The good-looking one, the one in need, the one that almost was
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Bucky, it’s Tuesday, May 9. I’m in the records vault using the old IBM to hammer this one out to you, my dictaphone account of how it went the last night at our house and about my return to Trent (still minimum security). Let me just say it wasn’t easy. I’ll tell you right up front some of it is going to upset you, because hearing it just now, some of it upsets me. Here’s the real shocker: the house is gone, Bucky. If you read the Parade section of the paper you could have seen a picture of it (copy enclosed). Our house in the paper, can you believe it? It’s been painted and is sitting on a hill near Kansas City! It has a different front door. It’s possible you wouldn’t even recognize it. The place is called “Great Plains Village.” The way I understand it, it’s planned to be a living historical museum along with other buildings and a steam train and all. Point is, somebody found out that the house had historical value as an early 1800-something hotel and stagecoach stop, which is what Gunny always said. It will be restored into a hotel or it already has been restored into a hotel and I think probably a snack bar or a gift shop. Anyway, we don’t own it anymore. The court approved the sale without my consent, so what else is new? Nothing we can do about it, even if you show up tomorrow. As I am writing this the house is gone and I have not received any additional time or anything for leaving Trent, due to my good record (I do all the records here, HA! HA!) and the mitigating circumstances — I left a note and told them how to find me — and because of my peaceful return and I think more or less because I’m well liked. Some privileges have been revoked (not the old IBM; I’m the only one who knows how to run it!), nothing I can’t live with. But it was the last night a Van Lonkhuyzen would sit in our old kitchen and I figured you’d want to know about it. So here it is:
It is dark, Bucky. If you want to think of me, think of me at our old kitchen table without any light on. Now it’s only my big prison shoes making noises on the wood floor and the only light coming in is from two boards I pulled off the window over the sink. I’m here alone, of course. As for the house, it is tied up with cables and raised on great big timbers, like bridge timbers. It’s boarded up with warning signs stuck to it and orange arrows spray-painted on the outside walls. What the hell the arrows are for, you tell me. The lawn and shrubbery is torn up and there’s big Cat tracks where they brought in an endloader or something to excavate around the foundation. The sidewalk and driveway are crushed to smithereens, probably from the Cats. The garage is just plain gone.
What’s funny is the house looks like it’s floating, or it might float any minute. You never think of your house that way. The neighborhood’s dead as a graveyard.
I’m back. I went upstairs but it’s dark and they have support beams everywhere and more cable. I’m in the kitchen again and I wish of course you were here to feel how weird this is. Think of yourself alone in the room with the cupboards wrapped up with strapping tape, a workman’s snack wrappers on the floor, the kitchen table with no tablecloth, one chair (not ours), and nothing else. Here and there is a big old four-by-four stuck in the middle of a room. I think I ran into all of them in the dark. I cut my eye but it’s not bad. I’m a little overheated right now because there’s a lot of new things, I mean, I’m starting to feel funny about this and I don’t know how all this is going to turn out, you know? What should I think about? That’s the first thing that occurs to me. That’s always been my problem. Do I think about Paps, or Mom, or Gunny? I’ll tell you right up front I don’t think about Violet anymore. When I think about Violet, my thoughts go to “Bucky never came home from ’Nam because of what she wrote to him about.” But that’s a brick wall. There’s no thinking through that. Violet’s dead, you’re gone because of her, I’m doing time because of her, and our whole family is a pile of shit I have to swallow every time I think of her. So I don’t think of her. Unfair? Why don’t you write and tell me different, Bucky? That really pisses me off. That really pisses me off.
I’m back again.
You know what I wish? I wish I could see reruns of everybody sitting around this table, because when I think of our life and this house, I think of this table as the center, you know? Everything revolved around this table. I always thought it was a pity in those old TV shows that those weren’t their real families and everything. There’s about a hundred different stations you can get in the States now, I don’t know if you know that. Every show you can think of is on. What happens is everybody watches the reruns of Beaver, say, and they say to themselves, “Yeah, that’s how it was,” even though it wasn’t like that. But then you think to yourself, or you walk around saying to yourself, “Yeah, I’m just a grown-up Beaver, is all.” But then wait a minute. Wait just a minute. Think about this: you look around and there’s guys everywhere of every available flavor on the outside, but wait! And shit, all of a sudden it hits you about how probably a couple of billion people saw those same TV shows. They saw the same shows you did. Sure they did. Maybe this accounts for something. Think of it. You’re looking around and maybe every guy you see is thinking, somewhere in his heart they’re all thinking, “Yeah, I’m just a grown-up Beaver, is all.”
