At The Shadow Essay, Research Paper
Beware Lest You Lose Substance by Grasping at the Shadow
Tired, dirty, hungry and cold. Lying on the slate speckled sidewalk’s park bench, which is
sparsely painted with colorful wads of chewed Wrigley’s spearmint and fruit striped gum, is a
shadow of a man.
I say ’shadow of a man’ because this man is not like you or me. This man has no address
to call home. He is unshaven, and his brown hair is matted with dark crimson blood from an
earlier scuffle with some of the local boys that wanted to “have a little fun with the old boy.”
The uniform that once had been crisply creased, is now ragged and wrinkled. He lies
there, in the darkness, holding firmly in his clenched fist, the remaining two of the five bars
that he wore proudly on his left arm during the time in his life when he was treated with
respect and answered to the title of Staff Sergeant, Sir!
I feel incredible sorrow for this man. The bars that had been worn with pride, have since
been replaced with a badge of shame. I stand here looking at this man, who has lost
everything in life, and wonder what events have led him to this point. He was such an
important man, and now he is nothing in the eyes of the tax payers and of the government, that
he gave thirty-six years of his life for.
How he longed to have his old life back. If he only hadn’t had those nine shots of Jack
Daniel’s to celebrate his retirement from the military, he would never have gotten into his
carmel colored 1987 Chevy Blazer, with the heavy duty polished chrome brush guard on the
grill, to make the attempt to drive himself home.
The long desolate darkened road, that led back to civilization, wavered in his drunken sight,
yet he drove on.
There was a flash. Then a thud. He thought he had hit a deer, and because he wasn’t
sure of that, he just continued weaving his way home, saying to himself over and over, ‘it
was only a deer. Nothing but a deer. It’s only a deer.’ Trying very hard to convince himself
that this was true. But the gold chain caught in a crease on the corner of the hood and fender,
slapping against the truck, from the wind tunnel that the speed of the blazer was causing, was
the proof that it wasn’t a deer. ‘Maybe nobody saw me. Maybe the person would be OK.
The Staff Sergeant wasn’t that lucky. The woman had only been trying to flag someone
down, to call a tow truck for her broken down Chevy Chevette, when her young nineteen year
old head was ripped from her body by the crashing jolt of the blazers’ brush guard against her
He was sentenced in 1987, to serve ten years in prison for vehicular manslaughter, and
leaving the scene of an accident. He may have gotten away with the crime, if he hadn’t hit the
woman with such force. Force enough to snap the license plate bracket bolts in half, which
caused the license plate, found with traces of blood and skin tissue on it, to fall off of the truck
about fourteen feet from the body came to rest.
He didn’t realize he was driving that fast. But the evidence left behind, was the crucial
evidence to link the blazer and him to the crime.
That was 13 years ago. When he was released from prison in 1997, he was unable to find
work. No one would hire a decorated Staff Seargent-murderer.
His apartment was rented to someone else immediately after his arrest. His brand new
Chevy Blazer was repossessed at about the same time. With no family to speak of, and having
lost contact with the handful of friends he had known, there was no place for him to go.
Now he lies on this park bench, bleeding from a head wound he received from trying to
hold on to his five precious bars he had earned in the military, but was only able to salvage two
of them. He reflects on his life of accomplishments and his failures, when he is suddenly
reminded of ten index cards that his old cell mate had taped on the graffito covered wall,
across from their beds, with one word inscribed on each card: Beware-Lest-You-Lose-
My cell mate told me, that the quote was meant as a reminder to us, that we should take
care, not to dwell on our past, or we will lose sight of our future.
I stand here, watching this man die, bleeding and alone. I bid farewell to my past, the
shadow. And I feel suddenly warmed. I reach to touch my wound, the blood is gone. I look
to my clothing, my uniform is crisp and clean, and all five bars, on my arm are shining like
diamonds. My shoes are buffed to a high gloss, and I am clean shaven once again. I am now
ready for my final retirement. All that is left of my past, is a pitiful broken down shell of a
man that is holding two bars in his hand, that he believed was the sole substance to his
existence. He believed so much in that fact, that he gave his life, just to be able to hold onto
what he once was, for just a little while longer.