Rounding the corner, I tripped on my shoe lace. As I bent down on one knee I looked straight out as my hands grabbed my laces and began their dance. A blinding flash, as the sun made a quick turn off a marble surface in the distance. Which happened to make my hands slip upon something they knew as well as my lungs know to breathe. I looked down to concentrate on what I was doing and finished the knot, double tied.
Damn size fourteen shoe laces. After size 12, they make one size only that you can hang a full size man with. Sometimes I think they are artifacts of the appropriate length to hang myself after a full night on a bender of Martinis and M+M’s. Granted a strange, mixture, but indeed this morning was one of those days I was second guessing it. I first encountered the pair on a train returning from Montreal. An older man had got me a Martini, being only twelve at the time I asked for a bag of M+M’s to go along. Over the airs of a Piano player, in those days was quite common, doing his best renditions of Billy Joel and other Magic 101 numbers. Unfortunately the man imparted some ill timed information about the where abouts of the ladies of the evening who paint the old town scarlet. Been back since on my various travels, but have not looked up his veracity as of yet. Which brings me to this morning.
Being a reporter for The Times, keeps me out of my own bed allot. I tend to feel bad kicking all those cockroaches out of their’s, but I figure I am at least a paying client. So the M + M+M’s mixture is a habit of travelocity. I checked into it with Blue Shield and Blue Cross, but there is no coverage for it. So this brings us back to the shoe lace I am tripping on for the second time. I am just not up to snuff this morning as my trick knee does its act. So I pop one of my Percs and head mindlessly to that glare.
As I walked past those countless interments of scores of boys who never had a chance coming from the backwoods of some forgotten town with those hilarious signs, population 5. The mill always closes appropriately right before a war.
As I rounded up the grass toward the bright white marble, those three ladies; victory, Peace, and Valor winked at me. Victory flashed her leg, Valor stuck her breasts out, and Peace seemed to be brushed aside by Victory as she did her best Claudette Colbear. I read the four marble slabs that rested flat into the plaza before those ladies. From east to west was The Unknown of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. As I got half way through the inscription of the slab on the Unknown from Vietnam, I was disturbed by some punk humming some insidious tune with lewd overtures. I looked up and saw what was very popular in the Urban outfitters. He was wearing something purchased fom the local Army Navy store. But something was off about him, but I could not place it. Just the average military uniform worn without the spit and shine. My time in the Gulf got me five in the jaw for wearing my zoot that way.
“Do you mind! Lets have a moment of silence.”
“For the departed unknowns?”
No for my splitting head, I responded as he only laughed.
“So what are you doing here with the stiffs?” the kid said over his nose.
“Oh I just figure if I show up in enough cemeteries I might find all of those brain cells I have killed in the past. I found this witch doctor in Harlem, oh never mind, it is just a quest in vain.” The kid approached me and offered me a fag, as he shook a pack of Pall Malls to have a couple of cigarettes jockey for top position. I took the winner and turned down his light for my own.
Besides the Trench lighter, the fag comment brought to light the confusion I was facing all morning. I had reported many Gay pride parades in New York, even ask Bloomberg if he would be gay for the day as he earlier proclaimed he was going to be Irish or Italian for the day. No comment.
“So how long you been State side, you know in country?”
” Only three months out of County Roscommon before my departure back across the sea. You believe after fighting those damn Gufies and puddens, I had to share
I was a bit lost to what a guffie or pudden was but I nodded any way since he seemed quite agitated.
“By the way, the name is O’Niel, Seamus O.Niel. I hate going around anonymous with those who comes to these parts and commune with me. But being a dime a dozen, you know Joe smith like. But being Jon Doe is something I never could stomach.” he finished with a slug from a silver halmarked flask.
Well hair of the dog and all, I took my obligatory swig from him and felt like I should use that empty grave for the Vietnam unknown. Damn DNA testing gave that one a name and moved him out. Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. That war still being a disgrace to most, they never thought of placing maybe one of those M.I.A. in it they keep occasionally digging up in some farmer’s rice patty.
They never dared give us gulf vets one, the ghosts of this monument would reject him for not being killed by an enemy. But then again it is all friendly fire starting from birth in impoverished towns. Failing schools always breed a great feeding pool for those starched uniforms circling in . Ignorance and desperation is always the way to sow the fields to feed the cannons. From the earth, back to the earth.
“It was a shame about that one, I was just getting to know that shagger before they took him away.”
I thought it strange he had such animosity for the Brits being from a southern county. Maybe hatred could still linger in Atrium, but gernading some modern Black and tans in the south? It was not sitting straight. Then that uniform, heavy brown wool. In the summer. Yes he had it open bearing his dirty T with a hole in the belly. As I looked again, I saw the jacket line up just right to see a hole line up with that one. Then the fag, Pall malls not Marlboro or GNC. The
“Yes, even more dangerous than three on a match. Damn blow torch will give you away each time.”
“Yes, Jesus Mary and Joseph you are one of the slowest. I am to be unknown no more. I told you I am to be no Jon Doe. Cursed alive it was bad enough to be Seamus O’Neil, bloody bullocks on those arhses if they think three months in country before shipped out I was going to be Jon doed and all.”
So I turned quickly around expecting the other two to be standing behind me.
“Nah by this time of day they buggering the senators of the wartime appropriations board, plastic trucks to stop bullets, by noon they should be Harassing that Defense security. A real good Dickens they do on them, real top draw act.”
“Silainte!’ he took one last slug before he disappeared.
“By the way I would quit sucking on those fags, they will kill you every time.”
My cigarette dropped from my lip with a full inch of an ash landing on my London fog. I know who am I to talk, summer time and all. But my blood never seems to warm up from the M+M+M’s until I get a prairie Oyster into me.