Nick sits against the wall of the church where his fellow soldiers dragged him to keep him clear of the machine gun fire. He has been hit in the spine, and both legs stick out at weird angles. A man named Rinaldi lies face down against the wall. There are dead soldiers all around. But the narrator says that things are going well, presumably meaning the battle. Stretchers would be along shortly. Nick tries to speak to Rinaldi in Italian and in English, but Rinaldi lies still and breathes with trouble. The narrator claims that Rinaldi is a disappointing audience for Nick, and Nick turns away from him.
"A Very Short Story"
The narrator writes that an unnamed man is carried up to a rooftop in Padua on a hot evening. When everyone else leaves, he and a woman named Luz sit together alone up there on his bed. Luz takes care of him at night for months. All the patients like Luz, and they all know of his closeness with Luz. Before the soldier returns to the front, he prays with Luz in the Duomo. They want to get married. Although Luz wrote him many letters when he was at the front, he did not receive them until the armistice. She writes about how much she loves him and misses him. After the war they agree, he should return home and get a job before they get married. Luz will not go back to New York with him until he has a good job. Traveling by train from Padua to Milan, they argue about why she will not return immediately with him.
He returned to America by boat, and she went to Pordenone to work in a hospital. She soon fell in love with an Italian Major and wrote to the soldier in America that they only had a boy-girl love. She said she was sorry and hoped that he might forgive her someday. She said the Major intended to marry her. But he never does, and when she writes to America with this news, there is no reply. Not long after this, the soldier contracts gonorrhea from a sales girl in a taxicab while traveling through Lincoln Park.
The vignette again treats Nick's response to the violence of war. He has been paralyzed, and near him is another wounded soldier named Rinaldi. All around them are dead soldiers. He tries talking to Rinaldi but is disappointed with Rinaldi's response.
"A Very Short Story" portrays a different aspect of war, the difficulties of the romantic relationship between an unnamed soldier and a nurse named Luz. They fall in love, and this love lasts through the war, but after the war it falls apart. The marriage they planned for so long never comes to fruition. When Luz informs her former lover by letter that she no longer desires to marry him, she calls their love a "boy and girl affair." This chapter's approach to war does not concern the violence or the front lines of battle, but it shows a condition that has a profound impact on the lives of those involved.