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Manoa 14.1 (2002) 130-132
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from A Year without Sleep
To Wish to Go Home
Luis Garcia, rosaries and tears tattooed around his wrists and down his fingers, was first to swing and wasn't stopped. The blue spider-webbing on his upper arm was sprayed red as his fists came down on Muldoon, whose nose disappeared in splat and tooth crunch, lips flapping, face greased with blood. Then there was a hollow cracking of ribs.
Everyone watched in silence. Muldoon had gotten his wish. He'd been asking everyone to break his bones or shoot him somewhere safe, somewhere the damage would get him home, just home, ever talking about his family, telling stories like how he gave his thirty-year-old uncle mumps and made him sterile, for which he was hated by his aunt, or rattling names off of all his cousins and their favorite foods and movies—having memorized it all and being related to half of Ireland—a Catholic who knew how to pop Garcia's fuse by insulting the Virgin.
When he stopped, Garcia threw the sack of Muldoon in a jeep to drive him to the aid station. On the way, they hit a mine. Muldoon flew from the jeep and was impaled on a broken tree. Luis Garcia's hands, their blue tattoos and bloody knuckles, were blown from his arms and fell to the road, then were dropped in a rubber sack to ship home.
Soon, his hands would wiggle in the earth. Opening, closing against the weight of a soldier's field. Everybody wants to go home. Everybody always wants to. In Luis's mother's house there will be a nicho altar with his name spelled in tiny nuts and seeds, a plaster statue of Virgin Mary, rosary, a bleeding tin heart with a crucifix he brought her from a trip, his Purple Heart, his photo in a uniform, his Spanish Bible, his high-school diploma earned at night after working all day in a gas station, a bottle of the Mexican beer he drank on the stoop hot summers when his blood was sweating, a pile of letters in a ribbon, and a diamond engagement ring in a little box marked "María, mi corazón" that will be found at the bottom of his duffel bag.
Muldoon's house will be hushed the first night. No one will believe it. Everyone will think it was a mistake. They will discuss it in those terms, drink a few beers and cups of tea, waiting for the real news. They will stare at Muldoon's face in his box and still not believe it. Long years of trying to believe it will begin. [End Page 130]
There will be great wailing under two roofs, black storms of talk and silence, suspicions of betrayal casting shadows across the light of many faces. Bitter words will hiss, new worlds begin, dark collaborations be discussed, clothing and property dispersed, and two young women will sit, and sit. Their hearts and brains will be numb like stone. They will watch their dreams migrate then disappear, and will die a thousand times while the men who sent their lives away sit at a polished table in Paris discussing fine art and wine.
Coming Upon a Massacre
After the Americans disappeared, he came out from the tree line surrounding the clearing of the small village and crouched, looking around. Then, with both knees grinding in earth, his mouth dropped open and he couldn't shut it.
The shock didn't last. He'd seen such things before, and spent those nights chewing manioc and rice, stoned on wild marijuana, sometimes discussing the nature of war with his comrades, the invasions that cause them, the things men do, but usually they gambled and talked about women.
It worried him the shock didn't last. It didn't always worry him, but this time he noticed. The moon had a red streak, and looked like a skull floating on a black river. It was a long time before he realized...