April 08, 2007

Some Times

By Sean A. Lovelace © 2007

My friend S____ is a huffer. Gasoline, Freon, silver spray paint, etc. If you were to believe what you read, what the medical professionals say, my friend will eventually suffer marked atrophy of the brain, and has about a three in five chance of living to age twenty-five. My other friend, K____, is a United States Marine. Next week he boards a jetliner for Iraq, to Fallujah, where he has—under fire, with his specialty—approximately the same chance of making it.

I'm just trying to get you to think here.

"I'm thinking," my sister says. My sister is barefoot and with vertical hair—extremely vertical, a colorful epoxy involved, very impressive—and is one of the top classical pianists in the southeast United States. She says she now believes this to be meaningless, says she's realized a lot is meaningless, now that we're "at war."

She plans on dropping it all and joining the National Guard.

Defender of the hills and dells. The rivers and lakes and billboards. The homeland.
You cannot kill terror, I tell her.

She shrugs.

I order: a bottle of German beer, a glass of merlot.

She orders: Irish coffee.

Doer. Doer. Doer of...

If there is a collective force, a collective unconscious of evil arrayed against us, then who collected it?

I'm just trying to get you to think here.

"I said I was thinking." She is disappointed with her drink, a glass of coffee and whiskey. She expected something with a caramel color and topped with whipped cream. This is my sister.

I pour the beer into the merlot and mix the murky results with my index finger. I destroy two perfectly good drinks in her honor, to show her something.

"I don't get it," she says.

I say, "What do you think about Mozart?"

"I don't," she says.

I say, "'I studied politics and war that my sons will study mathematics and philosophy, so that their children will study art.' That's John Adams, father, founder, of the very country you long to defend."

My sister doesn't go for quotations and I can respect that. Still.

On the way out the door my sister is bitten by a baby raccoon. The little ball of fur scurries from beneath a newspaper stand and locks onto her ankle. I kick the raccoon, launch it into the busy street, where an SUV crushes it to a pulp, but the damage is done. I've never seen my sister bitten before, and it does nothing for her features: she seems to shrink and stumble; she blanches white, and clutches my shoulder.

"A raccoon in daylight," she stammers. "It means rabies. It means shots in the stomach."

We lean against the newspaper stand. USA TODAY. The headline: President to Authorize Additional 15,000 Troops.

I say, "Why? Tell me why! Why don't you wear shoes?"

She doesn't answer; doesn't know. She just starts shivering, and I pull her close.

I don't know, either. I really don't. And so.

Sean Lovelace is on a river right now. He has a book and a beer. Other times he teaches at Ball State University. His work recently appeared in CrazyHorse, Willow Springs, and so on.

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