Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interview With An Umpire

By Brian Wask

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.” –Jerry Falwell on The 700 Club, after the September 11 attacks.

Hell’s Kitchen, Night Time– The walls in Feo’s apartment tend to slouch after a certain hour. It’s happened during the day so I can’t be specific. But when they do slouch I prepare myself. The kettle was whistling by the time Paul arrived with a Bible under his arm. He placed it on the end table beside the window facing the fire escape. When Feo returned from removing the kettle his eyes flamed and I knew right away it was on. The following text transcribes the audio records capturing what happened next.

Feo: What are you doing with that Bible?

Paul: Reading it.

Feo: Why?

Paul: Why not?

Feo: It’s dangerous. What’s wrong with you?

Paul: Nothing. How?

Feo pushed a pile of newspapers and magazines from his couch and forced himself to sit as much as he wanted to stand. But at his age sometimes he has to sit. I went to the kitchen and pulled the light on. Cockroaches scurried for cover between cabinet creases and under stove-top burners. I grabbed three beers from the fridge and tossed one to both. Paul missed my toss and when he opened his it spewed like a geyser and coved his chin and spilled down his polo shirt.

Paul: Great. Now look at me. I have to drive home like this.

Feo: Look at you. It’s the same book that inspired bin Laden to attack New York and it’s the same book Bush referred to when he needed to justify his attack on Iraq. I don’t expect you to understand this. You’re an idiot. But that’s irony.

Paul: Take it easy Feo. I think I understand but I don’t agree. You sound like too many conspiracies. The Bible speaks the truth whether you like it or not. Whether I like it or not. That’s a good word right there. You got something better?

Feo: True or not, Abraham was a beast. A bigot. He destroyed Sodom for the same reasons Jerry Falwell insisted New York was attacked on 9/11. Tell me you’re okay with that. Tell me you’re okay with that and I’ll throw you and your good book out the window.

Paul: It wasn’t for the same reason. Those men in Sodom were raping other men. Tell me you agree with that. Besides, God destroyed Sodom, not Abraham. And he let the good people escape before he did so.

Feo: I don’t think so. I can’t talk to you. You sound like a fool. Are you? Look at the way you drink your beer. You think it’s poison. Why are you here? Your Bible killed more people than the Atomic Bomb. Both of them.

The Yankee game was the reason we three had gathered to begin with and it was now 4-4, bottom of the sixth, after an Angels homerun tied it up. I brought this to their attention.

Feo: God damn you look what you did. All that bullshit now see. Surprised you’re not rooting for the Angels.

Paul: You’re a douche. I read that book you gave me. NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND. Is that you’re theology? God, you must be happy. They should find a place for you to hide. I don’t think anybody would care.

Feo: I wouldn’t.

Feo used the arm of the couch to help him stand. He pulled his shirt down from where it rested on his herniated gut. His feet were bare and pale, his toenails sharp. His old man wiener spied from his boxers. He shook his head into the kitchen.

Paul: What’s his problem? We came to watch the game. He wants to talk about God instead. Can’t he help himself? Does he own a gun? Here he comes. I hope not.

Feo balanced three tea cups on a sliver platter. In his second hand he carried a revolver. He put the gun down next to the bible on the end table beside the window facing the fire escape. He served the tea to each of us.

Paul: Is it poison?

Feo: It could be. Drink it Osama bin Laden.

Paul: What is it?

Feo: Fungi. God made it.

The recorder lost power after this point. Part of me thinks that’s best.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Then and Now

By Brian Wask

Even stupid people know how to make signs.
Then… they were wrong. They felt like they were right. They lost that battle too. And the guy holding the microphone looks like he’s going to lick it. He might be dead today but I'm sure he had a few kids with his daughter. Hopefully those kids didn't grow up to be anything like their pappy.
Now... I don’t know this guy but by the looks he’s not the brightest light in the chandelier. In fact it looks like this one’s burned out. His t-shirt says it all. That flag don't fly so well anymore pal. But you keep it alive cause something you ate made you stupid. Abort Obama? What the...? You lost the Civil War, you lost race mixing, and you’ll lose healthcare reform. What values? I challenge him to name one thing the South can be proud of. Sweet Home Alabama? What an idiot. Wait 'til we legalize gay marriage. You're gonna love this place. Freedom. That’s about it.

