Pimp My Lent/Day 12
From Mark Birnbaum
“The fucking chopper was supposed to pick him up well before dark. Now the sun was slipping behind the green mountains.
That said, the light was beautiful. He framed up a long shot of a grunt crouched behind his sandbags, peering over his weapon into the glare. He felt the temperature drop.
The Special Forces “A Camp” was totally exposed to the VC mortar positions hiding in the forests high above them. “Fuck me,” he thought, “I’m going to have to spend the night here.” The Green Berets had been hit every night since they set up the goddamn outpost two months ago, really for no other purpose than to piss off the VC. It was working.
“And all I’ve got to defend myself with,” he realized, “is a 300mm lens and a ball point pen. FTA,” he thought. Fuck the Army.
[Note… I love this prompt, and I wanted to respond it in about three different ways – op-ed/essay, or short-short story, but then here comes Cricket (also heard from in Day 3 and Day 6) again. She drowned everybody else out. So here we go -]
Miss Jeanmarie Jeantette
1401 Sleepy Hollow Way
Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29598
We are so bored. It is so hot here. Lexi and me are babysitting Douglas and Savannah because Mom is taking a nap after work, and Miss Q is having her lip and chin done which means what I don’t know but they do it to her at the beauty shop.
Lexi and me were just talking about who we would be if we were in Little Women, and then who would we be on Little House of the Prairie. There is always one sister who dies, so I told Lexi “I nominate you to be that one,” and she was laughing so hard that milk came out her nose and we could not stop laughing. Then Mom threw her shoe at her bedroom door and yelled at us to KNOCK IT OFF AND LET HER HAVE FIVE MINUTES OF PEACE AND QUITE!! So now we are bored again, so Lexi went back to reading Little Tragedy on The Prairie (ha, ha) and I turned on the new
Did you notice I got a computer??!! And a printer!! It is for all of us. We don’t get internet, but THANK. YOU. GOD. for the computer. I am not making fun of God, or Jesus, in saying this and am really thankful to God, although it was Miss Quinette who got it off some guy for cheap. She said she could not stand the typerwriter noise “Not another day, Girlene!” She said the typerwriter motor sounds like a dying can-opener, going “grindGRINDgrindGRINDgrind” which I didn’t ever notice until she said it, and then it was all I could hear unless I was typing.
Mom says I am to work on my run-on sentences and commas for the rest of this summer. So, I am now working on them.
The computer has a tiny printer that came with it. So when school starts next month, we can print out school work, too. We are not allowed to use spelling check because Mom says it will make us lazy, and we are a family of dictionary using people. The computer is slow and makes its own weird sound, but it is not LOUD like the typerwriter, which Miss Q put out onto the curb. I was going to sneak out there and get it and hide it because you never know, but before I even could finish thinking that, someone had drove by and got it off the curb. Some things have feelings I think, and I am thinking, what if that typerwriter is wondering “where am I and what did I do wrong?” I hope whoever got it got it for their kids to use and not for scrap I hope.
Had to stop and go pull Savannah off the wall again. She is climbing everywhere like a monkey-baby. There is this cool thing in Miss Q’s living room wall, a weird but interesting planter thing with built in with bars almost like a ladder that go up to the ceiling. Miss Q says it’s for a plant to grow up through, like vines. I told her it would look so cool! I think to have a bunch of vines growing up your wall, but Miss Q says “I don’t do houseplants!” Even though she has every plant known to America in her gardens which we are all slaves to. (This is not a raciest comment.) Anyway Savannah as a baby is like what would happen if Thing 1 and Thing 2 got melted together and became Thing 3!! She is very smart and very FAST. She saw Miss Q’s cat Pippa climb up the bars of the planter all the way to the ceiling and then sit up there with her tail going snapsnapsnapsnap back and forth and her eyes going big and small and big and small like “I AM GOING TO LAND WITH MY CLAWS ON YOUR HEAD!” Savannah thought it was so hilarious how Pippa ran up the wall to the ceiling so of course she can’t stop trying to get up there!! It was funny once but now it is just tiring us out.
Mom has to work part-time at the bank as a teller because the Army cany only pay so much. Me and Lexi are the babysitters. We have done nothing all summer long except “watch the baby, watch the baby, watch the baby!” and try to keep Douglas from having a nervous breakdown every time he sees a rolley-polley. Mom takes us swimming at Letra beach a lot because it is free to soldiers and their families, and she can sit and read while we run around like crazy. Today we had to call Mom at work because of Savannah climbing up the planter and Miss Q will not lift a finger to help and Mom says “Duck tape her in the crib if you have to and to stop calling her at work!” She is kidding about the duck tape. Mom’s very tense.
