What I want to mention here is the craftwork. This is a story told by a master in complete control of his material. The dialogue informs the characters. Esme with her large words is clearly a child grown too soon and a child trying to make sense of and control a terrible world. The narrator is barely quoted because he is a mystery first to us the reader, and then to himself. He is unnamed in the first section, echoing his sensitive work for Army intelligence, but is named in the second section as Sergeant X. In the second section, Clay echoes Charles from the first part, complete with inappropriate parts of their anatomy being either on a chair (Charles's face) or on a bed (Clay's booted feet), and it gives the piece balance. And serving as example that powerful fiction is always timely, this short story is primarily about the personal devastations of war -- both on the part of the narrator and the author. Hommage is paid to the psychological damage done to civilians too in the under-the-surface brittleness of Esme. Many years apart, they ultimately share much in common.
As the character did for the narrator of the story, Esme captured my heart all those years ago when I first read this story, and she still does.