Friday, May 14, 2004

Stars And Stripes Forever Day!

He found your tattoo.

"You're quite the patriot."

Cover up. Pull on a robe and move to the wicker chair by the bedroom door.

"I'm not a patriot," light a cigarette. "My father was a patriot. A colonel in the army." Let fly a plume of smoke. "Stars and Stripes was my German Shepherd."

He's trying not to let it show on his face how disappointed he is.

"Yes," say. "That's right. I'm a chick with a beloved pet story and you just fucked me so you have to lay there and listen to my beloved pet story like a good little boy who just fucked me, then you can head out the door and make a vow to drink less from now on. Now buckle the motherfuck up because here comes my beloved pet story."

He's trying to let it show on his face how absolutely and suddenly intrigued he is, not by the terrible story he's about to hear, but by you.

"Check it out. My Dad was a career army man. I was an army brat. My mom was a drunk, believe it," drag from the cigarette. It's almost burned out. "Stars and Stripes came into my life as a puppy. My father gave her to me a few days after we settled in at Fort Huachuca. I was only eight years old. My father named her Stars and Stripes."

Put the cigarette out. Get to the good part. He's bored. "Seriously, this gets good. When I was 15, we were at Fort Drum by then, my Mom started banging my dermatologist. This went on for about a year and I was pretty miserable, hating my Dad for being a Dad mostly but also for dragging us around everywhere, leaving me with Stars and Stripes as my only friend usually. So I was dreaming of my mom and my dermatologist making a go of it and letting me live with them."

He's still not interested. Finish the story but get him out of there right after. He's a dud. "Okydoke. So then, one day, poof, dream comes true. My Mom pulls the car over on I-81, tells me that she wants me to pack a suitcase and hide it under the bed. That night, the night before my Dad was about to move us all to Redstone Arsenal, she and I were gonna split and go live with Dr. Beame."

Now he's just wondering what this has to do with the goddamn dog. "So I pack up feeling light as feather, thinking I'm finally gonna have a life I'd wanna remember someday, you know? I lay in bed waiting for 2 AM to roll around, the appointed time. Round 12:30, my Mom creeps into my room and I hop outta bed, grabbing for the suitcase. She takes me by the shoulders and lays me back down. Says sorry kid, cold feet. We're goin' to Alabama with your Dad."

He says, "Um, the dog?"

Light a cigarette, making sure to shake your head in disbelief. "Here comes the dog, son." Send some smoke out towards him. "By the way, brunch is out for me. I just remembered I gotta help a friend move. Anyway, I flipped out on my Mom. Started hitting at her and screaming at her. Cursing. She's trying to shut me up before my Dad wakes up. But I couldn't have given a shit, so I just really wailed on her, slapping my forearms into her face while she tried to grab at my arms. My Mom's real small. So then my Dad comes in and pulls me off of her. He tosses me off the side of the bed and holds her to his chest. I climb up and see her crying into his undershirt. For fuck's sake."

Now he's interested, now that you forgot he's even there. "Fucking bitch had our ticket in her hand and she ripped it up. So Dad's demanding I tell him what this was about. Demanding I apologize. Fuck if I was gonna do either. The whole time, Stars and Stripes is barking at the two of them. So Dad keeps yelling, Mom keeps crying, Stars and Stripes won't stop barking, and I vowed then and there to get pregnant with the first Corporal I could find at Redstone. That'd make the new Colonel look real good. So Dad lets go of Mom and grabs Stars and Stripes by the collar. Says I'd better apologize to my mother or he'd take Stars and Stripes away from me. I don't say anything. He gives me a count of three."

Take a breath or you're gonna cry.

"On one, I start crying. But I don't say a word. I just cry and cry and send all the hate I can out of my eyes and all over him. Of course, he gets to three and yanks the dog out of my room. I listen to him go down the steps and out the front door. My Mom is sitting on the floor, her knees to her face, trying to say sorry probably but all she does is sit there shaking her head with her mouth open. I stopped crying then. I swear, I stopped crying just about five seconds before. I stopped crying and just sat there staring at my Mom like I was waiting for it. A full five seconds before I heard the gunshot in the back yard."

He's crying. Jesus.

"Jesus," you say.

"My God," he says.

He's not crying hard. Just a couple tears that he has to wipe away. But his face is real slack. Go lay down with him and play with his hair for a couple years.

Happy Stars And Stripes Forever Day!