Mom was going to go to Germany because Dad got real sick there in the hospital, but then he got better, which was a big relief. So they said not to come because he will be sent stateside soon. He called us last week from the hospital for the first time since the first time he called, after we didn’t hear from him for so long we thought the very worst. Dad could not talk long because he is very tired from having pNEUmonia, but he’s getting better. I told him he was just copying me from back during spring break from when I was so sick. Ha, ha. He said he did not know I was real sick. I told him knock it off don’t feel bad because he has bigger fish to fry. He will go to Fort Sam Hueston in San Antonio, Texas which is one place that we have lived. Only for a short time. Lexi was born there and they lived there while I was a pre-born (I made up the word! I like it!) then so I don’t remember San Antonio. OF COURSE. Ha, ha. I was born at Fort Bliss. Mom said San Antonio is lovely and the zoo is VERY good. Now Douglas is driving us nuts talking about going to the zoo all the time. I am just SO EXCITED TO SEE DAD THERE! It nearly squeezes my breath out to think how it will be to see him finally!! He has never been gone so long!!
There was bad news on the news for the Army today, and now we know more American soldiers are going overseas. Some girls in my grade (we already started here and IT IS STILL SO HOT! Not fair!!) had their peace sign necklaces on today, and I said “Hey, I like peace,” but then they were all like “But your dad’s in the army,” and I’m like “Hey, who should like it more?” Which I thought was real cleaver, but they don’t get me in Cache, Oklahoma. I asked Mom if I could get a peace sign necklace for my birthday which is coming in less than four weeks.
TWENTY DAYS TO BIRTHDAY!! At the PX today Mom let me show her what I want, and then she saw this guy, Lt. Beatty, who Mom went to high school with in Balboa, Panama. They talked about school, and laughed how Oklahoma is more hot than Panama in the summer. Lt. Beatty made over Lexi about how she is real pretty and so much like Mom, then he said to me “You must take after your Dad.” Mom called him a stupid jerk and then we were OUT OF THERE. She was so mad she couldn’t get the key in the car. I told her to knock it off it was a compliment because Dad is a capital Hottie, which made her start laughing/crying. I think if Dad doesn’t get home soon she may explode.
AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! I lost the whole page that I wrote!! So now I have to write it over!!! This did not ever happen when I had the typerwriter!!!!
This is how I remember that it went.
We started school. I like my classes, except for P.E. which is NOT my thing. Douglas got glasses because he couldn’t read the chalkboard at school. Lexi started junior high but Mom hates the school so much she is trying to figure out how to NOT let Lexi go there.
Ten days before my birthday, Mom took Savannah and went to San Antonio TO SEE DAD!!! He got in Brook Army Medical Center, which we call the BAMC. Even though there is a good gest house there, we all could not go because there wasn’t enough money for all of us to go on the bus and we would miss too much school. Me and Lexi and Douglas had to stay with Miss Q by ourselves. Me and Lexi were sad. Douglas could not stop crying the first night. He has never been without Mom. It was AWFUL. He was so scared when it got dark, we could not calm him down! It was scary. Miss Q called Mom and she talked to Douglas a long time and told him a secret that he could not tell us, and that made him better because Douglas likes having something nobody else can have. He about wore us out teasing how he would not tell until he finally fell asleep. Miss Q did not get to know either, but she said she did not care as long as he went to sleep, because otherwise she was going put Douglas out on the back porch with the cat and lock the door. Which she would not really do, probably.
It was a long, long, long, long week of no Mom. But Douglas got better about not crying. Miss Q gave him a new painting assignment: believe it or not painting bugs. She got him NOT scared of bugs by making him paint bugs from bug books she had bought from the Goodwill. Now he doesn’t flip out and lose his mind, even if he sees a bee. He won’t pick them up or anything but he doesn’t care if they’re ants on the ground. Lexi and I are now deciding to love Miss Q, but DO NOT HUG HER because that makes her mean as a snake! “What are you doing! Get your HANDS off ME, Girlene!” Lexi got real mad about this and went into our room (but did NOT slam the door!) but I told Miss Q “I like the cut of your jib, Toots.” Which is something I heard on an old b&w movie and then Miss Q started barking at me, which it took a minute to see is how she laughs when she is really tickled. Now I try to find ways to make her bark. It’s HARD to do.
Mamie and Pops came to town for Labor Day Weekend and for my birthday!!! These are Dad’s parents and they are older than Miss Q and live on a farm, and they are so nice and fun. Mamie brought every kind of cookie she knows how to make, practically, and they stayed in a motel in Lawton for three nights, and me, Lexi, and Douglas got to stay with them! And swim in the pool even though it was supposed to be closed but it’s still hot here. Pops says “Stupid rules are for stupid people” (he cusses in all his sentences, but I can’t write that!!) Lexi and I and Douglas all got sad when they took us back to Miss Q’s on Monday night so we could go to school.
