2/07/2017

Lafcadio - Part 2

Part 2: A Light in the Attic

(Continued from Part 1: The Call)



Properly chastised by the text displayed against a green background on my phone--"What part of 'go' don't you understand, Cameron? Go NOW!"-- I delay no longer. I'm outta here. At least I won't have to concoct some kind of bullshit story to explain my absence to the lady-of-the-moment. She took care of that quite effectively yesterday.
I hustle down the stairs from my fifth-floor walkup, shrugging my jacket on as I go, and sling the backpack over my shoulders. But when I step out onto the cold street, I realize it's still dark. Shit, I'd forgotten the call came in the middle of the fucking night. This presents a bit of a problem.
My destination, the library at 42nd and Fifth, is closed. I take a quick look at my watch. 4:45. What do I do with the next six or seven hours? The library opens at ten, I think, but I don't want to be the first one through the door. The idea is to remain as inconspicuous as possible, easier said than done at the crack of early on a wintery morning, even in New York.
Near Washington Square, a few blocks away, there's a 24-hour diner. I head that way. I've never been there at this ungodly hour, but figure there must be a night owl or two, and maybe some city workers getting breakfast before they hit the streets.  Hopefully I can pass a hour or so there.
No such luck. Through the steamy glass, I see a lone guy at the counter, a tired-looking beat cop hunched over a plate of eggs. So I get myself a coffee to go, grab a newspaper from the machine at the door, and head for Penn Station.
Reassured by the number of people waiting for an early morning commuter train, I slump down on one of the hard plastic seats in the cavernous concourse. I know I shouldn’t be worried. I mean, only yesterday, I was just a guy trying to make a living as a writer, failing rather spectacularly, I might add. But given what we are about to do, I can’t help myself. I feel like I am wearing a neon sign announcing my intentions.
I close my eyes, and against the backdrop of the headache-induced kaleidoscope of whirling colors and flashes projected inside my eyelids, I let my mind drift back to that day in the desert nearly ten years ago. The day Lafcadio was conceived.
~
Jimmy Flanagan was too young to drink. Well, legally, anyway. In fact, Jimbo was almost too young to vote.  He definitely was too young to die. But the bullet that took him out couldn’t give a shit.
We were in the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, sitting under a rocky outcropping overlooking the poppy fields below.  It was just past dusk, and we were taking a break and yukking it up. It had been pretty quiet all day. Even the guys patrolling the fields didn’t seem to be on edge, a rare occurrence. Nothing got the Taliban forces riled up quite like a bunch of jarheads wandering around in their opium supply.
We had all been there before, and in fact, it was there that the five of us became good friends. When we finally went home after our tour, we thanked our lucky stars to be alive, and relaxed. We should have known better. A NATO mission was organized to train and advise local forces (ha, where had we heard that one before?), and our experience in-country sucked us right back into it. We hadn’t expected to find ourselves back in that god-forsaken land, but there we were. Not that we found ourselves doing much training.
Jimmy often entertained us with stories and silly poetry, his freckled Irish face alight with enthusiasm. He was a real fan of children’s books, that kid. You might think it sounds weird, a bunch of Marines listening raptly to kiddie stories, but it really helped break the tension out there in that harsh and dangerous desert. That particular night, he was in the middle of a story about a lion named Grmmff. It had actually been published in Playboy, he was quick to tell us, and it was his favorite. As he often did when he was really getting into it, Jimmy used a goofy voice, this one his interpretation of a marshmallow-loving lion. I'm paraphrasing here, but it went something like this.
“…goes to the barbershop, gets his paws shined, his claws manicured and a free haircut. He has dinner, and eats lots of marshmallow dishes, then finally eats his napkin for dessert. He wears a marshmallow suit, but it gets ironed and it melts all over him. He goes back to the hotel and stays up very late singing the "marshmallow song:
“Marshmallows Marshmallows
Marching Marshing Mellow
Malling Mallows Marshing Fellows
Marshy-Murshy-…”
The laughter was torn from our throats as Jimmy’s face exploded mid-song.
A lot of guys would tell you that seeing a buddy die in combat, or maybe anywhere else, made them find religion. Not us. That was the night we lost our souls.



To be continued in Part 3: Something Silly, Something Gone.






(Credit, and thanks, to author Shel Silverstein.) 

~

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 8, Muse 2: "A Little Death is Good for the Soul"


4 comments:

  1. "That particular night, he was in the middle of a story about a lion named Grmmff. It had actually been published in Playboy, he was quick to tell us, and it was his favorite."

    I love this - you're so creative, Patti!

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  2. nothing ruins a good story like death. Unless it's part of a good story. Hm...

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  3. Someone should've whipped out the s'mores. ;)

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