With Uncle John’s death certificate signed who knows when I’ll ever be back this way.
Take that next right, that’s the cemetery road.
I was sent to live with him and Aunt Ellen here in Plainfield when my parents died unexpectedly.
I was 15 when social workers pretty much dropped me off on their doorstep.
It was 1972.
They lived on Hell Hollow Road, right next to Blow Me Down Brook. We’ll drive that way after the cemetery so you’ll know I’m not making this stuff up.
In my hometown of Winooski, in Vermont, I was one of the hippie kids. With the draft hanging over my head I became informed enough to know that Vietnam was in that special echelon of human craziness that I was not going to participate. I was always at the protests.
It turned out that Uncle John and I were from different planets. He was a walking fillibuster of every military patriotic nationalistic cliche of the time. There was the Support Our Boys bumper sticker, flags everywhere, an American Legion cap, etc.
Aunt Ellen managed to protect me from the haircut Uncle John wanted to enforce. A saint, living with Beelzebub.
There was no way he was going to put up with my anti-war commie talk or threatening not to register for the draft. There was talk of Duty. And Service. Always punctuated by Love It Or Leave It.
There were to be no discussions of the merits of the war. Ours not to question why.
He referred to the peace sign on my backpack as the footprint of the American chicken.
New Hampshire had just adopted “Live Free Or Die” as state motto, replacing “Scenic” on their license plates. Uncle John approved.
About six months later I snuck out—a bus to New York, then another to Pittsburgh, where I went into hiding from the draft with a friend’s brother.
I found a ways to communicate with Aunt Ellen—she was supportive of my stance—through a high school friend. When she died a year later I came back for her funeral. I do want to put these flowers on her side of the grave.
I avoided Uncle John but he cornered me. Said he found the letters I’d been writing, knew where I lived, and had turned over the information to the FBI. They would be giving me a choice of signing up or going to jail. “I’ll see your yellow-bellied ass in uniform yet”, he snarled.
I looked at that angry face, then bent close and whispered in his ear.
I spent 14 months in prison, plus some months of community service. Uncle John went to live in a senior home.
Here’s their grave.
Y’know Maxfield Parrish is also in this cemetery.
Flowers for you Aunt Ellen.
And for you Uncle John . . .
What am I doing?
Come on, take my hands and we’ll make it a tango.
An elaboration on the promise I whispered to him.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Read RemingtonWrite’s version here:
In August 2020, I set myself the challenge of creating a daily digital collage based on an image and a concept. The image was that of the antique Omega watch that belonged to my Mom and the concept was Time.
In September 2020, the Anomalous Duo is challenging themselves to write a short piece of fiction for each collage — the Our Hours project.