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SECOND HANDS (1970) / Kevin Mcllvoy ITHINK THE WORST COWARD can ignore fear even when it sweeps over and over you like the second hand of a clock. Tm platoon leader, and pretty much the worst coward in my outfit, so on a mine-sweep operation I'll try to think of something that I can picture whole and concentrate on completely. If it's something stupid like a horny fantasy or a basketball game or a two-pound boring book I've read, that's okay too as long as it will stretch itself out in me, block the twitch of that second hand so I don't mess up. That's how it is that lots of times I imagine my sister Peg keeping me company on sweeps. We're just a year apart in age so you could say we grew up in soldiers in arms. Tm lucky how I can be on my third month in country but, thanks to Peg, not actually be "here" as much as Tm in New Mexico. If it's 1300 hours here in An Loc, right now in Las Almas, New Mexico, it's one day earlier and four o'clock in the afternoon. "You don't understand," my dad said, "about radio. And you don't know about loyalty either." "I wish he'd give it a good blow," Peg said. We were talking about Arthur Godfrey's nose and the lifetime supply of congestion which filtered his voice. "But he wouldn't sound the same," Mom said. "It'd be a shame," said Dad, "Nobody'd listen to him." I really couldn't stand Arthur Godfrey. It's no credit to me how much energy I could put into hating somebody who played ukelele, sang with a full nose and called people "Bub." But, man, I hated him and Hope and WeIk and Benny and Gleason and that whole gang of the radio-era living dead. "Mr. Godfrey cares about people," Mom said. "You can tell he does." This all happened one afternoon in '69 on the last Friday in November, the culmination of Hawaiian Week Bargain Days at the Albertson's Grocery in my neighborhood. Peg and I had a cart with bad wheel alignment. Mom and Dad's cart had the same problem. Grocery shopping as a family was not something we regularly did. But I was leaving soon for Basic and my older brother Anthony was due home from Nam in three weeks, so Mom was feeling sentimental, The Missouri Review ยท 22 remembering back when Anthony and Peg and I used to go with her, me in the cart seat, Anthony pushing, and Peg riding underneath. Peg had talked me into going with her and Mom. Then the three of us had ganged up on Dad, who agreed to go with us on the condition that we'd buy real food, lots of it, and not the pinchfuls of crap that were his usual high-blood-pressure curse. We didn't have a list or anything. The way I thought of it, our job was to move real slowly close behind Mom and Dad's cart and look for something like what they were looking for but which they might have missed. To keep Mom happy we would have to buy some milk and cheeses and a few non-grocery items, though the real challenge was to discover the carcinogenic, high-cholesterol, sugar-laced stuff that would be so good it could actually kill my dad and might at least do hidden damage to the rest of us. Peg said that Dad liked root beer, we should get him some A & W He overheard us and said we should get Hires, it was better. We put four big bottles in the cart, and when Mom looked over her shoulder to see if I bought the right kind, I held them up to show her they were non-diet. She pretended to frown at me, pushed her wobbling cart forward. My mother is beautiful. But here in country I have some problems picturing her as being more complete than my wallet photo of her. She doesn't always wear...


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