The Ruptured Duck (Jan. 4, 1946)

by Bill Newman

The train pulled into Penn Station in Newark and I was suddenly in no hurry to get off. The day that I had been looking forward to was now here and I was dragging my feet. I finally hefted my barracks bag and made my way to the exit. I would have enjoyed a bus ride home but the barracks bag ruled that out. I made my way to the taxi stand.

Every so often someone would pass and say, "Welcome home". I was pleased and surprised by the greeting till I realized that it was because of the "Ruptured Duck" sewn to my overcoat. "The Duck" was sewn to the outer garment of all discharged servicemen and women. This emblem enabled them to wear their uniforms for thirty days following the discharge. There was a clothing shortage in America and "The Duck" allowed ex-servicemen time to buy new clothes.

There was no rush at the taxi stand. I got into the first one and gave my home address. The driver welcomed me home and took off in a cloud of exhaust. I said I was in no hurry. The driver explained that he was, if you want to make a living you have to drive fast.

We took the route home that I had anticipated, everything looked the same but smaller. Broad St. did not seem as broad as I remembered, none of the buildings seemed as tall as I once thought they were. In years to come I often thought of these impressions and never came to any conclusion as to why I had them.

When I left the cab in front of my house a man from the neighborhood gave me a warm welcome home, I looked up to the third floor and saw my parents waving to me.

The house looked smaller than I remembered. When I entered the hall and started up the stairs I wondered if the stairway was always so dark and narrow. My mother later told me that the landlord now used lower watt bulbs in the hall to conserve electricity.

In a talk with my father later that day he expressed the belief the Hitler had changed the whole world, nothing would ever again be the same. I tended to agree with him. Larger watt bulbs never returned to the hallway, that was one thing that permanently changed.


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