Red Tommy-Gun

By Vern Fein

We lived in the back of a tavern when my Dad went off to WW II, leaving my Mother to bartend and manage the place. I was able to listen and understand when my Mom gathered my brother and me around the radio shrine to hear the daily battle reports, every time wishing I could crawl through the radio, dive into the mud beside my Dad and help him wipe out those vermin. How could I destroy those Japs at 5 years old?

My Mom, though, a gentle woman who would not hurt a fly, had the best solution. She got me a gun, not store-bought. We were poor. Made it or someone did.  It was an awkward looking tommy-gun carved out of a single piece of wood, stained with smelly bright red paint, a gift and the way I could help my Dad destroy the enemy.

For months I lugged that gun around the bar room, which was fairly empty in the day- time, diving behind tables and chairs as I mowed down the Japs. Some of the afternoon customers patted me on the head as I shouted: “Take that. Take that!,” fantasizing the bulging eyes and fallen bodies I wiped out, never stopping until the bar began to fill up for the night and always sleeping with that gun instead of my teddy bear, always believing I was bringing my Dad home. 

Only years later, when I was marching and organizing against the Vietnam War did I flash back on what I did and realize that my barroom heroism was unpatriotic and had nothing to do with the death of my Dad.


A retired teacher, Vern Fein has published over 80 poems and short pieces, a few sites being: Courtship of Winds, *82 Review, The Literary Nest, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Former People, 500 Miles, and The Write Launch, and has non-fiction pieces on Quail Bell, The Write Place at the Write Time, and Adelaide.

4 thoughts on “Red Tommy-Gun”

  1. This piece reminded me of playing war, as a kid and everyone wanted to be the American soldier. Don’t think kids play these games anymore. Great capture of the past.

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