The ringing was coming from the counter.
Marty Peterson looked up wearily from his hand notebook. A small, dark-haired boy was at the counter, standing on tippy-toe. An assortment of nuts and bolts lay scattered over the counter, his intended purchase.
            Sighing, Marty slipped his notebook into his apron and made his way over to the counter. He had been alone in the old store, which was the way he liked it. It was why he took the early shift. But a customer was a customer, and needed to be served. He had known that when he applied for the job.
            Gathering up the handful of nuts and bolts, he paid no attention to the small boy. As he silently rung up the price, he sensed the child glancing at him. There’s nothing here for you to see, he thought bitterly to himself.
            “Will that be all?” The question was barely audible, and the boy looked up. “Huh?”
            “I said – ” Marty held his breath when his eyes caught the boy’s face. “Here.” Marty shoved the small brown paper bag holding the boy’s purchase into his hands. The boy looked up in confusion. He hadn’t paid for them yet.
            “Go ahead,” urged Marty, his face blushing. “Go!” His angry glare sent the Vietnamese boy on his way.
            Marty rubbed his forehead as a dull pain grew inside it. Slowly, it increased in potency until Marty was forced to sit down. All he could see was red, and with trembling fingers he reached into his back pocket for his cigarettes. Anger built as he patted for his lighter. Where had he put it? Tossing his pack onto the counter, he got up and stumbled towards aisle one.
            If only that boy hadn’t come in. Why was he here, when his home was halfway across the world? Did the kid come back to haunt him? Would he come back again?
            Marty grabbed a lighter off the shelf and ripped it out of the package. All he needed was a cigarette. Returning to the counter, he snatched up one and tried to light it.
            “C’mon,” he snapped furiously as the lighter failed to produce a spark. Finally, a strip of fire spurted up and he applied it to the end of his cigarette.
            The pain throbbed like a hammer, and Marty tried to relax as he sat down. Where was he? He looked around in confusion, but everything seemed to be spinning. Closing his eyes, he tried to avoid the pain.
            Like a great wave smashing down on him, the fears Marty had been hiding for years rushed over him. His body jerked as he heard the gunfire again.
            Where’s the enemy? It’s goddam jungle everywhere! Large, twisted trees and dark, evil undergrowth. What is that? Who’s out there? He continued his agonizing journey with beads of sweat running down his face. Is that breathing he hears? Where is it coming from? He cringed as pictures of horror and death flashed through his mind. Bloody bodies, torn apart by the deadly weapons of war. Old hatred curdled in his blood, as did old fears. In the distance, he could hear the screams of his companions. Somewhere, they were dying. He cried out for them to stop, it hurt too much. Their ghastly cries jarred his body.
            Suddenly, there was a loud explosion. Marty opened his eyes and found himself on his back. He had tipped over in his chair. A small stream of smoke issued from the cigarette where it had been dropped on the floor. Gathering his head in his knees, Marty felt the fear of the war slip away. It was replaced by a painful, tired vacancy.
Slowly, Marty began to cry.