Uno momento, Buck.
I couldn’t resist. I went on up to my old room and your room in the attic. Now I’m back in the kitchen. So I think of the house, that’s what I came for, I think of it as Gunny’s house and that we were visitors here growing up and it was us staying with Gunny and not Gunny staying with us. So maybe that’s goofy. But he did keep us and it was his house, it never was our house, except for a short time it was my house (not your house, you have no legal status, in case you hadn’t noticed) until Great Plains Village got a hold of it. Great Plains Village is the place they are moving our house to but I’ll tell you all that in a letter. I’m remembering and sad because they are taking the house and I have certain regrets. Don’t get excited, it’s not because of Violet’s death, I never regret that. You think I should or you don’t think I should. How the hell am I supposed to know what you think? I went past the bathroom upstairs and I’ll tell you it didn’t bother me. Scene of the crime, right? I think of Mom bathing Gunny in the tub okay. But the rest, I just can’t picture it. Where was Paps, for example? “Now how would he get up the stairs in his wheelchair?” I hear Violet saying, just like it was right now and I can see her perfectly and I can see her little Tootsie-Roll face. Her, I have no trouble imagining.
Right now I got the medals in front of me. That’s right. Where I hid them. I got a cold Yahoo, believe it or not, left in the bathroom by probably a worker, and I have a penknife (my weapon, ha, ha), which is my old penknife but I can hear you right now saying it’s your old penknife, but it’s my knife. I found it on top of the window molding in my room along with some kitchen matches. There’s still some stuff left in the house they haven’t found yet. There’s even some clothes of yours and here or there a scrap of something that was ours, like a magazine dating from the sixties or something. I’m thinking of you, I’m really thinking of you. That’s what I think about. You never heard the house this quiet. I found a full pack of your Lucky Strikes wrapped in tinfoil hidden in with the medals — I’m smoking one now. They don’t even make packs like this anymore, I’m not even sure they make Lucky Strikes anymore. I don’t hardly even know how to talk to you, so much has changed. Nobody really smokes anymore unless they got other problems like a long sentence or their old lady or they just in general don’t give a shit. So you know everybody is going to smoke at Trent. Even the guards smoke at Trent. I think about all this because I know I’m going to keep writing to you. I don’t know. Why don’t you write back? Maybe these are Gunny’s Lucky Strikes. Okay. Hold on a minute. I see somebody outside.
Okay, I’m back. Well, well. Less than two hours and already I see shapes moving around in the Longstreets’ bushes and I know they are cops. It’s strange after all these years. It’s like looking at the Longstreets’ house, but it’s not like looking at the Longstreets’ house. The porch is gone and there’s a brown steel carport hooked to the side with a car under it that is definitely not something the Longstreets would own. I see stuff there I’ve never seen before, and stuff I remember should be there is not there. It’s dark, too, and that’s part of it. But I think that if the Longstreets had had a car like that the whole damned block would have lined up to wash it, not just you. I guess you washed everybody in the neighborhood’s car. Yes, that’s a cop. And that’s a cop. Gunny never would take the money, right? But Mom would take the money and give it to Gunny because Gunny didn’t care if Mom gave him money. You didn’t think I knew that, did you? Yowzzer. There’s quite a bit I know, matter-of-fact, Buck. What’s that?
This is very touchy, see, because these cops are not going to wake everybody up, so they got to watch it. I just seen this cop catch his neck on a guy wire or something and he flipped over backward into some yellow bushes I don’t remember were there before, but basically they’re being very careful. They think, “Maybe Brad’s gone wacko, maybe he hasn’t, maybe he’s not even in there, maybe he is in there. Maybe he’s in there but he has a hostage.” Ha! Ha! I’m my own damned hostage! Sit down here, you feeble son of a bitch, and don’t move or I’ll force you to smoke stale Lucky Strikes.
