Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Meddle Shmeddle

January 8, 2008: Today is my dead brother's birthday. My mom says we're not going to celebrate his birthday or commemorate him because it saddens her. She's sick of people dying. First, my dad gets run over by a car. Then, my brother gets killed in Iraq by friendly fire when he stopped to speak Farsi to Iranians at a checkpoint. My mom tells me to shut up about friendly fire and let my brother be remembered as a war hero. Let's make a cake for him and blow out the candles, I say. You just want cake. No, it's not the cake I like but the friendly fire of the candles, goading her. Julius, she spouts, you were once a popular boy, before you told people your brother was killed by his friend during an unnecessary killing spree. What do you have to go around ho-humming for that his friend went and shot him? I just want people to know my boy didn't die for nothing. That's all I'm asking. So you don't have to be saying that he got killed by his friend, because I want his Purple Heart to be worth something more than just its metal. I won't meddle with his medal, I say. Meddle shmeddle. We're still not having cake. She smiles, but her cadaverous face, decomposing before my eyes, falls flat. No cake, again.

Copyright, 2008, Jennifer Chesler, All Rights Reserved

Broken Bionicles

December 5, 2007: I had my Bionicles set up in the kitchen, and my step-dad said to get them off the counter right away because he wanted to sit down and eat. "They're not in your way," I said. He pushed me to the side of the counter and shoved the Bionicles off it; they fell on the floor next to me, disassembled, with the parts all mixed together. My mom came in the kitchen. When she saw the broken Bionicles she told me to go outside and play with Kevin. Kevin said he heard about my brother on the news, that he was a war hero for stopping Iranian insurgents from blowing themselves up at a checkpoint. When I told him that my brother got killed by friendly fire, he didn't know what I was talking about. "His friend shot him," I said, "by accident. The Iranians weren't insurgents. They were just Iranian." Kevin didn't believe me. "My dad says your brother is a hero," he said, raising his voice a little. "Well, he's not a war hero. He spoke Farsi, and that got him in trouble," I said. Then I started to get upset about my Bionicles being thrown on the floor. Kevin thought I was crying because my brother died. "No," I told him, "my Bionicles are broken."

Copyright, 2007, Jennifer Chesler, All Rights Reserved

Farsi Shmarsi

November 23, 2007: Today we went to the mortuary. My mom said they put flags on all the coffins of dead soldiers, even ones like my brother who got killed by what's called friendly fire. I said to my mom, "But he wasn't even fighting the war when he was killed." And she said, "Yes, he was." I left it at that. She didn't like to think his best friend shot him by accident. My brother was standing next to a stopped car that the soldiers thought was going to explode. It didn't. But the soldiers shot all the passengers anyway, and my brother was trying to talk to the people in the car because he spoke Farsi -- they were Iranians trying to get back to Iran -- and got killed along with them. "I guess he shouldn't have studied Farsi in college then," I said, secretly gloating because now he was dead, and it didn't matter that he had spoken a language I never knew. "Farsi shmarsi," she said; and I figured it was as pointless to get her to take me to visit his grave as it was to get her to take me to visit my dad at the cemetery.

Copyright, 2007, Jennifer Chesler, All Rights Reserved

Julius' Diary

November 22, 2007: Last night someone from the Army came over. He told us that my brother got killed in Iraq. His face was blown off, he said, so we couldn't look at him. That made me sad, about his face being destroyed, probably because we looked alike, and now we don't anymore. I thought it was stupid for him to join the Army. I told him to play Army video games instead, but he wanted to defend our country, he said, and couldn't do it on a computer screen. So now I don't have a father or a brother. I have a mom and step-dad. My step-dad is nice, except for when he wants me to clean or take medicine. He told me to go to college instead of joining the military. He said, "Now you see your face can be blown to bits," and shook his head. "But they won't let me look at him," I said. "Yeah, good," he said. Then he went upstairs and cried. He'd been in Vietnam and has posttraumatic stress disorder. I think that's what the doctor called it. Sometimes at night he wakes me up because of his screaming. One of his feet had to be cut off during the war, and, when he dreams about it, he says it's like his foot is being amputated all over again.

Copyright, 2007, Jennifer Chesler, All Rights Reserved

Skeleton Shmeleton

My name is Julius. I'm 5-years-old. I don't look like my mother except for the color of my eyes. They're blue. I learned how to talk when I was 9-months-old. I know as many words as my brother who is in college. I do crossword puzzles faster. You should see me go. But I like to make Bionicles more than talk. We have a basement in our house. I put all the dead ones there. Mostly it's the good Bionicles who get it first. There are good guys and bad guys. I just throw the ones who got killed on the floor. My mother doesn't care.

My father is dead too. He got run over by a car when he was riding his bike to work one day. That was unexpected. We didn't know what to do. There were a lot of things that needed to get done that he usually did. So my mom married another guy. He's okay. Sometimes he tries to make me take medicine that tastes bad. My mom says the doctor prescribed it for me, but I think the new guy blends it up special to get me to gag.

We had a nice funeral for my dad. A year after he died we had the unveiling of his headstone. I got to keep the gauze veil that shrouded the stone. I keep it in my pillowcase. My mom says that I shouldn't keep the veil so close to me, that I should let her wash it and stuff. I told her it's not the same if you wash it. Then the smell of the cemetery will go away, and I don't want it to. I told her, "That's the smell of where Dad is." She said, "Your dad isn't really there." I said that his skeleton was there. She said, "Skeleton, shmeleton, go do your homework."

Copyright, 2007, Jennifer Chesler, All Rights Reserved