Monday, March 16, 2009

Henry: Presence

My platoon suffered huge losses defending the ammunition dump in the southeast corner of the Korean peninsula near the city of Pusan. Four of us had been left behind to safeguard the mustard-colored brick building filled with enough explosives to blow us to kingdom come and then some. I stood watch while the others slept. I was tired, homesick...scared.

As I paced back and forth to stay warm, early memories of my dad came rushing back—the time he painstakingly taught me how to ride a bike and as I took off on the first try, “a natural,” he laughed; the day he dropped me off at the bus that would whisk me away to basic training and when I whispered thanks for everything, he lowered his head and wept. Now it was my turn to choke back tears while I read my sister's letter by flashlight—our father was near death with pancreatic cancer.

Gunfire erupted in the distance and was promptly quieted by the boom of a tank. Scattered shots continued for a few moments more and then faded away. Nighttime returned to normalcy and the war-weary heavens released a stunning array of stars as a token of man’s inferiority—my own inadequacy was in prolonging my return, not wanting to believe he would die, until it was too late.

I looked down at my dad's flashlight that I had brought as a reminder of home and traced his initials etched in the metal. Every monster he sheltered me from in childhood, everything he taught me rose up to give me strength. Even in the dark, half a world away, my dad was with me.

I should have been there for him.

More Henry: Renewed | The Tree Stand | A Good Day | Downhill Racer

16 comments:

D.A. Riser said...

Hi David,
That's an absolutely beautiful passage. I really like the sentence that starts with "Nighttime returned to normalcy..."

Kudos on a fantastic passage!

Barbara Martin said...

David, a very touching passage. Excellent.

Charles Gramlich said...

I very much enjoy the closing lines, about his dad being with him. The background of the distant gunfire is perfectly done. I could feel myself there.

David Cranmer said...

D.A., That line almost made the chopping block. I'm glad it worked.

Barbara, Gracias.

Charles, I'm trying to write in Ernesto's Nick Adams style but of course with my own voice. Maybe as my goatee grays I will perfect it.

Scott Parker said...

Wow. That was good. I really felt the pang of loss and homesickness and paternal love. Well done.

If I may, what is your "Henry" series? I must have missed earlier installments.

David Cranmer said...

Scott, Thank you for the kind words. During the last year and half, I've been writing several of these quasi memoir-ish slices of life. The others that I've done so far are linked at the bottom of this post.

ARCHAVIST said...

agree very visual writing

JR's Thumbprints said...

Strong powerful voice here. I'm thinking of a Henry Rollins type narration, filled with testerone yet sentimental. Not easy to do.

Kathleen Ryan said...

David,
Beautifully written. I love the flashback, and then the contrast of the letter with the tragic news.

Your blog looks great. I look forward to reading more.

David Cranmer said...

Archavist, Thanks.

JR, Thanks and an interesting take on Rollins. It's not what I had in mind but you're right that it would work.

Kathleen, I appreciate the compliment because this piece has a lot of sentimental value. Thanks for stopping by and I will click over to your blog later today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Nice writing, David. This is a passage I could never write-having no sense of what being in place like that is like.

Pistolmom said...

www.freedoms-fight.blogspot.com

Paul Brazill said...

This is the real deal. very cinamatic and vivid.

sandra seamans said...

Perfect, Davd, just perfect.

Sarah Laurence said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing, so honest and moving. I can only imagine how difficult that time must have been for you. I’ve often found during times of stress and pain that it’s normalcy that I crave the most. You were there for your father because you were thinking of him.

David Cranmer said...

Patti, And I wish I could write a story as elegant as “The Instrument of their Desire.”

Paul, I’m just trying to keep pace with you amigo.

Sandra, As always, a very special thanks.

Sarah, Your kind words mean so much