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Peace Offering
   by G. L. Griffith

L ike Tennyson's Ulysses, you longed for something more. A single lifetime is seldom enough.

    The road that brought you here—cool sheets, icy hands against my burning thighs—began (you were saying) one day long ago, in the blush of autumn, when Hitler invaded Poland, and you strapped on that leather helmet (beneath cloud-flecked skies) and did your best Lon Chaney impersonation: black hair sprouting where there once was none (between the pads, across your sweating palms); and fangs piercing your too-pink-gums.
    The crowd gasped as you feasted on the blood of poor Jimmy-what's-his-name from Boyne City, who dared to run around your end of the field.
    A premonition of things to come.

    Four a.m., waist-deep in grass, knowing the enemy slithers beneath, machete-mouthed, slashing upward towards what hurts most.
    The breeze is serene at your face; palms dance madly overhead. The slow roll and flap of the ocean reminds you of something, a somnolent breathing on the cosmic level.
    Further out, the water is silky-calm; the big ships float menacingly and send their flares up.
    Each bloom of light brings a burst of gunfire that slowly dissolves to groans and curses.
    Then the megaphone voice speaks through the darkness: "Wassa matter yaunk, you miss that little girl from home? Well I got news for you. She fucking your best friend."

    A Purple Heart and a red kidney fetched you a good life.
    Life became a Chaplin movie. Events moved rapidly across the screen: shadows expanding and receding, the swirl of low-moving clouds, the exaggerated walk, a tipping of the hat and the modest proposal, the two-story house that you really didn't want, the family outings framed on the mantel, each face wearing your perpetual smile.
    Mid-life had it usual crises, some little hussy half your age. Now it was your turn to pay. You became buried in debt.
    Retirement snuck up on you unawares and you decided to make one last repo—a red job out in Cali—drive it back yourself. You booked the flight.
    You were getting your kicks, top down, stars overhead, the road in front of you: San Bernardino, Barstow, Kingman, Flagstaff, Arizona.
    Then you headed north toward Utah.
    This is where I come into the picture, late one night, flash of headlights, an empty highway, braking, swerving, hitting the shoulder, stopping for your little run-run-run-run-runaway.
    The bonfires burning along the mesas should have warned you or maybe the choppers droning overhead.
    You were fucking with the kingdom.
    Royalty was in your presence, the eighth wife of John Melchezidek.
    Little did you know.

    White swans in stump-filled waters, that's what you said you were dreaming of when the car doors slammed and the heavy knock came.
    You rushed to the door, wanting to be a hero again, just like at Iwo, when you were outnumbered ten-to-one.
    The bullets split your skull, and we took your money and cards—Call it a peace offering.

Copyright©2003 G. L. Griffith


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