by Serge Bielanko

Gettysburg. Last day of Battle. This skinny boy from Tennessee runs through all the smoke and the yelling and the noise: God, the fucking noise. Relentless shouting and screams. A symphony of fleshy thuds. Grown men twisting mid-trot, their heads exploding like Turkey Shoot pumpkins. Sabers clanking into God knows what. Crying. Born-tough dirt farmers and mill men and riverboat gamblers and swamp people crying so hard, their faces barely visible in the madness but tears rolling cleaner lines down through their filthy sooty beards; some of their hands reached out right in front of their blurry eyes to reveal to their owners nothing but clenched bones, the flesh burnt off. Some feel little or no pain. Its the horror that gets 'em. Horses are gashed open by mini-balls shot from a thousand yards away. They fly across the long field like peaceful lead hummingbirds before their duty finally calls and they descend a bit to slice through the nervous guts of an Alabama kid, keep on zipping: right through the face bones of a Virginia kid, across the scalp of an old man from the pines of Georgia, and ultimately coming to a smashing rest in the heart of a horse from somewhere south of here.

The Tennessee kid runs with his rifle, bumping into bodies, stepping on bleeding faces with his worn out brogans. He cries with the rest of them. Pisses his pants. Shits his pants. Somebody hollers next to him. Rebel Yell. Then he bursts through a cloud of dust into a peaceful little pocket. Solitude. Unbelievable, he thinks. Dark lung blood bubbles to his lips. He goes for a rest in the middle of Hell, settles to his knees. His ribcage is all exposed. His ribs jutting out to mix with the frayed strips of his homespun soldier coat. Parts of him scatter at his feet like tiny Egyptians at the base of their Pyramid. He doesn't really know he's shot. Doesn't really care to know either. It's just so damn nice to find a place like this out here today. A quiet place. His eyes slide around to see who may want to join him, but all he sees are busybody bees working their way past him, rifles raised above their heads in the nasty artificial fog, everybody keeping super quiet.

He lays down to rest just a while longer. His hands come up to park on his belly but they just slide on in. Hot sticky insides move though his poor boy fingers and goddamnit: without looking he knows it was too good to be goddamn true. Without looking. He knows.

Oh, man.

His young thin legs start thrashing. Outrun the bastards. Down in the dirt with his bone chips and unstrung veins and juices from his juvenile heart, this boy looks up at the headless horsemen who are starting to surround him and does what any American boy oughta do. He tries to haul ass. So yeah, his weak legs get to scampering and quivering and his arms reach out to grab handfuls of thick air to pull him forward, away from the terribleness. He doesn't try to pray or beg or fight back or surrender. Boy tries to run like lightning.

But he can't run, of course. His limbs flap around. His head rises and falls and slams into the summertime field beneath it over and over again. Gurgles of foam shoot from his dirty nose. His eyeballs strain to see past this particular event, but it's all fruitless/useless/pathetic/and sad.

Then, just like that: he quits all the kicking. He quits all the kicking and turns his softening eyes to the demons above his body. They watch without emotion. He quits all that kicking and settles down on the farm dirt, his ravaged chest rising and falling in a series of offbeat jumbles of simultaneous inhaling and exhaling. He hacks. His dearly departed Mama steps from the chaos unscathed and presents herself to her boy. The sounds of battle rush back into this world, onto this field.

But the kid is stone dead.


In the evening, I push the last wad of Low Fat ice cream sandwich into my already full mouth, tear my eyes from the semi-shitty Charlie Sheen sitcom and listen to the hissing of air in the baby monitor that comes from the box fan I set up in Violet's room. I needed to blow some cool into Violet's overheated world. Well, its simple hissing for a few seconds. But I know what's up. Like clockwork come the whimpers. The baby monitor is super sensitive and picks up her breathy coos like some highly trained Rambo Green Beret in the middle of the bad jungle. First there is just one or two. So soft. Delicate. A lamb at the back door. But then, they pick up steam.

I look at Charlie Sheen. He's probably stared at a hot baby monitor once or twice in his life, I think to myself. But, I bet he didn't get up off his ass.

I get up off my ass.

In the room, crib-side, I lean hard over the rail and grab Violet's thrashing pink foot and stick it in my mouth. And I buzz her: bzzzzzz....with my lips and gums. This tiny act transforms her horrific screams and tortured bawls into a lumpy little laugh. Its an awesome transformation and one that I secretly look forward to when this little ritual comes down each night. I spit the lone foot out and immediately begin massaging the bottoms of both her feet at the same time. I watch the last of her tears slide down her cheek and a gummy open smile form on her face.

I love her so much.

A few minutes later, she seems almost asleep so I sneak away, but I know what's what. I am just picking up Sheen's voice again when I hear the wailing plane taking off again. She's up/she's crying. And this time she's thrashing about. Her chub legs kick fiercely at the air around her. I binky her piehole and this stops the sounds of the freak out, but her eyes are still agape with strange fascinated terror. And her arms and legs are simply clawing for anything. She is fleeing from something it seems. Or trying to really hard.

She's in battle.

With what With who? Who knows.

Her back arches and the binky falls to mattress and the cries become roars. I quickly stick it back in as I reach for the feet, try to get a hold of them to massage/calm them: no dice. She rocks them away from me and bashes them against her bed.

Maybe its that last bottle hitting her little system, I say to myself. I do not convince myself though. She wrestles with Tigger, flings him to her left side. There is no love in the move. I place a new small stuffed sheep on her bare chest. She treats it like a cindering coal. Her body contorts and spins over. She is crying so hard she gasps for air.

I sing some Rudolph but stop after like three lines. Nothing works.

She moves and thrashes and spins and quivers and it breaks my heart though I know she's just acting goofy because she's exhausted to the point of near insomnia.

I stand there with the warm fan'd air shooting at my ass and I rub the back of her sweet exploding head right where the new hair is filling in.

And she stops.

She stops everything. Strange peace happens.

She holds her head up from the mattress. Oh lord: I seize the Father's one chance to soothe his hellbent Child. I rub gently with my fingertips and the crying/snot gargling ceases instantly. I have found a secret spot. I rub more, tuck Tigger up under her arm: six or seven minutes melt into her deep serious sighs. She's letting go. She's letting go. She falls away.

I tiptoe out of the room and back towards whatever is on after Sheen.

Back towards my Diet Coke, I move through rooms both real and imagined.