As a farewell to this column which I’ve been writing for three years, I thought it fitting that I’d include a publication that won a contest in November 2015. I want to thank everyone for reading my Musings and Mumblings blog and offering suggestions and comments after each submission. I originally began this blog as advance PR for my novel, and though I will keep writing until it’s published, I’ve found that blogging detracts from time that could be spent revising, rewriting and creating anew. It’s been a great learning experience for me, and even in the weeks where I’ve spilled my guts, I regret nothing.
So, enjoy this last prose piece, and I wish you, my dear readership, well, now and in the future.
Houston Writers House
An Organization to Help YOU Polish and Publish Your Manuscript
I’m the one. Beloved. First born son, eagerly awaited. First born child of a Marine is a Legend, destined for greatness. Mom popped me out like a super size kernel of corn, while Dad, a giant of a man, caught me in his sweaty hands like a football, and cut a cord that reeled back inside. I was slippery, and his lips slid across my scalp before handing me back to Mom. She gently moved me toward her breast, but my mouth refused to open. One tit, as large as my eye, dribbled white liquid. And then another baby slid down the chute between her legs. He was small and silent, hands clenched, dark hair plastered to his head. “Twins?” Dad bellowed, holding the baby upside down as though it wasn’t meant to be. A woman stepped forward, turning him upside right, then painting his feet black. A mirror of myself mewled like a cat. He was bundled tight in a blanket when he joined me in a small glass walled bed. For less than a second, we stared, startled, and then he hooked on to a tit and began in earnest to suck Mom dry. I howled hard, kicking my legs in short, angry bursts.
Bigger than my twin by a pound and older by two minutes, I burst with energy 24/7, and wore Mom out before I was a month old. My likeness, now called Matt, was unexpected, unplanned, the one who took everyone by surprise. He was ugly, too, stuffing little fingers often in his mouth while his lips would gum down. He’d copy everything I did. If I cried, he’d join in. If I punched the air, his fists would flail. There wasn’t one thing he did on his own. Twins are supposed to be loving from birth on, best of friends. We were, and I wasn’t. I had a mind of my own. After all, I was destined for greatness. Ask any Marine.
We shared everything. Bed, stroller, blankets, toys, and Mom. Just not Dad. Dad belonged to me, and whenever he tried to cuddle Matt, my twin would barf on him. I don’t think I really loved Mom so much as I did her breast. Sometimes after getting my fill, I’d bury my face in its thick, warm flesh, and doze. When she’d try to pull me away, I’d latch on again, my tears intertwined with hers. Matt drank from her like a faucet, trying to make up for lost time, gain that extra pound, TKO. That’s how it was from then on. Two little babies fighting over two delicious tits. Only one, the Legend, would win. Seize the day. There can’t be two Legends in the same family. Ask any Marine.
August is a good time to welcome the world, before late blooming flowers give way to rot and ruin. In August, heat wilts everything and everyone as the long summer’s sun blazes in the garden, a green hose spewing water in a last ditch effort to renew and refresh. The sun sets fire to the earth until it ignites in angry voices at night, Mom crying, Dad stomping around. By the time September arrives, bees have drunk their last fill of pollen, and frost has moved from the lawn to inside our house, where Dad packs for deployment, his third in three years.
Tall grasses whisper down the hill where I now sit, the best view of the Chesapeake in all of Annapolis. Far off freighters come and go, on their way to Spain, Taiwan, maybe just Baltimore. There are trees to the left and trees to the right, and green grass cut in swirls. It’s life that hurts, not death. It’s worse if a dad is a soldier is a colonel. He has two families. You, and his men. His men come first. Life is full of disappointments where loved ones go away and return when you’re a year older, forgetting what you wanted to tell him. At home, he’s never happy, always waiting for the next adventure. He tucks me in, says I’m the best, and by morning, he’s yelling “Man up, Alex! You deserved to be spanked. Legends don’t scribble on walls!” He’d throw me into the backyard pool, teaching me how to swim as I choked in desperation, and heaving in fear. I wished he’d picked on Matt more. The weaker of us two.
You don’t feel death, no matter what way you depart. It’s those you leave behind who suffer. Grandparents and parents in the same house. Matt and I were four the morning the gun went off. It was a game, not an accident, no matter what you hear. I’d been up since dawn, jumping on the bed, trying to jump my twin into wakefulness. Mom took pills, oblivious to chaos as it unfolded around her. Like me and Matt, the gun was a twin of the one Dad kept at Quantico. He was out running, and when he returned, he’d leave for there. I didn’t know when I’d see him again.
I climbed on the table in his and Mom’s room, peering into the top of a metal box sitting wide open, a small key stuck in its lock. Mom moaned and muttered, “Alex, go back to bed,” her voice sounding as far away as Dad on his run. Minutes later, I pulled my twin from bed and cried, “Pew pew pew!” jerking the gun at him. He thought it a toy. With each jerk, he pretended to cower under the covers. After a series of clicks, he scolded, “Looks real.”
Our grandparents sat on the screened porch, reading the paper, too far away to hear our chatter. “Baby Matty,” I teased, pretending some more, the gun a small airplane dropping bombs that exploded at my feet. Giggling, I held it between my legs and squeezed the trigger, using all my strength. A thug flew upwards toward the ceiling, imbedding itself like a black bug. Everything shuddered. “MOM!” Matt cried, backing away. It was Dad who came first, his boots thundering down the hallway, his voice tight with anger. “What the hell!” He flew towards Matt, shaking him the same way he had when he was born, while I dove for the bed, for safety, I suppose. The gun fired again without any help as Dad grabbed at me, missing my shirt but catching my last breath. Everything went black as I propelled downward, as hard thumps beat against my chest, until Dad, warm and wet, held me close, and Mom sobbed, one hand clinging to my hair.
Septembers’ gold, white and yellow Chrysanthemums light up the area above my forever bed when Matt and Mom come to visit on my birthday. Mom cries as Matt ties stupid children’s balloons to the headstone. Matt and I are 14 now, him as tall as I would have been, dark eyes and curls most resembling Mom and Izzy. For those long nine months we spent sharing thumbs, hiding out, I had his back, whether or not he knew he had mine, twins forever. Like I said before, there can’t be two Legends in the same family. Ask any Marine.