Then it was Tuesday and my birthday, but Mom was gone and Savannah was gone and Dad was gone, so I woke up feeling like somebody put a big wet quilt on me, I was so sad, I could not shake it off. Miss Q told me I had to go to school no matter what I felt and stop acting like a baby because obviously I was not. She gave me the cutest puppy painting. She painted it herself. I have been wanting a dog for my whole life, but we are never sure where we are going to live and it would KILL me, Mom says, to get a dog and then have to give it up.
So anyway, I went to school. My teacher pinned a dollar bill to my shirt, which I thought was weird and made me feel weird and shy, but the teacher said “Just wait” and HOLY CRAP!! PEOPLE STARTED PINNING MONEY ON ME! It was like crazy! Like Christmas! By the time for assembly I had about 20 dollars on me!
The assembly started and the principal was talking about America and Labor Day, and I was about asleep but then they CALLED MY NAME and asked me to come up to the front. I did NOT want to, but they called me and I was about the color of a red tomato and thought “If they sing Happy Birthday to You to me I am going to DIE on the tile floor.” I went up and the principal had her hands on my shoulders and was talking but all these kids were staring at me and my face was so hot and my heart was going BOM-BOM-BOM. Then I saw Mamie and Pops sitting in the back and Pops is waving and making this stupid “hee-haw, hee-haw” gesture to get me to laugh, and it does, and I feel better. A little. I was happy they stayed in town to have lunch with me, and thinking about where I would like to go eat and so I STiLL didn’t get what the principal was saying and then the principal turned me by the shoulders, and there was my Dad.
I cried a lot.
There were TV cameras there. I didn’t like that.
I shook so hard, I couldn’t move. My mom was pushing him in a wheelchair and he had his arms on the arms of the chair and his fingers laced together. He looked real real tired and so skinny if my mom wasn’t there I could have almost not have recognized him. He was grinning at me, though, so I knew it was him. I couldn’t walk my legs were wobbly and Dad started to get up like he was going to catch me if I fell, so Mom hurried up and got him close enough to grab hold of me and then I didn’t let go of him for over an hour. He says he had ruts in his arms from me grabbing him so hard but he’s lying.
The TV reporter asked me how I felt about my dad and how I felt about the army and I said something bad. I did NOT mean it. I really REALLY mean it, it just came out of my mouth, and I am ashamed to tell you what I said, so I won’t tell you. Sadly, I said it to the reporter and into the microphone. The reporter pulled the microphone back real fast and Dad looked at me with his eyes big as margarine tub lids like “WHAT??!” and then he started laughing so hard. He tells this story on me A LOT and he laughs every time. They did not ever play that part on TV news, where I said what I said, just the reporter talking about how Dad was injured and how he came to surprise me. Every time Dad tells somebody the story, he laughs and Mom looks at me and says “You STILL deserve a spanking for saying (what I said)!”
Dad is having sleeping problems and too much pain, but he is so happy to be here. He can’t get enough of us kids, he says. Douglas is so shy with him, it hurts Dad’s feelings but Dad says “Don’t you push him” to Mom. Of course, Thing 3 loves him like she loves everything – she will go to anybody. Lexi said they’re just lucky Dad didn’t surprise HER at school on TV because she would have turned around and walked OUT. She’s not lying!! She is very shy, and it would have killed her dead because it nearly killed me and I am NOT shy.
Dad is doing okay in his P.T. and walking a little. He has so many scars! Everywhere! They are going to fix the side of his face and MAKE HIM A NEW EAR with amazing plastic surgery.
NEWS! NEWS! NEWS!
WE ARE MOVING ON BASE!!!!!!!!! They told us we get our house in two weeks. We are going to Sonic to celebrate! Even Miss Q, who said she will miss us all, and her house will feel huge and lonely. Her eyes even got tears in them. I tell you, I could not even believe it. She winked at me. Every since I cussed on TV, Miss Quinnette thinks I am A-Okay.
OMG!!!!! Please don’t tell your mother that I did this cursing! I am afraid she wouldn’t let us be pen-pals anymore because of a crazy mistake!
Your friend who is NOT a curser,
P.S. Mom says to tell your mom please don’t worry we are not Pagens, and we do not worship trees when we spend Sunday mornings in the mountains.
P.S.S. Also tell her that yoga is something Mom does for exercise and it is not her religion.
P.S.S.S. Also tell her if she’s really worried about our souls, it’s okay to please call Mom on her cell phone and Mom will explain it.
P.S.S.S.S. I AM SO HAPPY I COULD FLY OFF MY CHAIR!