These guys are really prepared, very ready, very watchful — stocking cap, the whole bit — moving, waiting, moving, never two guys moving at the same time. I see a guy now that keeps motioning like he’s trying to throw his finger at the house. No, these guys definitely think I’m in here. Why do I have this view? I have the TV viewer’s view. You know, where you look out on the cops maneuvering in the brush, fumbling and unwise, doing their job but, hey, going against the real honor and sacrifice and truth of the guy they are about to smash to smithereens.
Okay, I’m back.
What a punch these smokes have got! I can’t believe it, in a way, sitting here at our table, smoking your very Lucky Strike cigarettes. I think to myself that I have gathered around me the craziest things: my brother’s and my father’s and my grandfather’s war medals and a twenty-five-year-old pack of Lucky Strikes. Those guys must be able to see in here pretty good. Every time I inhale the light stops them from moving. So it’s about over. This is just the way it is, you know; I am thinking of you. You all got medals. It was one of the things you had in common. I never got medals and all Violet got was my fist in her gut. That was my war. So I didn’t have anything to say. But I listened about war. There’s nothing this country has done militarily for about 200 years that I don’t know. And I’ll tell you what else I think: I know Paps was one tough son of a bitch. Okay, he was laid up. But that don’t stop everything. That don’t stop a lot of things. He’s not going to let shit like that happen in his own house and it don’t matter if it was Gunny or Stonewall Fucking Jackson.
Oh wow. That’s the wind come up, Buck. Oh, yes. I can hear the wind start the house moaning. That’s nice. A lot of nights I’ve tried to remember how that sounds. That’s wonderful. Even though it’s up in the air, it creaks just like it used to, call it what you will. I hope this tape gets the sound of the house.
Wait a minute.
Now I’m picking up one of the old man’s medals and looking at it in the moonlight: it’s a citation from Korea, really small and dark red, I don’t remember the names anymore. This is a wing citation, or something. I flip it up and catch it. A nice little medal. I’m putting it down. I don’t know what all I should say here. I think of Paps wheezing in his wheelchair and turning blue in the face. You know what he told me once, he said, “It’s all that Korean crap in my chest. It makes me quake. Numero uno is full of it. Every moment it moves a little closer to the heart just like slant eyes in the bush. One day it gets there and wham, I’m gone.” He had that right. I figure I’m going to put all these medals back where they were hid because when I leave here, if I take the stuff, it’s going to end up missing one way or the other. It will just be our hidden jewels in the house. What a house. Hidden jewels in the old hotel. The house is all boarded up now. I had to rip two planks off the front window so I could look out over our street. Somehow they got a court order to take the place from me. Can you beat that? They’re going to take the whole place. Move it. Turn it into a museum. “A jewel of frontier hotel architecture. Best I’ve ever seen,” this guy said to me in a letter. I never will, but you might have kids. You can go there with your kids and relive the whole thing, almost as good as a rerun. Maybe they’ll let you sit in our old kitchen.
You know what’s funny? These cops don’t try to contact me. They’re silent. Like I said, the situation is touchy. Hold on a minute, I’m going over to the window.
— Isn’t anybody going to order me out of here?
Nothing, Buck. I don’t hear or see nothing. No sound. Oops, little movement atop the Gingritches’ garage.
— I want to talk to somebody.
We’re on our way, Brad.
Hold on a second, Bucky.
Okay, I’m back. You can’t believe what it’s like now, Bucky. Everybody’s an actor. This guy steps into the light, dark yellow trench coat, tie, hat — yes, a felt fedora — mustache, marigold yellow vest. Arms out, palms first. It’s television. Cops are trying to look like the cops on TV. This is his big moment, right? This guy looks like an actor. Completely fearless. Okay, all I have is a penknife. And he walks up to the house, or to the museum. It’s going to be a museum. That’s right. It is a museum. My mind is a museum. Here comes the guy, completely fearless. He stops on the crumbly old sidewalk ten feet from the door like that’s where he’s supposed to walk because it used to be a sidewalk and this used to be a house. Yeah. He’s standing there right now. You know, looking like a TV cop. So, here we go.
