Steven Randolf Astelle
1. AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
And they said you had to go to battle
You had no idea on how to be a soldier
But you were willing to learn
After all you were proud to be a citizen.
You needed your country once
Who else was going to aid you when your luck ran out
You had been mugged and lost your life’s earnings
Your country caught the man
They gave you your money back
They sent the man up the river for a few years
Yes, you needed your country then
And they helped you.
Now it is your turn to return the favour
Put in a couple of years for them now
Who knows you might become a hero!
All your life you had dignity
You were known as Steven Randolf Astelle
A name you were proud to have
It was your father’s name
And you knew that you would have respect
After all your father at one time played pro football
Every man, soldier or layman, respects a football player.
When you walked behind that fence you were proud
If only Sally knew that you enlisted
She’d be so proud.
You looked around and noticed that all the other recruits bore no smile
That wouldn’t let you down
Then there came the corporal
You walked up to him and said, “Hi! My name is Astelle, Steve Astelle.”
He smirked at you and then ordered all the new recruits to stand in line
His words were nasty
Heated and nasty
How could one be so mean to people he never met before?
“Ah, it must be discipline” you concluded
The corporal then led you and your fellows to your bunkhouse.
In the bunkhouse you gave friendly cliches to all around you
You seemed to be the only one cheery
“No wonder” you thought, “They’re all afraid of the perils of army life.
It’s not going to get me down.”
Weeks passed by, you finally got over that bit of homesickness you developed that first night
Bootcamp life was great, you seemed to excel at all the maneuvers
You were going to become the model soldier
The drill sergeant never hassled you, you were doing the things right
The others seemed to go through the exercises but still they never smiled.
Finally that last day came
You were going to become a soldier
“Me, a soldier! A year ago I would never have believed it!” you chuckled.
3. AT THE BASE
A month has gone by since you left bootcamp but still there’s no action
You were stuck home teaching the new recruits gunmanship
You longed to take to the air and get to the front lines
The others have all gone to Nam and were amidst combat
You wondered if any had ever smiled
But still you were helping your country
That’s all that counts, isn’t it?
It took many months before a gnawing impulse crept into your mind
You watched several films on Nam
You noticed the brutality of your fellow soldiers
You saw the children being killed
A guilt complex was building inside you
You were partly responsible for the horror on those films
You couldn’t stand it any longer,
You will leave this war machine
You will run.
So what that you’re being discharged in three months
You will not have any part of murder
That night when you were on pass you collected all your money and boarded a plane for Toronto.
When you entered Canada you did not know a single soul
You went to the Immigration Office where you became a landed immigrant
You found a small apartment on Eglinton and you began work at a local factory
A year had passed by, you grew your hair long and grew a beard
You notified your parents where you lived
You were content in your Canadian life
You would take out citizenship papers in a year
Then one day when you got back from work a telegram awaited you
Your father is dying, your mother wants you to come home
You decided that you would risk the trouble
You would be by your father’s deathbed
You wired your mother that you would be home.
5. COURT MARTIAL
When you landed at the airport two MP’s waited for you
They arrested you on a charge of desertion
Your mother had tricked you
She disinherited you as a son the night you left for Canada.
At the trial you knew you would not stand a chance
They sentenced you to ten years with no hope of parole
Tears filled your eyes as you were escorted to a federal penitentiary
When you come out of jail you knew you would not be young any longer.
6. IN THE PEN
Your first impression of the pen as they booked you in was that of bootcamp
You were not smiling
You would go through all your chores without smiling
Life was monotonous already after your first month as an inmate
Six years later you were doing the same duties you did in the first month
Several times you contemplated suicide but you kept reassuring yourself that one day you would be released
Then one night in your eighth year a minor conflict between one inmate and a guard blew up into a prison riot
You tried not to take part but the jail administrators fingered you as one of the leaders of the riot
You knew who was
But you learned not to squeal on another
You faced another trial
They gave you an additional five years
Two to be spent in solitary
The two years in solitary took half of eternity to go by
But finally the day came that tomorrow you will be released
You put in your fifteen years
You were almost forty years old now
What would the world be like on the outside?
When you walked past the prison walls the world was very different
You were not able to associate with anything out here
You returned to live with your parents
They both looked very aged now
Your differences with your mother were settled long ago in prison
But you had no trade, you were unskilled
You searched for a job for a whole year
No one would hire you because of either your record or your age
Out of desperation you filed for welfare
You began to drink, drink heavy
You moved away from your parents
Life on the streets became your lifestyle
You were in and out of county jails for drinking charges for about ten years now
Once they put you into a mental hospital for six months
It didn’t work
You returned to the bottle because that was the only life you knew
Then on your fifty-second birthday you decided you would quit drinking.
8. THE LAST YEARS
It was hard at first to go on the wagon but you finally did it
You had become a hobo travelling the country
You stowed away on trains and visited every city of the Union
You managed to eat by every possible means but mostly with a strong will for survival
You had no friends and no one even knew that you existed
After twelve years of drifting you made your home an abandoned shack in the California desert
It would be rough to grow crops on this land but out of determination and persistence you managed to yield enough
You befriended a wayward mongrel
The last years were cozy
The mongrel and you lazed in the sun
One day you held the mongrel as you always did and both of you shut your eyes forever.