Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yesterday died

I found this short story I think I started writing a year ago. I don't remember why. I barely remember writing it. I have this memory of a writing exercise of taking a line and working it in a new direction but I'm not actually sure where it came from! So, if you know the inspiration for this story, or are the inspiration, please let me know so I can credit you and apologize if necessary. I've had this story in my blog list for months. Occassionally worked on it and kept pushing it forward by a month. And then, yesterday it was scheduled for publishing and I forgot to push it forward again and here it is. I'm still editing. I'm curious though where the inspiration -- and possibly some of the story came from! Sometimes, I'm a mystery to myself! And sometimes, what I write is a mystery to me.

I vaguely remember that at the time I'd read a news report about a reporter who was kidnapped by insurgents somewhere in the world. I remember reading that news and thinking about what it must feel like for the mother, or father, who so wanted their child to live their dreams -- and then to have them come into harms way because of that dream. That thought lead me to write -- or, did a story I read by another lead me to be inspired to write...

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Yesterday I said goodbye to someone I loved. As I hung up the phone the last time we spoke, hearing the echo of the distance separating us, I believed I'd see him again. I thought I'd hear his voice again but life has a grim way of reminding us of our mortality.

Last night I opened my door to the police. I remember the frost on their breath as they gravely asked my name.

Their words seemed to freeze as they asked if they could enter. I felt only curiousity at their presence. No premonition of death. No cloud of despair.

And then, they entered and asked me to sit down. I knew. I knew then they were about to destroy me. Good news can be taken standing up.

They told me my son was dead. They told me he was shot. Shot by the stray bullet of a gunmen who remains nameless to me. He remains nameless to my son, the boy he killed. I sit and worry that this man who was probably no more than a boy himself, could kill my son without ever having known him. And in my grief I wonder if it would make it any easier knowing the man who killed him.

It is hard to hate a faceless enemy.

They told me my son was doing his job, doing it well I assume. He was gathering information for a documentary on the plight of the Palestinian refugees when he was hit by the bullet. A rubber bullet they said, a new type of bullet meant to maim not necessarily kill. A round steel ball covered in hard rubber. It made a small round hole where it entered his skull, almost invisible until they cut away his hair. I told him he should have had it cut. Perhaps they would have seen it sooner and saved him. But they tell me he was killed on impact. It's hard to imagine his life over in an instant.

I try to remember what I was doing when it happened. But 4:56 p.m. in Palestine means I was sleeping and I weep to think that I could sleep while my son died.

I remember when he left he was so excited, so alive. His first big assignment, a challenge, an opportunity to write something of consequence. He was full of dreams, full of hope. And I wonder if I caused his death. I wonder if I encouraged him to go in search of truth, and in that truth, death searched him out. Death was waiting. I have always believed that we create our destiny. That we have control of our lives. But death takes that away and I cannot believe that he created this.

Numbly I sit in his darkened room. He hasn't lived in it for over three years but it's still his. The signs of his passing life are all here. Trophies, pictures, scarred desk and toys. The chaos of his youth was tidied up when he left but his spirit remained. Idly I flip through his old records, some of them mine. Wings, America, Bob Dylan. I look at the Dylan album and remember his favourite song. He always wished he'd been born in the 50's so he could remember the 60's. Instead he cherished the songs calling for peace not war. Love not hate. He knew all the words to Baez and Dylan and now I do know where all the flowers have gone. They rest on the graves of our young men and women killed too soon by stray bullets and intentional ones too. By friendly gunfire and not so friendly 'enemies' we can name but never know or see or hear without fearing their truth will kill ours by gunmen we canot name and bullets we cannot feel.

And I think about the bullet. The bullet that killed him. It won't be in his grave, even though it is what put him there. Where was it made? Was it a product of a factory that employed someone just like him? Young. Youthful. Full of dreams and promise. Yearning to make their mark on the world. Yearning to show the horrors of war in an effort to make peace?

I wonder about that bullet. The men, and women, who work for the company that made it. Do they know their bullets kill? Their bullets kill mother's sons and father's daugthers. Do they know that in their killing force whole lives are torn apart, whole families are decimated by the force with which they enter someone's life and end it.

Do they know?

The police said my son didn't know. Didn't know the pain of dying. Didn't know death was coming. I know they're wrong.

5 comments:

Reflections said...

wow! A very powerful write... kind of haunting from the beginning through to the end. Nothing can compare to the pain of losing a child to something so senseless.

Maureen said...

The matter-of-fact narration gives this an edge. The details with which we concern ourselves when confronted with loss are true-to-life. The line "to think that I could sleep while my son died" is a stand-out. This, sadly, is an all-too-common story for so many mothers all across the world. How it hurts!

trisha said...

my heart goes out to all those who lose their children, esp if it is for some unnatural reason.

you captured that numbness perfectly louise, glad that i already know that you have only two daughters.

S. Etole said...

yes, I too am glad this is fiction ... at least for you

Josie said...

As one who grew up in the Vietnam era, I will never understand war. Every man or woman killed in the line of duty on either side is somebody's child, somebody who must somehow go on living with a broken heart. This story is beautifully written, it well describes the pain.