Brad Van Lonkhuyzen?
— You’re a cop, right?
Yes. Are you Brad?
— And you’re not the head cop, but you’re an important cop, right?
— And you think I’m holding somebody in here, right?
— I might have someone in here, you think, right? You’ve got to establish that, right?
— What are you going to do if I have got someone in here?
— You’re asking?
— No. I don’t have anyone in here, just me in here.
Okey-dokey, Brad. Good. Now this is just gum, Brad.
Now get this, Bucky. The guy is reaching into his pocket and he pulls out the pack and he pulls the piece out with his teeth, very casual, looks over his shoulder like this in itself is the sly act of the century, then with one hand and his teeth he unwraps the flat piece of gum and folds it into his mouth with his tongue. Just like in the goddamned movies, Bucky. Everybody is an actor. Where in the hell is real life? He doesn’t know what the hell he is, nobody knows what the hell they are. They’re all actors. This guy isn’t scared because he’s already lived through this a thousand times, he’s seen this before on TV and he knows he’s going to win. I’d say there’s probably twenty cop shows on tonight, and I bet this TV cop watches them. He’s probably right now thinking, “I’m just a grown-up Beaver, is all.”
So, you coming out, Brad?
— That’s what you’re here for, right? To see if I’m coming out?
— Well, I am coming out.
— I am coming out.
— Soon. I’m just a little upset, sir, like I said in the note. I won’t cause trouble. Did you read the note?
Brad, let’s not make matters worse.
— I’m missing my brother. That’s all.
Somebody mentioned that. Your brother was a ’Nam war hero, right?
— And they’re taking my house.
This is your house?
— Was once.
Nice house, Brad. Looks old. But let me give you the whole thing right as rain: there’s a lot of cops out here and I want to make sure everybody understands that you’re not going to cause any trouble. So I think you ought to put everybody’s mind at ease and just come out now, ah, Brad.
— That’s screwing around with a man’s house, you know.
I understand, Brad, but . . .
— I need a little more time here.
Brad, let’s face it, we’re not here to play games. I think you need to come out right now. There are innocent lives at stake.
Innocent lives at stake? Can you beat it? Back to TV again. Christ. See what I mean, Bucky? I can just make this guy’s face out in the moonlight and you know what? You know what? It looks like shitty little Jimmy Franky to me. No, I swear. That’s — yes, that’s Jimmy Franky. Nooo. Yes, I think so. Little Jimmy Franky grown up in the punky sort of way you knew he’d grow up, with his punky little head stuffed into a felt fedora. Sure. I don’t know. He must’ve got his goofy teeth capped.
— Hey. Your name Jimmy Franky?
— Detective Plank? What, you changed it? What kind of name is Detective Plank?
This is some other cop, Bucky, coming I think from a brown sedan parked on Bowles’s trash-can pad. The guy’s name is Detective Roy Plank, but he could be Jimmy Franky’s stuntman.
The cop is turning around, motioning behind his back with his hand.
Let me just ask you something, Brad, and don’t think I’m trying to butt into your business.
Now that you’ve escaped and you’re here, what exactly do you hope to accomplish?
— That’s simple, Plank. My brother used to live here and now he doesn’t and I haven’t seen him for a couple dozen years because he hasn’t come back from ’Nam because he’s pissed off I think at some things my sister said to him in a letter.
Okay. Okay, Brad. I follow you so far.
— And what I’d like to do, since they are taking my goddamned house, is to make sure everybody is made aware of the fact that my brother Bucky used to live here, that this was his house, too. Along with two other war heroes, two other colonels, matter-of-fact. One was my father, who we called Paps, and one was my grandfather, who we called Gunny.
Okay. Okay, Brad. I got you. How do you intend to do that?
— That’s why I need a little bit more time. I don’t know how to do that. It hasn’t occurred to me how to do that yet. You got any ideas?
