For Veterans Day
Tues, Nov 21/67. A ball of cells no longer than a minute has taken root in me. Virginia Woolf is screaming from her grave: You’ve ruined everything. You were supposed to refuse to breed. Ron is puffed up with blessing-from-God talk, already following me around with a pillow. God had nothing to do with it. I missed a pill.
I know the moment the zygote burrowed into my uterus, despite Ron calling it a romantic bit of retrospective prognostication. October 22nd. We were watching TV, gripped by images of protesters clubbed with rifle butts, desperately hoping our dear friend Carl wasn’t one of them. I had belly cramps, chalked it up to an imminent period. Never thought of implantation. Invasion. We saw blood splash onto steps, heard “Link arms, link arms” and screams of pain. Carl said he’d be carrying a sign saying “Do Not Ask For Whom The Bell Tolls” but we couldn’t spot it among the tens of thousands of protesters there. He called next day to say he’d been tear-gassed and dragged by his feet. My heart drums as if I’ve had ten cups of coffee. The doctor says that’s normal.
Tavis bursts from her in a bloody, briny-smelling torrent—no less extraordinary than Athena emerging from the head of Zeus. It’s July 8, 1968, and the country is in shock. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy are dead. A hundred cities still lick wounds from spring riots and not even Walter Cronkite believes in the war any more. “Forgive me,” she whispers when the nurse lays seven pounds, six ounces of slippery baby on her chest as gently as she might a soufflé.
Tues, Dec 2/69. We watched the first draft lottery on TV last nite. They had the gall to open it with a prayer. Numbered slips of paper in plastic capsules like cluster bomblets determined who’d get drafted. A Congressman pulled the first from a deep glass jar: 258. It corresponds to September 14. All guys born on that date between 1944 and 1950 almost surely will get called up next year. Imagine thousands of September fourteeners across the country feeling kicked in the gut, their wives or mothers too stunned to cry. Tavis’s birthdate was the 13th drawn. Though they’re not drafting seventeen-month-olds yet, my heart stopped for a second. The whole scene was coldly businesslike. There should have been women in black weeping and wailing and on a big screen, footage of soldiers stepping on landmines, babies getting shot, villages burning.
Tricia Dower is a dual citizen of the US and Canada and cannot watch scenes of war without tearing up. She’s the author of Silent Girl, a collection of stories inspired by Shakespeare, and two novels: Stony River (available in Canada now, in the United States fall 2016) and Becoming Lin (to be released in Canada March 2016). She lives in Brentwood Bay, BC.