Jim left the will on the kitchen counter and walked into the study. The odd phrasing kept running through his head: “I leave to James Paul Moore all of my estate, my possessions and the Rifle.”
Jim’s great-uncle Ned had been a firearms collector and owned many rifles, from Revolutionary War muskets to an almost modern M-1. He crossed to the gun safe, consulted his notes for the combination, and opened it. Resting among the gleaming metals, camouflage plastics and burnished woods stood a tall gun case with a red silk bandana tied around it. Jim brushed his fingers down the silk, contemplating its possible purpose. It was obviously not for protection, soft and fragile as it was.
As much as they had talked about the collection, Ned had never mentioned a special rifle. Jim lifted the case out of the safe, being careful not to disturb the silk cloth. His heart quickened, curiosity telling him to hurry. He placed the case on the table, untied the cloth and opened the clasps that secured the lid. He took a deep breath to calm himself and opened the case.
Jim recognized the Rifle as a Springfield Model 1861; a Civil War rifle. He’d seen this before. He glanced over at the gun safe and saw an identical Springfield Model 1861. “So how is this one different,” he muttered.
He reached down and grasped the Rifle with both hands and felt nauseous and dizzy at the same time. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes. Suddenly new sounds and smells assaulted his senses–a horrendous stench and the smell of sulfur, explosions close and far, yells and screams of anger and pain.
My eyes opened to a scene I would never forget. With my back against a tree I used my ramrod to pack the bullet in the Rifle. Men in battered butternut and gray uniforms are spread throughout the tree line, taking cover, loading and firing around the trees. Mangled bodies lay in sight. I put the ramrod back under the barrel, pulled out a percussion cap, fitted it to the firing nipple and cocked the hammer. I took a deep breath, twisted around my tree and raised the Rifle to fire at the line of blue soldiers moving towards me. A searing pain slammed into my shoulder and spun me around. The Rifle flew from my hands.
Jim staggered back from the table, as a wave of nausea hit him again. “What the hell happened?” he mumbled.
The Rifle remained in its case on the table and the gun safe still stood open. An envelope he hadn’t noticed before lay where it had fallen, leaning against the bottom shelf of the safe door. He jumped over, grabbed it and saw written on the front, ‘Jimmy’. He tore it open and read, “Do NOT touch the Rifle before reading my journals.”
Six thick journals sat on the top shelf in the safe; one had a red post-it note marking a page. Jim opened it to the flagged page and read the entry: “The only thing ever to come back with me is the red silk bandana. When I became Thomas on the second day of Gettysburg, his best friend Robert died in the Peach Orchard. Robert always wore the bandana, a gift from his fiancée Marianne, around his neck. When Thomas found Robert’s body, he removed the bandana and stuffed it in his pocket intending to return it to Marianne. When Thomas stacked the Rifle and I returned, I found the bandana in my pocket. I leave it tied around the Rifle’s case, to remind me of lost love and war’s tragedies.”