Why don’t you carve his initials in the wall, Brad. Some place he used to like to sit, perhaps, or in his bedroom. Have you got a knife, Brad? I’ll loan you a knife.
— I got a knife already.
Do you have any other weapons?
— Look, it’s my old penknife, Plank. It’s about half as long as my dick and the blade wobbles. I think the rivet’s loose. My brother and I used to argue over this very penknife. It don’t pose a threat to anyone unless you’re using it.
Okay, Brad. Go about your business, then, and I’ll get right back to you.
(Sit tight, Bucky.)
I’ll be right back.
— I’ll be right here, Detective Plank.
— I’m okay, Plank.
Well, that was easy. I’ve been thinking real hard. Now that I’m here, it’s a lot easier to picture everyone else here. I can’t picture you here in the kitchen anymore, not right this minute. I see everyone else’s face, but where yours should be I see a gray shape, like a line, color of a jet stream. When I try to put the features of your face into the shape, the features slip. Also, I try to make you look older, like you would look if you were really here. Maybe that’s the problem.
I pick up one of Gunny’s WWI shields. It looks so old, you know, like it was made on another planet, like it was made from part of a tank or a bridge or something. I light another cigarette with a kitchen match and watch my face become orange in the black kitchen window, I watch my face go orange and I pick up another medal, one of yours I think, I don’t know because they are all getting mixed together and in my mind I think so hard, like I mix up the wars and the stories and who did what and what it was like. You know, we talked so much about the wars. We had real heroes in this house. You know? We talked endlessly about the wars and what is bravery or what is honor when we were little and even after you were gone. No wonder it gets so confused in my head now. The goddamned Koreans start fighting the Germans, or whatever. The Italians take a flank out of the Japanese. It wasn’t suicide that killed Hitler, it was some stringy little Khmer Rouge with dynamite taped to his chest that brought in the laundry when no one was looking. Sure, it’s late. Ask those guys outside how late it is. But I’ve been thinking about you all day and this is pretty entertaining: North Koreans gonging the Kaiser on the bean like it’s a game show. That’s the way the medals fall, you know, from the wall. They fall all in a pile. Then I see you and Paps and Gunny all sittin’ around this same kitchen table, arguing about who was the best enemy, you know, like who was the greatest middleweight? Gunny was all for the Krauts, you know, like he always was, the steely-eyed, starch-backed, divet helmet I think, or was that a different thing, shouting, “Hose it!” like he did, instead of “Shut up!” and saying he was ready to kick some ass again if he had to, calling you a cake-eater. Gunny shouting. Gunny looking jaundiced and small as a jockey and yet controlling the conversation. Gunny controlling things. Don’t get me wrong, I know he controlled things. And Paps and the Japs and you not saying much, so I chime in about the VC living on leather shoelaces for a week and ripping throats with homemade bamboo knives like you told me. I don’t know. I was thinking about you. I won’t forget you because I know you’re alive. I know you’re alive, Bucky. Why don’t you write me back? It’s over twenty years, Bucky, and now everybody’s gone. In the mirror I can see how I’m aging, Bucky; this life is not nearly as long as we thought it was going to be. I watch those reruns — we got a dish at Trent so maybe fifty channels come in, twenty-four hours a day. Can you imagine? You click it on and there they are, just like when we were kids. It’s not seeing all those guys still young that hurts, it’s the sound of their voices. Close your eyes and listen to the same reruns you saw as a boy and the sound of the voices will finish you. Violet made up a lot of sick lies about Gunny and Mom, I killed her for it, it was an accident or it wasn’t an accident. So you don’t come home because of what she told you, or because I killed her? You gonna spend the rest of your goddamned life there because of it? Just answer me that, was it what I did or what she did? We don’t even have a home anymore because you don’t come back. Think of that. Let me tell you, you have a lot of pretty little medals here, a lot of flashy medals, but they could be fishing lures, Bucky. I know you’re proud of your medals.
