart, but as long as even just a few like you remember you will make up for all those who forget, but I think there must have been something else that gave you a spell today. I ses you go ahead and tell old Joe what happened and Ethel ses yes, I will Joe.

She ses it was when I got home and looked at my own son sleeping in his cradle and I got to thinking that probably Willie Tyler once looked as little and cute as my boy and now he is dead and buried thousands of miles from home because there was a war. I got to thinking, Joe, that the same thing could happen to Cornelius if there should be another war when he is as old as Willie was and I would have nothing left of him but his memory and a picture.

I ses Ethel, you should not let your mind dwell on morbid thoughts like that and make yourself unhappy. She ses I can’t help it when there are so many things around me in this neighborhood to make those thoughts but Joe, I am sorry you have caught me in this mood. I usually let it out talking to Pops.

I ses well, Ethel, they have got a new set-up now that ought to prevent another war if it works the way they hope it will and Ethel ses Joe, I will pray that it works, not only for our little boy but for all the other little boys in the whole world.

Yours truly