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Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:Short Stories
  • Language:English
  • Pages:40
  • eBook ISBN:9781483526089

Lesser of Evils

by Gerald Seward Ellenson

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A 14-year old boy and a WWII veteran strike up an odd friendship that changes both of their lives forever. "The lesser of two evils is still evil, is it not? The question is how much evil one is willing to do, and to what end? Perhaps even more, the question is how much evil one can live with, having done it." -- character Gunnar Thorson. The veteran finds some release in his recounting of a tragic decision he had to make during an operation, leading the boy to ponder what burdens his father, a radio man who put in his 50 missions on a bomber over Europe, might be carrying.


In a small Minnesota town during the summer of 1954, a 14-year old boy witnesses a WWII veteran, known in town as "Crazy Gunnar", throwing something into a lake from the town's community pier. At the moment, Gunnar was in the middle of an attempt to engage in some penance for his actions during the war, forgiveness, at least his own of himself, being a seeming impossibility. His mission of penance was building into a volcano which could not be stopped from erupting. Will becomes obsessed with finding out what Gunnar threw in the lake, and why, leading Will to approach and attempt befriending him. Gunnar tells Will a tale of a tragic decision he had to make during a famous operation in Norway during the war and goes on to reveal a murder he had committed that very morning which was linked to the operations ten years before. Everyone finds themselves repeatedly faced with choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils. The lesser of evils is still evil, is it not? The questions Gunnar asks, and Will asks himself lifelong after their meeting, are how much evil one is willing to do, how much evil can be lived with -- and how much evil one can do before becoming, one's self, irredeemably evil. The story weaves some facts of history with fiction. The characters, though fictitious, are drawn from life.

About the author

Gerald Ellenson is a retired social worker (MSW, USC) and Vietnam veteran. In addition to writing, he maintains two blogs, composes music and draws. He had three seminal papers on the symptoms of incest survivors published during the mid- to late 80s which are referred to in nearly every book and paper on the subject. One of the blogs is dedicated to survivors, the other to his military unit, the 20th Preventive Medicine Unit, 44th Medical brigade. His varied interests include cosmology, quantum physics, cartooning and fishing.