Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bayonet

People sometimes ask me to post some of my own writing so here is one of the first of these. This was published a few years ago in Wolf Moon Journal. It was started at Pyramid Life Center a few years before that.

Bayonet


One night, in the early 1960’s, the volunteer fire truck of our village in Maine went past the house in the middle of the night. I woke up when I heard the firehouse bell ringing. Daddy was already in the living room when I got there, and we both reached the window in time to see the truck crank by. I had been woken from a deep sleep and asked him, “What time is it?”

“Why?” he asked. “Are you writing a book?”

So I thought, what if I were. What would I write about? The volunteer fire truck? The snow in the woods? How easy eighth grade is, except for the social stuff? Maybe. Maybe I’d just decide to write about Daddy. Maybe I’d talk about how he once put my report card on the floor to read it, saying that he was farsighted. Maybe I’d tell about the time he asked me my middle name. Maybe I’d tell about the time he showed me that long, deep groove that ran along his calf.

I don’t remember what I asked, but I do remember what Daddy, who was from Cork, Ireland, said back.

“Do you want to talk about the British? I’ll tell you about the British.”

Daddy grew up Catholic in occupied Ireland. He had been baptized in Saints Peter and Paul in Cork City Centre and had attended the Christian Brothers School. As he started to tell me about the British, to my astonishment, he reached down to the bottom of his pant leg. Up over the all white one hundred per cent cotton socks that he always wore, he started to roll his cuff. His skin was white; the leg was thin. I don’t think that I had ever seen his leg before. He didn’t swim; he never wore shorts. And now he’s showing me something about the British. There was a furrow of hairless skin that started just below the mid-calf. As he traced it with a long spindly finger from the bottom and then abruptly out at the knee, he said, “See this? I got this when I was a boy. It came from a bayonet on a British soldier’s gun. They came after us - me and a few of my friends.”

I stood still as I pictured the scene. “They attacked boys?” I asked, realizing my father had said bayonet. What an exciting word. “They attacked boys?”

“They did,” he said and then smiled. “Of course, we had thrown stones at them first.”

I had to make room in my mind for this. My father had shown passion. He had it in him. Whether it was misguided or well directed, he, at least as a boy, had shown some spirit. And I, his daughter, got a glimpse of it.

3 comments:

Joy said...

You should post more often. :)
I'm out of hibernation and making the rounds.

Your father's tale reminds me of Nadine Gallo's story about young boys going off to war and towns and villages occupied by British soldiers.

JABV5225 said...

My favorite. I just love and enjoy this story.

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