Yeah, right old man, time for you to die. You're not doing much good here anyway. Thanks for coming out. Try not to fall on the way home and break your hip. Don't want your insurance to drop you like the load of crap it's safe to assume comes out of your mouth whenever you open it. YOBAMA? He's got more class than you've ever had. I promise I'll only take away your guns so I can shoot you with them. "For War! Against Healthcare! For War! Against Healthcare!"

They must be twins. Both idiots too. That must be her daddy licking the microphone above. I could think of a few things I’d like to do to her with a hammer and sickle. That’s right, I get mad sometimes. The "commies" in Washington want to take over healthcare so they can give it to people who need it. But you can't understand that cause your head aint on straight. I got your death sentence right here. It includes a week old port-a-potty and ten thousand angry hornets. We'll put you inside and listen to your screams. Oh, that's mean. Lucky for you the government will pick up your hospital tab. Doesn't that sound nice? 

The End

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Letters From Far Away

101st Airborne Division Richard A. Luttrell writes, Vietnam War:

Dear Sir,

For [twenty two] years I have carried your picture in my wallet. I was only eighteen years old that day we faced one another on that trail in Vietnam. Why you did not take my life I'll never know. You stared at me for so long armed with your AK-47 and yet you did not fire. Forgive me for taking your life, I was reacting just the way I was trained, to kill V. C. or gooks, hell you weren't even considered human. Over the years I have stared at your picture and your daughter, I expect. Each time my heart and guts would burn with the pain of guilt. I have two daughters myself now.

Today I visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. I have wanted to come here for several years now to say goodbye to many of my former comrades. I truly loved many of them as I am sure you loved many of your former comrades. As of today we are no longer enemies. I perceive you as a brave soldier defending his homeland.

As I leave here today I leave your picture and this letter. Forgive me Sir, I shall try to live my life to the fullest, an opportunity that you and many others were denied.

So until we chance to meet again in another time and place, rest in peace.


Richard A. Luttrell

101st Airborne Division

(Luttrell, in 1981, left this letter along with the photograph at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.)

Rupert Trimmingham, WWII:

April, 1944

Dear YANK Magazine:

Myself and eight other Negro soldiers were on our way from Camp Claiborne, LA., to Fort Huachuca, Arizona. We had to lay over until the next day for our train. We could not purchase a cup of coffee at any of the lunchrooms around there. The only place where we could be served was at the railroad station but, of course, we had to go into the kitchen. As you know, Old Man Jim Crow rules.

But that's not all; 11:30 a.m. about two dozen German prisoners of war, with two American guards, came into the station. They sat at the tables, had their meals served, talked, smoked, in fact had quite a swell time.

I stood on the outside looking on, and I could not help but ask myself these questions: are we not American soldiers, sworn to fight for and die if need be for this our country? Then why are they treated better than we are? Why does the Government allow such things to go on? Some of the boys are saying that you will not print this letter. I'm saying that you will.

Cpl. Rupert Trimmingham,

(The letter was printed in Yank, The Army Weekly, a magazine published by the U.S. Military during WWII.)

19-year-old Artillery Gunner, Leon responds to his fiancée, Korean War:

Dear Babe,

I just received your letter in this morning's mail. I held it in my hand for a minute while a little voice in the back of my head whispered, "This is it. This is the one."

You tried to "let me down easy."

I never said I was the greatest guy on earth; you did. Anyway, he's there. I'm here.

"Be careful," you tell me. "Take care." I almost laughed out loud. We wouldn't want to see me hurt, would we? There's no need to worry about me. I'll be all right.... Do I say something brilliant like "may all your troubles be little ones"?

How about "If you ever need a friend"? That presumes a future.

There are 500,000 N. Koreans and Chinese on the other side of that hill bound and determined to make sure I don't have a future. Over here where your past is your last breath, your present is this breath, and your future is your next breath, you don't make too many promises. Which leaves me what?



(Two days later, Leon charged an enemy machine gun nest and was killed.)

P. Burns writes to Ann Maceubbin, Civil War:

Nashville, June 10, 1861


It makes my heart sick to think of the state of our once happy and yet beloved country . . . to see two brave armies armed with all the deadly instruments that art and wealth could procure and to think that when they meet in the bloody battlefields what destruction and misery they can produce.

What is most horrid of all in this contest is that brother will meet brother and father will meet son in the strife. No matter what side I might take, might bring me in contact with a cousin or uncle, & god forbid that I should ever be found in arms against either.

Ann, I will be in your town by the 27th, but should I not be prompt do not despair for these are squirrelly times.

Your friend, P. Burns