Wednesday, May 17, 2017

THE BOY WHO BIT HIS LIP my favorite thing that I've ever written

The Boy Who Bit His Lip

He was never big
Not even when he was full grown
He was small in stature
But had the biggest heart you ever saw.

I first met him
When I was ten
And he was six
And he had moved in next door.

He wore overalls
And had tousled hair
That fell in his eyes
And kept you from seeing inside.

I went over to help them move in
Cause I was a curious girl
And it was a long, boring summer
And I was tired of sitting round, grumbling.

"Ya'll need some help?" I asked
And the mama and the daddy just looked at me
And the boy and his baby sister smiled shyly
And kicked at the ground.

They didn't say much
But I dug in and helped carry boxes
Out of the back of the truck and into the house
And worked me up quite a sweat.

Later on, we all had root beer
And baloney sandwiches
And I learned their names
And where they had come from.

Me and the boy passed the summer
Fishing down at the creek
And climbing the hills and such
But he didn't open up much.

He had a sense of humor
Not like most people
His was quiet and dry
And found in the oddest places.

I never really felt at ease
At his house and neither did he
After a month or two in residence
We all started hearing shouting coming from next door.

Sometimes I'd be met on the porch
And told to go home
Sometimes his mother would pass the window
And I'd see bruises on her pale face.

School started and that is where
This story really begins
I loved school cause I was smart
But that school became a hell for my new friend.

Jimmy tried to blend in
Not in to the cliques
But in to the walls like a ghost
He tried to be invisible but he stuck out like a sore thumb.

They picked on him cause he was "country"
Cause he wore patched clothes and old shoes
Cause he looked different and talked different
And was different but I was sure glad he was.

Sometimes on the play ground
I'd see the bullies taunting him
And I'd walk over to eavesdrop
And be close by if he needed help.

Terrible things, they said to him
Made up insults that only bad children can say
Circling round him like little vultures
Picking on him like he was dirt.

But Jimmy never said a word
He just looked at the ground
And shuffled his shoes and waited
Till they got tired and walked away.

"Why do you take that mess?"
I asked him one day when I couldn't stand it anymore
"Fools will always be fools." he answered quietly
With more wisdom than most grown folks.

And years passed
And he grew stronger but not much taller
Sometimes he came to school with a black eye
And he trembled when I sat with him on the bus.

Sometimes, I reached over
And held his hand and he tightened his grip
In a grateful way and I let him know
I'd come over and beat me some butt if he needed me to.

His daddy drank, we found out
Had lost the family farm and all they had
Loved to beat up on weaker folks, like women and children
And was just meaner than a junk yard dog.

My daddy wanted to go over sometimes
And beat the hell outta him when we heard the yelling
But my mama was scared and wouldn't let him
But later on, she wished to God she had.

When I was fifteen and he was eleven
We came home from school one day
To see the sheriff's car parked out front
And the coroner's wagon loading up the baby sister.

Oh, God, it was awful
That poor, sweet little towhead
Her daddy had wrung her neck
And her mama was screaming like she would never stop.

The sheriff couldn't find him
Cause he had jumped into his old Chevy
And hightailed it out of the state
Drunk and swerving and running like the coward that he was.

Jimmy tried to console his mama the best he could
But he took it hard in his quiet way
And down by the creek, I'd put my arms around him
And he'd cry like a baby.

When he graduated with honors
I was so proud of him, sitting beside his frail mother
But she was worried, I could tell
And later on, when the draft board papers came, I understood.

Just before he left for Vietnam
We were lying on a blanket down by the water
Eating hot dogs and drinking cherry wine
And trying to hold on to childhood.

"I'll never love no other girl but you." he said softly
Touching my face and brushing back my hair
"You're the kindest, sweetest person in the whole world."
And I blushed, knowing it wasn't true but glad he thought so.

I was a grown woman and I had a job
But I knew I loved that boy by the time I was eighteen
And he was fourteen
And I knew I always would.

The bullies had grown up
But they still picked on him
Started fights and played dirty tricks
But Jimmy never said a mumbling word.

