Sharon Waller Knutson
Bio Note: A retired journalist, I live on a gravel road in a wildlife habitat in Arizona where I write narrative poetry, photograph the wildlife and hike. I enjoy the V-V zoom poetry readings, writing and reading reviews and communicating with poets. My work has recently been published in Red Eft Review, My Daily Poem and on VV poet Marianne Szlyk’s internet site, The Song Is
-for Tom As soon as his plane lands, he calls home from a payphone. Hi Mom, he says. Dead silence. Who is this? she asks. He laughs. Your son. I just got back to the states from Vietnam. My son is dead, she says. He was killed in action. He’s a war hero. He orders a Miller High Life. The bearded bartender spits on his Army uniform and the crowd cheers. While he is treating soldiers who lose their limbs and minds, the government loses his paperwork and reports him presumed dead, his commanding officer tells him. When he arrives home, his black lab licks his face and his mother watches him sleep as she did when he was a kid. A reporter asks: Where you been? As the barber cuts his hair, he says: Aren’t you that soldier on the news? As they smoke Lucky Strikes and drink Guinness draught at Paddy’s Pub on Broadway, his best friends, Top Dog and Big Dog buy a round for the house for War Dog back from the dead. For a dead guy you look pretty good, Big Dog says. It was a great memorial service, says Top Dog. The whole school showed up. You were more popular dead than you ever were alive. He and the war are soon forgotten. No one knows who he is as he pumps gas and clerks in convenience stores, eats stale donuts and scorched hot dogs, buys a twelve pack of the cheapest beer and squats in vacant houses. No one hears him mumbling: Why didn’t I die? Why couldn’t I save them? No one recognizes him in the court ordered rehab centers where he bides his time until he is free to drink again. That is the only service he will have. When he dies alone in his sixties, there are no headlines or breaking news. No military shots or salutes. No wife, children or grandchildren. His brother scatters his ashes on the slope where they ski before the war took him away.
I get an email from a former co-worker on a
Montana newspaper in the mid 1960s
-for Bob Says he is the sports editor who hangs out with me at Maloney’s Bar after work where we drink Olympia from the tap and play pin ball and then walk across the street to M&Ms Bar and Café for eggs over easy and coffee. It is two am and 44 below zero and my 1956 Ford Thunderbird won’t start and he has locked his keys in his 1961 Chevy Impala. He kicks in the window and his car chokes and coughs but finally starts and we slide over icy streets. As he walks me to my door, I slip on the slick sidewalk and he steadies me with his burly body, stable as a barn, and I fall foolishly in love, breaking the rules of our friendship, since he has a fiancée in the Midwest. When he flies off on vacation and returns with his bride, I end our friendship and leave town. I thought I’d never see you again, he writes, but I googled another Sharon and your name popped up. When we are two twenty somethings tapping on typewriters, we have no clue that we will reconnect on computers, almost six decades later as wise white owls with soulmates, and realize we both made the right decision.
Crashing on the Couch of my Ex’s New Girlfriend
The one who clips coupons and designs and sews her own clothes and vacuums her one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of the high rise all hours of the day and night and sees a psychiatrist once a week for her OCD, the girlfriend who rescues my suicidal cat when it tries to jump off the window ledge and drives me in her reliable car to bail out my impounded junker, because she thinks I am his down and out former co-worker. The girlfriend who buys a gun when she goes through the garbage and finds his love letter to me begging me to move to Washington saying she was just a summer fling. By then I am on my way to Yakima praying the junker doesn’t break down, the cat doesn’t jump out of the car window, the job offer still stands and his girlfriend stays in Seattle.
©2020 Sharon Waller Knutson
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