I tried to understand his violence toward my mother—her purpled eyes, his paranoia and the neighborhood street lights he’d shot out with his issue rifle over the hood of his Chevy one bad night. His wandering moods ebbed with the flow of Falstaff’s swallowed. Having just turned four, remembering was like using thick school paste on a stick to repair a shattered Ming vase. I took everything in, hoping I would remember it all, every word, every action, every clue in every scenario until I could one day explain things to myself. This Nahm, a fiendish interloper, had had her way with him before I had been conceived.
I practiced remembering while the rest of them practiced forgetting.
The bottoms of my scuffed, white, patent leather shoes were sticky from the tavern floor. I sat on the bar stool next to my father’s. The daylight was ugly and it blared through the bar’s only window, a square turned on its side, like a cheap diamond, near the top of the nicotine stained, waxy tavern door. A row of glass blocks and brick ran the length of the place along the ceiling, separating it from the sidewalk outside. The blocks glowed green, casting a drizzled pattern on the dingy, checkerboard floor tiles in the narrow space between the wall and the quarter-fed pool table.
The twangy, lonesome howl of an electric guitar swam in the bar’s morning-after dankness. Someone’s dime had released Charlie Rich’s canned voice from the jukebox and my father, hunkered over the leather-upholstered bar, began murmuring along:
Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world
And if you did oh, she must be cryin’, cryin’
“Tell your mommy this is her song,” he said.
Hey, if you happen to see the most beautiful girl,
That walked out on me
Tell her I’m sorry, tell her I need my baby
Oh, won’t you tell her, that I love her.
“Oh, God—” he whispered. His thumb and first finger pressed his eyes. His other hand suspended a Schlitz bottle and a smoke-curling Winston.
I woke up this morning, and I realized what I had done
I stood alone in the cold gray dawn
And I knew I’d lost my morning sun . . .
I watched my scuffed shoes dangle.
I lost my head and said some things
Now come the heartaches that the morning brings
I know I’m wrong and I couldn’t see
I let my world slip away from me
“You ok, Buddy?” the bartender said. My father sucked up. He ran his sky-blue sleeve under his nose, smashed his cigarette hard into the orange, speckled ashtray in front of him.
His shirt matched his eyes. He raked his Elvis hair back with one hand, and from his front jeans pocket, he fished out a few bills and a pile of change with the other. He palmed the money onto the bar.
“I gotta go, man.” He tugged me by the hand down from the bar stool and we left the bartender alone with his wet towel and tacky floor.
“I hate it when someone parrots General Sherman’s quote; ”War is Hell!” because that’s a lie. Hell is only for the guilty. War is worse than Hell, war not only destroys a country, kills soldiers on both sides, but it also kills and destroys innocent people. Sometime whole generations.” —James J. Alonzo
Dedicated to every surviving veteran, and every family member of every veteran of all foreign wars. May your path be light, may your compassion remain intact and may your wounded spirit be blessed with peace. Let us no longer number ourselves among the casualties.
Read more here . . . Little Jenny Gump