You know what? Upstairs there’s a nudie calendar on the floor of your closet — you should see this one old babe — with the date of your physical circled in green crayon. Now this cracks me up. Imagine how I felt when I saw that? Think about me trying to figure out how to leave your mark in this house. How’s anyone going to know you were here? How’s anyone going to know you were anywhere, Bucky? Someday in every house in America, at least in the precious kitchen, they’re going to have movie cameras set up and running. Every year you send in these cassette cartridges, which by then will be about the size of a tooth, to the offices of a movie studio that will edit the whole thing into a miniseries and put it together into something meaningful. It will be something anyone can look at and walk away saying, “Yeah. I see what went on there.” We’ll look at ourselves then like we look at TV actors now, first little and cute, then playing some cop on a show thirty years later, or on a talk show, looking like their faces and their bodies are spoiling. If we’re all going to be actors, at least then we could get a little meaning out of the thing. You know?
Just one sec.
I’m back. I thought, how am I going to let everybody know you were here? So first I carved your initials in the floor of the kitchen under the chair where you sat, big deep letters, BSV. That was neat. Plank had a good idea there. I pictured these people walking through the house, kept behind red velvet ropes with brass fittings, walking on the carpet runners with reverence, like this is the heart of the corpse. They come to the kitchen and the guide points laughingly to the initials carved on the floor and says something like, “Although this room has been furnished with articles from the period, if you’ll step over toward the china cabinet you can see the initials BSV on the floor. These are relatively recent, probably dating from the late 1950s. We’ve traced these to one of the great, great, grandsons of the man who moved this hotel to its residential site, one Benjamin Saint Van Lonkhuyzen, ‘Lonkhuyzen’ being of course the namesake of the original non-commercial owner of the hotel and ‘Saint’ the maiden name of Benjamin’s mother. I guess he wanted to leave his mark on posterity or whatever! (Yuk! Yuk!) But in all seriousness, we’ve left these initials to remind our visitors that the Van Lonkhuyzen Hotel was also the private home to several generations of Van Lonkhuyzens. This particular Van Lonkhuyzen, Benjamin, was a veteran of the 1960s Vietnam skirmish who did not return from Asia after the cease-fire resolution, but was listed as missing in action. Now the Windsor chairs surrounding the crudely constructed kitchen table, . . .” and so on, so on, so on.
These guys are good, Bucky. Everybody makes fun of these police teams, but these guys are good, these guys are machinelike. Step by step by step. I guess there’s maybe six guys out there. For what? You think: overkill? What am I? An unarmed man who walked away from a dinky barbed-wire tank to see his old house before they cart it off to some stand of old reruns. I left a note, for Christ’s sake. What kind of a con leaves a note? Who am I? Some guy who got mad once and hit his sister hard enough to kill her? That’s not it, Bucky. I wanted to kill her. I got it over with the fist first, that’s all. It would have been something else later anyway. Those three days she was dying were the best three days of my life. She tried to make her own dirty little secret about our family and that’s why I hit her. How is it that Gunny could have done that to our mother over and over and over again, Bucky, without our knowing it? I still fall back on the note. And I fall back on Violet’s hatred of Gunny. But what do you fall back on? Why don’t you write to me, Buck? Are you going to stay there forever, Bucky? Violet is dead and Gunny is dead and Paps is God knows where and the house is even gone. You gonna pay ten bucks or whatever to visit your own damned kitchen? Is it because of our sister? I killed her because she was wicked, Bucky. Don’t you believe she could have just been wicked? I don’t want to go into it all again, but she wasn’t the sister you thought she was. She wasn’t the sister I thought she was. I was incapable of plotting as intricately as she did. Even after I knew the plot, it took me forever to figure it all out. You’d have killed her, too. She said, “What the fuck. Do you think your mother was the first woman to keep her family together by giving blow jobs?” Now what would you do? Answer me that? Kill Gunny? Kill a war hero?
Wow. These cops have machine guns, Bucky. Shit. Cops are totally geared these days. Well, they’re small machine guns, square-looking things that are real light. That’s the new machine gun. You ever hear one of these new machine guns go off? Hold on, Bucky.
— Detective Plank, everything okay?
Everything is okay, Brad. You ready now?
— Almost. But I tell you I’m getting a little nervous.
How much more time do you need, Brad?
— Ten minutes, tops.
