One of Us, Old Boy by L. Joseph Shosty

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A wise old professor, facing forced retirement, passes on his greatest secret to his protégé in this moving story of two disparate generations affected by war. A short story.


The photo I’d seen so many times sitting on his desk. It was old, taken sometime early in the century. It was sepia-toned, now fading with age. In it a young man, presumably a young Dr. Trotter, was standing off-center on the stone steps of some old building just below the truncated feet of a statue whose plaque was unreadable. Young Dr. Trotter stood still and straight, his face proud and his eyes defiant. Aside from the odd feeling something was missing, my future mentor looked self-conscious, as though he were standing amidst a gaggle of invisible men whom he did not want to touch. The sight of the photo, as always, left me confused.

“What does this photo mean, sir?” I asked.

“Mean?” he said. “There is no meaning to it. It’s just a photograph.” His eyes found mine, and he must have found ignorance there. “You don’t understand its significance, do you?”

I shook my head. “No, sir. Perhaps you should explain.”

He nodded vigorously. “Yes, yes I should. You have a right to know about this. Sit, then. There’s one more tale in me yet, I suppose, before I say goodbye to this place.”

I did as I was told , and Dr. Trotter wiped his cheeks dry before he began.

“This photo was taken the day of my graduation from what I suppose you’d call grade school. No, high school, that’s it. Adley was its name, a boarding school like all the rest, I suppose, with its special code and pretentious history none of us ever quite managed to be worthy of. This is a graduation photograph, taken on our final day there.”

“There’s only you,” I said. “Must’ve been a small class.”

“Oh, there were others,” he whispered, ignoring my joke. “Twelve of us in all. A fierce bunch, to be sure. We had common interests and ran in a pack about campus. Like wild dogs, as I’m sure that was how our professors perceived us. We were—what’s the word?—ah, yes, a clique. Like a club you had as a child where only certain people could be members.”

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