Sunday, December 21, 2008

Best Christmas Story Ever

Best Christmas Story ever —
My brother was spending his first Christmas in Iraq during the gulf war in 1990-1991. There was a great build up to this war if you remember with Bush Senior really laying it on and Saddam calling for the "Mother of all wars" Remember? We thought Iraq had some great arsenal but it turned out to be a house of cards. Saddam swung on the end of a rope some 18 years later, but that's beside the point.
My brother was going off to Iraq to cover the war and no one knew if he was coming back. In fact, my father considered him dead already.
So pops would shuffle around the house, deeply depressed while I slept on the couch, crippled by a foot injury which had dashed all hopes I had of becoming a professional baseball player. My baseball glove, probably a Christmas gift years earlier, collected dust, utterly useless like my foot.
My pops would pass me in the morning and give me one of those smiles that a dying dog gives when its stomach ulcerates. I wanted to kill my father, to put him out of his misery but I was too weak and suicidal.
"How did you sleep?" my father would ask.
"I didn't sleep. I lay here thinking about what a waste everything is."
I had heard my father shuffle to the bathroom to piss all night long. he hadn't slept either.
"Well aren't you a ray of sunshine?"
"Keep mocking me. Go ahead."
"I wonder what Brooklyn is doing."
Brooklyn is my brother. My dad said this with the tone of voice someone reserves for a wake.
"Probably loading his automatic rifle to kill some loitering kids."
I meant it. That's what the army actually did anyway. Dropping death on innocents every Christmas.
"God damn it. You think you know everything."
My dad was pissed. His face got red. He got in my face.
"You don't know what you are talking about!"
I turned away.
"Ok, dad. Sure. You're right. Whatever. Go on."
I waved my hand at him, taunting him like a little kid. He slapped my arm and raised his fist.
"You don't know a THING!" he yelled. "You know nothing. NOTHING!"
His fist shook in the air between us. A pathetic christmas tree leaned against the wall in the other room, undecorated, dying for want of water. My foot throbbed. The x-rays had been bad news.
"Go ahead. Fucking kill me. Kill me like Brooklyn is going to kill those little kids."
Spit drooled off my dad's chin. He had been spitting with rage. He hated me so much right then, all his hate boiled over. He stepped back and we stared at each other for a few moments. I wanted to fight him but was too weak. I had been on a hunger strike to protest the war. The only person who knew of this hunger strike was my family. It had been two days since I had eaten.
"Every day the United States spends in Iraq I will not eat." I had pronounced during a dreadful Thanksgiving dinner during which my dying grandmother had gotten drunk and dropped a glass of wine on the table cloth. As he carved the Turkey my father had said that if Brooklyn died he would assassinate the president.
"Whatever," I said. "You live in this country. You pay your taxes. If Brooklyn dies then you killed him. You're a coward, just like every other tax payer in America. No one has courage. This is the most disgusting country in the world. I renounce my citizenship. I renounce this family of rapists."
I lay back on the couch, my sweat had long ago discolored the fabric of the seat cushions. My father turned away and got his coat. He normally ate some oatmeal before he left but this time he just slammed open the door and banged down the icy steps to drive to work. I could hear him peeling out on his way down the driveway. I was so unhappy. I was crippled and depressed and had no future and was hungry and in a country that had betrayed me, was killing in my name, was a fraud. Across the street some Christmas lights blinked in the post dawn fog. Red white and blue red white and blue. Patriotic Christmas lights, like the yellow ribbon on the tree out front, a marketing strategy by Kmart.
I struggled to my feet and with the help of my crutches I stumbled to the front door and opened it, knocking down a Christmas wreath hung on the door knob. I looked at the yellow ribbon and the newspaper on the snowy front walkway with the headlines "We will win!" and a smiling, blood thirsty President Bush. I looked across the neighborhood. The first time I spoke my voice broke like dry sand. The second time was loud. The third time was a scream.
"You all ought to be ashamed of yourself!"
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.