He was eighteen and a half
When that bus pulled up on the town square
And he set down his old suitcase and kissed his mama
And held me so tightly in his arms that I became part of him.

"You come back to me, you hear?" I whispered in his ear
"Don't you go and get yourself killed or maimed." I warned him
"And don't you go and get yourself married to some body else." he pleaded
"I wouldn't do that." I promised "I love you, Jimmy. I always will."

It was three years before we saw him again
We had written letters back and forth
And kept my mail man so busy he was threatening to retire
"Here's one from your boy!" he'd say and grin a big grin.

I lived for those letters
I lived to touch something that he had touched
And read them over and over trying to feel what he was feeling
And see what he was seeing.

He didn't describe the horrors of war
Instead, he told funny stories about the guys he knew
About how lush and green it was over there
And how he couldn't wait to see my face again.

One evening I came home from work
And my mama and daddy and his mama
Was standing on my front porch talking quietly
And my heart just jumped up into my throat.

"Hurry up and turn on the television!" they cried
And I unlocked the door and threw my purse on the floor
Turned on the tv and yelled, "What channel? What channel?"
And we all gathered round the set and waited till the tubes lit up.

"This is a special presentation from CBS News." Walter Cronkite intoned
And a fuzzy black and white film came on and there he was, my Jimmy
He was battered and bruised, surrounded by enemy soldiers, yelling at him
Threatening him with guns and knives and smiling with their mean mouths.

He had been captured, Cronkite said
While leading the Cong away from the survivors of his platoon
They had tortured him, almost killed him
But he had said nothing and given them no information.

"That boy always did bite his lip." his mother said, crying
"Even when he was a little bitty thing, he was always brave like that."
And I put my arm around her and held her
As the news story continued and we held on to every word.

The film had been eleven days old then
Sent in to show what happened to soldiers that wouldn't cooperate
Sent in to instill fear and make our enemies look big and strong
But they were just the same old bullies on the school yard.

Just before the bulletin ended and Cronkite faded away
I saw a soldier hit Jimmy across the face, hard
"You tell us! You tell us now!" he screamed in his Asian accent
And Jimmy raised his head and I swear he looked straight into my eyes.

We never saw Jimmy again
Not alive, not dead in a casket, not ever
He was called a hero in the papers, a song was written about him
Medals were sent to his mother and letters from the President.

But my shy sweet boy never came home
He was a POW and an MIA
He never again held my hand or touched my face
And he never grew older like the rest of us.

Three years later, the news came
They had found his no account daddy dead in a car crash
Drunk and skinny, looking like a haint in a graveyard
There was a newspaper in the car with the headline and picture of his boy.

I went with his mom to the funeral
Not cause I had any respects to pay
But because I wanted to make sure it was him in that coffin
And I had to hold myself back from spitting in his face.

Later, at the graveside
His mother took herself two big ole handfuls of dirt
And flung 'em just as hard as she could on top of that casket
"That's for my baby girl, " she shouted, "And this is for your son!"

"I don't reckon you'll ever see either one of them again,
Cause there ain't no way the Lord will let you into heaven
And I know neither one of them are there in hell!"
And I held her while the grave diggers waited and I spit on that old man's grave.

Life went on, like it always does
But the sweetness had faded and the sun didn't seem as bright
People came, people went and the war ended
But all I could taste was bittersweet and hopeless grief.

I often think, "I wish I could go back."
Go back to those days when eternity was just a word in a hymn book
Go back and let my daddy beat the stuffin' outta that old drunk
Go back and take that little girl and hide her somewhere so she would be safe.

Go back to that creek
And drink my fill of the sweetness of those shy lips
Hold that body in my arms so tight he couldn't get loose
And go off and be a hero in that old war.

The only time Jimmy never bit his lip
Was when I told him I loved him
He always lit up like a Christmas tree when he heard that
And he always said, "Say it again, girl! Say it again!" and I would. 

by Voo
Nov 16, 08
5:30 p.m.

Teardrops on my Guitar instrumental
It adds something to the reading of the story.....