His eyes were gleaming. I’d never seen them so bright. They were usually dull behind his glasses or closed when he dozed which was often. His excitement was rare. “I’ve caught another one,” he said. “That’s five.”

He left the dead mouse on the stone bench in the hallway so I couldn’t miss his catch. “That’s five,” he repeated, “That’s…”

I’d never seen him like this, not even when he told me stories of his beach jumps in Vietnam. How he jumped from the helicopter six feet above the sand, radio on his back, and trudged into the jungle. Marines crushed the enemy by surrounding them, pushing them farther into the interior.

“You didn’t kill anyone?” I asked, hoping he’d say, “No, of course not.”

Instead, he said, “Yes, at least a hundred, maybe more. Hard to keep count. I just kept firing. Never knew where they were coming from. They jumped from trees, set booby traps, quiet as silk, never heard them, not a peep. Phantoms. We were in the jungle four or five days; no sleep until we killed them all.”

“Couldn’t you take prisoners?”

“No, so we killed them, every last one. I radioed headquarters and said, ‘Home.’”

His eyes shone, as if they were lighting the depths of the jungle, illuminating the way back to the beach where the “Bird,” retrieved them, brought them back to the ship or sent them to lie on a beach in Hawaii, Hong Kong, or the Philippines and forget how many they killed. Forget…forget…

I started to pick up the bloody mass and shivered. “I’ll trash it for you,” he smiled. “No problem.”