Okay, Brad. Then in ten minutes you’re coming out?
— Then I’m coming out.
— How do you want me to come out?
Can you get out the front door?
— You want me to come out the front door?
Yes. Come out the front door.
What do you mean, how?
— How do you want me to come out the front door? I mean, what’s absolutely the best way to come out the front door so I don’t get shot? I don’t want to get shot and I don’t want anybody to think I’m going to shoot them.
Do you have a gun?
— Now you want to know if I have a gun?
— Why are you standing there if you think I have a gun?
You asked to speak to somebody, Brad.
— I don’t have a gun. Okay? No gun. What’s absolutely the best way to come out?
Okay. Okay, Brad. Strip down, walk out backward with your hands folded on your head.
— Strip down, walk out backward with my hands folded on my head.
— Okay. I’ll be out in ten or so minutes.
Ten minutes, Brad.
He turns his back on me and motions with his arm in the air like he is twirling a lasso. Then the brown sedan turns its headlights on and I see the TV cop open a rear door of the sedan. He says something to whoever is inside. Peeks over the top of the car, says something else. Sorry I’m whispering.
I don’t know what to do, Bucky. Everything I think of to do will get undone by the people at Great Plains Village. Your initials don’t mean doodly. They’ll sand them off. What kills me is that here I am, in our old kitchen. It seems like — and this is probably due to TV, too — but it really seems like just last week or something I could have called out your name or shouted out your name and there would have been a good chance you would have answered. Just like that. Bingo. Now I could shout your name and who will answer? See? That’s what I’m getting at. What happens to that, you know, the sound of me calling out your name?
Brad, can I talk to you for a minute?
Does it disappear, or does it stay? What happens? Where does the sound go? And one time there was not just the sound of me calling your name in this kitchen, but the sound of me calling your name with a good possibility you would answer. Is that sound different? Would your name be stored differently if it were the sound with the good possibility that you would answer? Now where does that sound go? Okay. Could be the sound is here, in the wood, you know? That the materials that absorb sound store the sound in some way. Possible? Think about it. Someday some device could be invented to extract sounds from wood, or rocks or you know, steel even. Scientists will extract the sounds from earth or whatever, and reconstruct what the lives were like from the sounds they hear. You don’t think I can’t plaster the sound of your name in every fuckin’ inch of this museum?
Brad, your time is up. You’ll have to come out now.
Now I’m on my feet, walking through our house for the last time. This is it, Bucky.
Brad, come to the window please.
Stop screaming, Brad. Come to the window.
That’s the end of the tape, Buck. I stuck the little cassette in my mouth, tucked into my cheek, left the dictaphone on our kitchen table and stripped and opened the front door. There I was, Bucky, backing out the front door of our old house, bald ass first, hands on my head, scared out of my goddamned mind, and I see the whole front of our big old white house, I see your bedroom window and the cracked pane of glass, I see the rust bleeding off Gunny’s old flag bracket, and the whole house, you know, tied up with cables and on timbers like I told you, off the ground, you know, not anchored to the ground anymore but sort of floating above the ground on these timbers with the foundation knocked away and all the shrubs ripped to hell, and I was backing away toward the street but looking at our old house for the last time, bawling like a damned goofy clown, and I hear these steps coming up behind me and I know what’s coming. You know why I know what’s coming? Because of the TV cop, that’s why. If they would just think about it, everybody knows what’s coming in life because they can watch it on TV fifty times before it happens. After it’s gone, you can watch it fifty more times. Life’s simple, it never surprises you, it never goes away, it’s on eighty goddamned channels twenty-four hours a day. Somebody comes running up behind me and somebody knocks my feet out from under me and somebody else rams into my shoulders and I go down like a tackling dummy and my dong whacks into the sidewalk and my face hits the mud and somebody’s jerking my hands behind me, they’re putting the bracelets on and that’s the end of it. Didn’t see the house again. But don’t think I wasn’t thinking about you. I was thinking about you, Bucky. I was thinking how you’ll never see the place again. In my own way, I think I left your mark in there, Buck. And you ought to write and thank me for it. Regards, Your Bro.
Scott Warren Taylor