Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Home: Part 45

What follows is a work of fiction. Nothing here is either true or relevant. Read at your own risk. Expect nothing, and that's exactly what you'll get. Oh: This could go on for a while.

July 1958

The tent was pitched at the fringe of a soybean field that was an agricultural barrier between Mitchell's house and mine. The tent was canvas. A single wooden pole--two halves that screwed together--held raised the top-center of the tent high enough for even adults to sit up. The tent had no windows, just a single doorway. Mitchell's father drove moving trucks, and he'd given us each a packing quilt that we could use as improvised sleeping bags.

We were sitting outside. It was past midnight, and the sky was clear; the Milky Way seemed to stretch toward what Mitchell liked to refer to as infinity, a term that I was less sure of than he apparently was. At the far end of the field, the terrain sloped gently downward toward the highway that ran through town. The other sides of the field were bordered by dense wooded areas in which we had spent much of our free time exploring and improvising small forts in which we occasionally slept. 

The air was warm for so deep into the night: close, humid. Mitchell had pilfered one of his mother's Winston cigarettes, and we passed it between us, each drawing a small breath of filtered smoke. Months earlier we had tried a Lucky Strike from a pack that Mitchell had stolen from the Woolworth's. The Winston seemed less harsh to me.

"Another car," Mitchell said, gesturing toward the highway. "I wonder where people go so late at night."

"Work, maybe," I said. "Or home from work. Doesn't your dad drive a lot of late nights?" I handed the Winston back to Mitchell.

"Sometimes. Things are quieter then, he says. Easier to drive." He held the cigarette toward me.

"Nah," I said. "Hurts my throat."

He took another puff, looked the cigarette, then ground the butt into the dirt between his feet. "I don't think I could do this all the time," he said. "The smoke makes me a little dizzy."

I lay on my back and stretched out. We'd trampled some of the soybean plants, and they formed a comfortable cushion. Mitchell stretched out, too, and we both stared up into the sky. There was no wind. If it weren't for the occasional car on the highway, there would have been no sound. We lay still. Mitchell coughed and spat the phlegm off to one side. Directly above us, then, something that burned fell through the sky. It was gone so quickly, I wasn't sure of what I'd seen--or if I'd seen anything at all.

"Jesus Christ," Mitchell whispered.

I coughed and blinked. The first breeze of the night pushed through the bushes, carrying the scent of soybeans across my face. When I woke up at sunrise, I saw that neither Mitchell nor I had moved from where we settled.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Home: Part 44

What follows is a work of fiction. Nothing here is either true or relevant. Read at your own risk. Expect nothing, and that's exactly what you'll get. Oh: This could go on for a while.

June 1968 

"My parents think you're crazy," I told Mitchell. We were sitting in McDonald's.

"I probably am," he said. "My dad didn't really say anything, just kind of looked at me. My cried."

"You're their only kid. If I went away, at least my parents would have Cindy. Why didn't you just wait to see if you got drafted?"

Mitchell shrugged and chewed a piece of his hamburger. "I thought of that. But I was lying in bed one night and I thought that I'd like to be in charge of my own fate, you know? When the war's over and I get home, I can join the American Legion and the VFW."

"Everyone needs goals, I guess," I said.

"I just couldn't see staying here," he said.

I understood what he meant. The town we lived in was small, and there was little to do for those who were done with high school. I was taking my one-and-a-half-legged-self to college, though the campus was just a few miles from home so I really wasn't going anywhere. "You'll be a local hero," I said. "We'll have parades."

Mitchell laughed. "Yeah. Parades."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Home: Part 43

What follows is a work of fiction. Nothing here is either true or relevant. Read at your own risk. Expect nothing, and that's exactly what you'll get. Oh: This could go on for a while.

April 1958 

Terry had two brothers. Mark, the oldest of the three, lived in Albuquerque where he owned a small restaurant. He had a wife and two children, and from what I gathered from Cindy was the family outcast who had turned his back on the farm and everything involved with it. "He doesn't even write letters home or send Christmas cards," Cindy told me. "Terry says the two of them were close, but then Mark changed and moved away." Tony was the youngest of the three boys. He was a couple of years younger than I was, and he was what Cindy called "special." She chose her words carefully. "Not retarded, just slow." I'd seen Tony at school, and he had seemed normal enough to me.  

A couple of days after my experience with Terry in the barn, Cindy knocked on my bedroom door. Inside my room, she sat on the chair at my small desk and looked at me. "Terry's not sure about you," she said.

I didn't know how to take that. "What does that mean?" I asked. 

She pursed her lips. "He just says he's not sure he can trust you. That's all."

"Trust me with what?"

"With things he says or does."

"That's what he says?"


"I don't know what that means."

"He says you were acting strangely in the barn the other day when we were at his house."

"I wasn't."

"He says that. He wants you to be friendly with Mark when we're all together, but he's not sure he can trust you."

"Trust me to do what?" I'd never even spoken to Mark, so I didn't know what Terry could be talking  about, or thinking. I did not remember seeing Mark the few times I'd accompanied my sister to Terry's house.

"Just remember that Terry is my boyfriend, okay? He's important to me." She seemed genuinely concerned, but I was not sure of why or for whom.

"I don't want to be doing your church stuff," I said. 

"You're not old enough to know what you really want, or what you need," she said. "Everything Terry and I do is good for you. Not just for god."

"Dad says I don't have to go to church if I don't want to. Not anymore."

She let that sink in as if weighing whether I was bluffing. "I'll talk to him." She got up to leave. "I might go to Terry's next week, too. You'll come with me."



