Marie Smysor Watson
A True Story
A quick thanks to all of you for the sales and messages and the posts and the love for my new book. Means a lot to someone who spends her free time at the kitchen table, trying to piece together coherent sentences in this funhouse of a life.
And now for a totally new story, short and sweet... in other words, nothing like me!
Dutch was thirteen when he got into his first scrape with the law. Stealing Nixon for President signs out of the neighbor’s yard, back in ‘59, when he was running against JFK – Nixon, not Dutch. He – Dutch, not Nixon – was hauled down to the station. Claimed he was making a political statement, exercising his First Amendment rights. He got a fine for trespassing. Nixon lost anyway, without Dutch’s help.
He was drafted at twenty-two. He said little about it, keeping mostly to himself like always. He rarely talked to his wife, never played with his two girls, whom I was crazy about. I played house with them, delicate with their devotion even though I was man enough to fear my number being called too.
I got my letter three weeks later, despite the hitch in my walk from a long-ago broken leg. I kissed Ma and my nieces and shook Pops’ wilted hand. He’d seen this all before and he turned away, guilty. Dutch and I drove to the station. I boarded the bus, thinking he was right behind me. When it pulled away, there he stood, his eyes stale. When I got to camp, I checked in with the sergeant. Dutch never showed. MPs marched to Ma and Pops’ to find him, but he was already dust.
He escaped to Texas, our old stomping grounds, wandering through places desolate and changed. He sent me the tail from a rattlesnake he had killed and ate, both for the protein and the notoriety. I gave it to a small Laotian boy who stared at it in awe and then wrapped it in a piece of dirty cloth as if it were treasure.
I returned home after thirteen months, my time served. There Dutch sat in Ma’s yellow kitchen, holding his new baby boy and smiling wide. He’d gotten fat and his jeans strained to hold themselves together around the middle.
I visited last Tuesday. He looked skinny, old. They weren’t feeding him too good, he said, a true story. He talked about his appeals case, how it was progressing. I showed him a picture of his new granddaughter, his first. He smiled with the same vacant look he wore the day the bus left him behind, lonesome like the plains of West Texas, where we lived when we were our father’s sons and nothing more.