I sat there in the dark theater, musing about recent events. The low noises of the other theater-goers hardly penetrated my reverie. Had it really been four years that this horrible conflict had been raging?
It was that long ago that I had been called to service, pulled away from my medical studies to tend to men fallen on the field of honor. Honor, indeed; is that what it was about? It was about secession of the southern states, slavery in those states, some say it was “state’s rights”, whatever that meant. In any event, one day I was a struggling student, the next I was a doctor dressed in a new blue uniform. The army said I was a doctor, so I suppose I was. As it turned out, I had adequate knowledge and expertise to do amputations, tie up stumps of arms and legs, and administer potions to combat “camp fever”.
Now, Lee had surrendered, just a few short days ago, and each day since had seemed a holiday; no shooting, no screams of the wounded, it was as if I had returned from Hell.
I had bought tickets to the theater on a whim; I was not really the gregarious type but maybe it was just what was needed, some normalcy, perhaps some whimsy. “Our American Cousin” the play was called. I hoped it would give me some escape.
The play wasn’t all that captivating, and although many patrons were laughing at every line, I couldn’t seem to concentrate.
Just then, a shot rang out. I looked toward the source of the noise and happened to see a man leaping from one of the boxes onto the stage. He landed badly and seemed to twist one of his legs. He shouted something, then disappeared through the curtains toward the backstage area.
I sat there stunned for a moment, as did many of the others nearby. Then a woman screamed and pointed at the presidential box. Men had begun to gather around President Lincoln, who was slumped over in his chair.
I ran to the access stairway, then up toward the scene of the shooting. I arrived just as they were carrying the tall man out the door, heading toward the rear stairs. They had the accoutrements of medical men, so apparently my meager services were not needed.
I then reversed and went down as I had come, then out the front door into the street. There I could see them transporting the fallen president into the house across the street.
As I watched, my face fell and tears trickled down my bearded cheek.
Would the war never really end?