“Lance Corporal DeAvila” by David Joez Villaverde

January 13, 2015

Father, I once knew a boy who was just like me and his father was just like you, and we had the same name and the same mother, even though she was different, we were the same yet not, but our world was never enough for him, and as soon as Uncle Sam let him he up and left for Iraq, he used to joke that he sopped up all the gravy on his biscuit, he used to joke and flash his big shit-eating grin, it was his way, and the world was his way, his way and nobody else’s, he would kick down doors and toss his grenades high in the air, chewing steel and smoking Marlboros, you was born a soldier, our momma used to josh him, back when we were kids with plastic guns, because violence hadn’t been articulated yet, because inevitable ends hadn’t yet been conceived, yessir, born with a rifle in his hand, and the only book I ever seen’t him read was the Bushido code, as if he had no need for the words of others that didn’t concern the sanctity of death, and he didn’t, he stood ten miles tall and Hadji was scared of him, and stateside we were all jealous, knowing full well we would never risk anything in combat, much less our lives, but not he, no sir he was a no bullshit through-and-through hero, but on a cold night in December, an APC from his platoon was patrolling some shit hole 55 klicks north of Basra, when an IED fragged everyone aboard, it was like the night just split open and there was no mourning the pieces of men that were left behind, they were just guts and offal now, splattered over the unforgiving desert, their blood glistening in the autumnal light of constellations named after champions they’d never learnt about, just dust and silence and death in a desolate hole that some backwards people called home, and that would not suffice, could not suffice, that was no answer, as their muted voices screamed for retribution in the winds cropping off the Al-Hajarah, and what remained of his platoon spoke to the dead with unmoving lips and returned to the shit hole and pulled every able- bodied man out of their hovels, with their wives screaming and crying to the savage god who let this transpire, all of the men on their knees with heads bowed in the resignation that accompanies certain death, in a dilapidated square in the center of town where a well once stood before the war, and it didn’t take long, it couldn’t take long, and they fell without mercy, like snow, summarily executed, each and every one of them, because someone knew, someone had to have known, and if one knew they all knew, they were all guilty, all complicit, and only the weeping women and children remained to avenge the fallen, abandoned by both the living and the dead, alone, with only their grief to console them. It was there that anyone last saw him, it was there that we lost him and he came home, but he was not him, and no one knew him, and no one saw him, and he roamed our terra like a hungry ghost, raising Cain, listless, reckless and restless, following lines no one else could see. Father, now he sleeps with a gun under his pillow, dreaming every night of the boy who looked him in the eyes and didn’t cry. There are pieces all men leave behind. There was no mourning. The sun never rose again. There was no morning. The sun never rose.

 

HeadshotDavid Joez Villaverde is an alumnus of the University of Michigan. His writing has been featured in the Belle Rêve Literary Journal, The Jewish Literary Journal, The Pittsburgh City Paper, and the Loyalhanna Review. He has forthcoming works in Uppagus, Runaway Hotel, and Apocrypha and Abstractions. His writing can occasionally be found at schadenfreudeanslip.com.