Rules of Disengagement

My Uncle Robert came to say goodbye. It’s 1968 and I’m 4. He’s dressed in green and carrying a huge green sack, a mixture of the Jolly Green Giant and Santa Clause. He’s going to a place called Vietnam; leaving my mother distraught and inconsolable. He’s only 19.

Two years later it’s morning and Uncle Robert’s homecoming oatmeal is cooling. I run into his room to wake him up by jumping on the bed. A tornado and a scream and my aunts are upon him pulling his war-torn knuckles from my throat.

Later on, exploring the farm, I see a stone shed built into the side of a hill and I hear strange sounds seeping out. I open the door and I’m met by three slaughtered deer over buckets swinging from chains. And there’s my hero, lost in the far corner, curled and fetal in a puddle of phlegm and tears. While the rafters creak and the poetic dripping of blood mingles with wild wheat and April sun, I run for help. The last time I saw him, my mom and aunts hush and cradle their brother, under the swaying and draining meat.

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