Posted on May 26, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair5.26.2014 Journal Prompt Photo by Gilbert Love. Source The Digs: Pittsburgh Post Gazette May 26, 2014: Something to remember. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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They made us swear a oath. On the flag and to God. But my daddy’d burned the flag when he came back from the fightin and he said as how he’d lost his faith in God, only he swore some when he said it.
I heared him some nights, daddy cryin in his sleep, or callin out like he was lost or hurt. Momma said as how we was just to put us fingers in us ears and to not let his yellin break sleep. But I heared her some nights and she warn’t sleepin none neither. She was singin cradle songs to my daddy and rockin him in her arms and sayin as how the bad dream was over and he was safe now. And the teachers at school made us swear a oath with us hands on us hearts.
Each school day for a year, swearin to trust in God and to love us country. And they hung a coloured picture on the wall, a picture of the president, and he was all shiny and new lookin, and he was grinnin like he was one of the blessed and I swear I never seed teeth so white before. And we sang a song ‘bout America and it bein the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Daddy says sometimes that ‘brave’ is just another shit word for stupid. He says he’s seen plenty of men that has been called brave after they died, and medals sent to theys wives and theys children as if two bit coins and scrap ribbon can make up for the pieces of a man collected together and laid in a hole in the ground. Or men with no legs called brave and they don’t never talk brave, not now theys home, and they has deep dark regrets for the things that they did in gettin their legs blowed off, or theys arms. Daddy says ‘brave’ is just a load of bull fed to simple folk by chickenshit governments.
Then, when we was all done with school and all of us graduated, there stood a man at the mall, smart as paint and his hair cut so short and he was smilin like the president. And he ask’d me if I wanted to be a soldier boy and to do my duty by my country. And he made it sound like a holiday and girls on his arm wherever he went and more money in his pockets than he knowed what to do with. And me and Billy, grinnin like fools or drunks, and we signed some bit of paper, and he shook us hands and said we was true Americans.
When I got home my daddy was so mad he was spittin teeth and he said I had no more than shit for brains and he din’t know how I could call myself educated. He marched me down to the mall and he had it out with that smilin clean-cut corporal and he said the man oughtta be ashamed for pickin on children still wet behind the ears. And daddy tore up the bit paper I’d signed and he spat on the corporal’s boots and he said some things that was best not written down. We went home and he din’t speak none to me for a whole week.
Billy’s daddy was not so strong in his opinions and Billy went off for to be a soldier and Linda said it would be the makin of him and the way that she said it I knowed she’d fuck his brains out if he was there. And we kept up with all Billy’s developments, talkin with his daddy over a beer at Cooper’s bar on a Friday night.
He done his trainin, did Billy, and then he was sent overseas, some place where it was hot as ovens and the air all crack and snap with gunfire. There was pictures of Billy in his uniform, his jaw a little squarer and his eyes a little harder. I warn’t sure I could see the boy in the man he’d become. The pictures din’t show it, but I felt sure he must stand taller in his boots and all his muscles pulled tight as ship rope.
Then one Friday we heared as how Billy had been killed. His picture was in the paper and the flag outside the school was lowered to half mast. Shot in the head when he was sleepin. Linda cried for near on three days and she said she’d never forget him. And she laid flowers by Billy’s front door and a card that said he was a hero. I din’t see how he could be a hero just for gettin shot, but I din’t say nothin. I kissed Linda and I said she’d be ok and we both got a little drunk one night and we made out in the back of her daddy’s car. Twice we did it. And afterwards I was sure I was walkin taller and feelin like I was somethin near to bein a man at last. And I was a little sad that Billy never got to feel that way, ‘cept with a two dollar whore that he wrote me about in his only letter.