Eileen, I May Have Killed a Man Tonight by Bert Davidson


By 4:30 PM on November 22, 1936, the sun had set, the sky was black. The four people in The Passavant Hospital Maternity Ward could not tell if the sun was up or down. It did not matter. Dad, Uncle Richard, Grandma Bess, and Grandma Jessie had been waiting hours for me to arrive and were bored and tired. 

The room itself held little initiative to stay awake. Timeless prints, undeserving of close inspection or comment, hung on four stark white walls. The prints, blending into the walls, hours before had become indistinguishable from the walls themselves. 

The reading material scattered on a blond wooden table was limited to fragments of various sections of Chicago newspapers and a few frayed editions of popular magazines. 

With conversation having run out, there were few options other than closing one’s eyes for a catnap, siesta, or whatever one might wish to call it, and slouch in an uncomfortable chair, attempting to doze. 

A few empty coffee cups on a plain wooden table confirmed that others before them had also waited in the room. Coffee was not an option. There were neither clean cups nor a coffee maker in the waiting area.

After several hours, the door opened, and Dr. Bloomfield came in with one of the nurses.

“Congratulations all. Bert Boy has arrived with ease. Aye, he is a bonnie, bonnie, laddie.

Eileen is doing fine.”

A cheer went up. Uncle Richard produced a flask. Dr. Bloomfield smiled, but shook his head.

Grandma Davidson had liked Dr. Bloomfield as soon as she met him. They both spoke the same English, the kind of English even thicker in the old country, where a Yank might need two days and more than a few drams of The Famous Grouse to understand it. Grandma was from a small town near Aberdeen. Dr. Bloomfield was born nearby.

Rich stood up and stretched. “Why don’t we duck out and celebrate for an hour… drinks and dinner are on me.”

Grandma Davidson nodded as Grandma Hoffman spoke up: “What do you think Jessie, might be better to leave the celebration to the boys… but it would be wonderful if they could bring us back some sandwiches.”

“I’m with you, Bess. Go ahead boys, lift a glass or two for Bess and me, and sandwiches sound fine. Bring me whatever looks good.”

One of the hospital people recommended a tavern about two blocks away.

Rich and Dad found the place easily and sat at the bar. By the second drink Uncle Richard was offering Scotch toasts. Rich eased into his native brogue after a few drinks. The owner of the tavern, a friendly guy named Al, served them. 

All was good. A new Davidson, mother doing well. Yes, all was going well… until it wasn’t.

Rich and Dad were on their third Scotch, when a fellow, not far away, said loudly to his buddies that what Hitler was doing was right. He stood, raised his glass, and, in an even louder voice, shouted, “Heil Hitler!” His right arm shot up in a Sieg Heil salute.

He was maybe fifteen feet away. Dad heard him; so did most people in the tavern. 

Dad’s mood changed instantly. From smiling and laughing with Rich, instinctively his eyes narrowed, his chin set. Dad’s breath came in quick bursts as he sprung from the barstool, purposely knocking it loudly to the floor as he walked over to the “tough guy.” 

Dad was a lefty; he kept his left hand free. With his right hand, Dad splashed the remainder of his drink in the Nazi’s face. “Drink this you God damned Nazi bastard.”

For his generation, Dad was a big guy… 6’2″, about 220 lbs., broad muscular frame. Rich was smaller, but one tough guy when he had to be. They had the genes and upbringing of the Davidsons. The Davidson boys could handle themselves.

A hard left hook to the jaw dropped the “Heil Hitler” man in a second. The Nazi’s two buddies jumped Dad, but by then Uncle Richard had Dad’s back. Within a couple of minutes, the first guy, the “Heil Hitler” guy, was lying on the bar room floor, unconscious, in a pool of blood. The other two were also on the floor, moaning, but conscious.

Rich went to pay the bill. The bartender happened to be the owner. He tore up the bill.

“Nice going buddy, those sons of bitches had it coming. This is on the house.”

Dad left a ten-dollar bill on the counter. “Thanks Al. Hold this for the next guy that decks one of these bastards and take your time before you call the police. See you next time my wife and I have a kid.”

Dad and Uncle Richard returned to the hospital. Mom was sitting up in bed and Grandmother Bess and Grandmother Jessie were speaking with her.

Dad’s first words to Mom after my birth were: “Eileen, I may have killed a man tonight.”

I don’t know if I heard them. Didn’t matter anyway, I always loved my father… still do.

Bert Davidson began his career in the Wyoming oil patch. A successful entrepreneur, Bert has fulfilled a life-long ambition of writing narrative non-fiction, having studied with Tom Daley for the past few years. His work has recently appeared in Fine Lines and Scarlet Leaf Review. Bert received his undergraduate degree at the Colorado School of Mines and earned his Master’s Degree in Industrial Administration at Yale University. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife of 45 years, Toby.

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6 thoughts on “Eileen, I May Have Killed a Man Tonight by Bert Davidson”

  1. Bob Sharfman says:

    Great story you a Scotsman and me an Irishman….who knew. Wish I had met yur father. I know he was a great guy…all White (need to specify color since you moved to hostile territory) Sox fan.


  2. Dorothy Ungerleider says:

    Bert, thanks for the great piece, and I know I started to write a response but lost it (if you got it, that would be good news too!) I hope you and yours are all well and thriving –and I’d love to get a pic of your tribe. Mine now numbers 27 at last count–most of them in Israel and a few still in Vermont. If you ever get out west, I’d love to see you and welcome you to my home in Encino. Meanwhile, I send love and hugs from CA !
    Cousin Dorothy



    Bert, you are a natural story teller and as I read this piece I pictured your Dad as Timothy Oliphant doing what he did best. I really appreciate good writing and yours is superb!


  4. Fran Lyon-Dugin says:

    Love this story, Bert, and reading about your life experiences! Glad to have been part of them in a small way!


  5. Nancy Hubert says:

    Entertasining, as is all of your writing. A good story. I can imagine you inherited your ‘tackle the issue head on’ from your father. Congratulations on getting it published. Please tell my friends in the class how much I miss them. Nancy Hubert


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