Sunday, July 9, 2017

Home: Part 42

What follows is a work of fiction. Nothing here is either true or relevant. Read at your own risk. Expect nothing, and that's exactly what you'll get. Oh: This could go on for a while.

June 1968 

Mitchell enlisted in the army the day after we graduated from high school. He said he needed some adventure and wanted to get out of our small town as soon as he could. The day he signed the papers, we went into the recruiter's office together. "You can still change your mind," I said as we walked up the concrete steps and into the building. The sky was gray. The light rain showers we'd had the previous night had left the concrete wet and slick, and I had to walk slowly. "Or, you could join the navy, go to sea."

He hesitated before opening the door. "No," he said, shaking his head. "I think this is the right choice to make."

That evening at the supper table, I told my family what Mitchell had done. My parents both seemed petrified. I'd known Mitchell since Kindergarten. His father was a mechanic who owned his own shop, and his mother was a cook in the high school cafeteria. "Not a good choice," my father said. "Why in the world did he go and do that? Not a good choice at all."

"He said he wanted adventure."

"His parents must be furious," my mother said.

"Why didn't you talk him out of it?" my father said. "You're his friend. You could have done that."

"I tried," I said, thinking back to my feeble attempt earlier that day. But I knew Mitchell well, and I was sure that I could have pleaded for hours and not succeeded.

Cindy, though, thought that Mitchell had done the right thing. "We have to fight Communism," she said. "It's the Domino Theory. We have to stop them."

"Maybe you should go fight," I said.

"Don't be stupid," Cindy said. "I'm a woman. I can't got fight. I'm doing god's work here, instead. If I serve got, then he will fight."

"Onward Christian soldiers," my father muttered.

"We are soldiers, Dad," Cindy said. "We're fighting for the entire world."

My father seemed as though he wanted to say more, but instead he let the matter drop. 

But Cindy wasn't finished, and she turned her attention to me. "You should be fighting with us," she said. "Since you can't go to Vietnam, you should do what you can from here."

"Why doesn't Terry go?" I said. "He seems healthy enough."

"He can barely see out of his right eye."

"He can shoot a gun just fine," I said. "At least, he likes to shoot pigeons flying around his barn. You can go to church and do whatever you want to do, but don't drag me into this. Besides, I've got other plans."

Cindy snorted. "Plans? What plans could you possibly have?"

"Anything but church," I said. "Anything that doesn't involve that boyfriend of yours."

"Some plan."

My mother exhaled loudly. "Not at the supper table. Let's just eat in peace, okay?"

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Home: Part 41

What follows is a work of fiction. Nothing here is either true or relevant. Read at your own risk. Expect nothing, and that's exactly what you'll get. Oh: This could go on for a while.

February 1958 

"You should show him around the farm," Cindy said to Terry.

"It's dark," Terry said.

Cindy pointed to the window. "Not yet, it isn't. Just take him around. Show him a tractor, or something."

We were sitting in the kitchen of Terry's house on a Saturday evening. For most of the day Cindy and Terry had been preparing certificates and small bibles to hand out in the next day's Sunday school sessions. Some of the children were moving up to the next grade, and Cindy thought it was important that those children be rewarded and recognized. Cindy had once again succeeded in dragging me along with her as she and Terry fulfilled their churchly obligations. I had wanted to stay home, to wander through fresh snow that had fallen the previous day. The two of them had finished typing and signing the certificates, attaching each to a certificate rolled into a small scroll.

Terry looked at me. "Can you walk around okay?"

"Don't be like that, Terry," Cindy said. "Just take him outside for a while."

Terry rolled his eyes. "Like a dog?"

"Put on your coat," Cindy said as Terry led the way out the back door.

The sky was winter-gray. The crisp air smelled fresh and new, not stuffy like was in the house. Terry stopped, looked around, and gestured toward the barn. "This way." He started walking again without looking back to see where I was. The inside of the barn smelled old and musty; scents of manure and hay overwhelmed me at first, and I had to stop to catch my breath. "You ever been inside a barn?" He still hadn't looked at me.

"I don't remember being in one," I said.

"Well, this is it. Can you climb a ladder?"


"Follow me." He started up some heavy boards nailed into a wall. "We'll go up into the hayloft."

I followed slowly. I generally did okay on level ground, but I sometimes had trouble with anything vertical. The loft was nearly empty but for some bales of hay and a few lengths of rope that were coiled into a corner, like snakes.

"Come on," Terry said. He had moved to the edge of the loft. "Let's see if you can do this." He had climbed onto a large crossbeam that spanned the barn. He stretched his arms out like wings, and he started walking across to the other side. "Follow me." He stopped walking and, finally, turned to look at me. The light was poor, but from what I saw of his face he seemed to be smiling.

"No,"  I said.

"Yes." His face seemed sterner now.

"I'm going down," I said, and I started toward the ladder.

"You really are a pussy, aren't you?"

The concrete floor seemed far below me as I cautiously turned and slid a foot over the side of the loft. At first I could not feel the ladder, and panic filled me as I thought that I would have to call Cindy for help. When my foot found a step, I grabbed the top rung tightly and then worked my way all the way down. I reached the bottom and stared up. Terry was now half-way to the other side. I wanted him to fall. On the other end of beam, he stopped to stare down where I stood.

"You're so precious. I've been walking across this beam since I was a kid. You need to grow up." He had worked his way to another ladder. He laughed as he climbed down. At the bottom, he turned toward me, brushed dust and bits of hay from his clothes, and walked over to me. "We'll tell Cindy that we saw some stuff, and you'll be happy about it." He lifted his hand toward the side of my head and tugged my ear. "Maybe next time you won't be such a pussy and you'll walk across that beam."