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In heaven, Eddie wakes up on a familiar battleground in a decimated jungle during a storm. He hears explosions and thunder, and starts to run. He realizes he feels strong like a soldier, and no longer limber like a child. He is also surprised to realize he can feel fear in heaven.
The narrator comments that young men sometimes go to war because they confuse battle with bravery. The story now flashes back to Eddie’s youth, when World War II was taking place. For Eddie, working at Ruby Pier and trying to save money to study engineering seem irrelevant when other men are shipping out, so Eddie enlists in the army.
On one night, not long before shipping out, Eddie is at the arcade range practicing shooting. Mickey Shea appears, and drunkenly warns Eddie that if he needs to shoot, “You fire and you fire and you don’t think about who you’re shootin or killin or why.”
In heaven, Eddie surveys the ruined jungle and realizes this is the place that has long haunted his nightmares. Eddie hears a voice call to him from the trees. Suddenly finds himself in the trees with the Captain, whom he served under in the Philippines.
The Captain confirms that he is Eddie’s second person in heaven. The novel then flashes back to all of the lessons Eddie learned in war—such as how to appear unbothered when witnessing the desperation of others, how to pray silently, and how to live efficiently with hunger, cold, lack of shelter, and illness.
In heaven, the Captain asks Eddie what he did after the war. Eddie remarks that he went back to his uneventful life, and lost touch with the other men from their unit—preferring not to be reminded of their shared wartime memories.
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