Beware Lest You Lose Substance By Grasping

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.


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