Friday, November 26, 2004

"The Sniffles of War": A Memoir by Tom Bisser

(From a current magazine.)

In adolescence as you sit with thumb in mouth among your toys and comic books there is always the War, that your Dad was in the War, every Vietnam unhappy dinnertime meal Dad going berserk are you reminded of the Vietnam War. Nightmares daymares wacked-out stereotype multiple-personality Vietnam Dad My Lai massacre flashbacks blowing-up neighbor's garbage cans laughing wildly insanely crying former Marine Dad.

We go to Vietnam. The War Museum. The My Lai perpetrators. The atrocities. German tourists saying "Worse than Auschwitz! Ja!"

"Kill the trees!" Dad yells in proof, shooting with fingers German tourists scattering Dad burying head in Communist flag weeping violently saying over and over "I'm sorry! Sorry!"

A camera. My father stops walking and stares at a camera. A Yashica camera.

"Dad-- what is it, Dad," I ask.

"I had that camera, with me," he sobs. "When I came to Vietnam."

Vietnam haunts my Dad's memories. Memories of Vietnam.

Dad red-faced enraged is suddenly destroying the Yashica camera.

He sits by the roadside among the shattered remnants of the camera and the destroyed memories of Vietnam, of his Vietnam-scarred brain.

"We killed-- everybody," Dad says.

Thankfully this is only an essay. Otherwise there'd be lots of bodies.

This barely-disguised tolerance for murder during an election year topical subject Vietnam for an essay John Kerry sobs of Vietnam significance gets this published Vietnam madness good old crazy available Vietnam Dad.

We were always estranged he was the long-time loony-tune caricature nutcase in the attic but now when I need a subject for an essay lots of madness atrocities topical significance make a spectacle of him there is, thankfully, Dad.

"What does your father do?" someone asks. Even though Vietnam was 35 years ago I want to tell the person about Vietnam about my Dad want to tell someone. Instead I shrug and say, "He's crazy."

We are hunting in the woods. We are hunting quail in the woods even though I don't like hunting and my father is Vietnam crazy spraying trees with bullets there we are anyway in the woods at the conclusion of this weepy and significant Vietnam-haunted essay. We both, Dad and I, are haunted by Vietnam. We get lost in the woods.

"Marines don't get lost!" old Vietnam Dad tells me. Not lost. Not my Dad. A Marine. A crazy Vietnam Marine. But my Dad. He says nothing. I say nothing. He begins crying. I begin sobbing. We hold each other in an epiphany of reconciliation and tell ourselves over and over not to think anymore again about Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam.

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