Iowa Writes

RAQUEL LISETTE BAKER
When He Gets Weary: A Revision, conclusion


Anthony breathes because of machines. His bed is beaded in layers of sweat. The sweat washes him away. Stop! Stop it! He pulls harder. Tries to keep himself wrapped. In his skin. A smile.

* * *

We'll try to get you out. Are you OK? Roger. Going in hard! 64 is going down. We're getting RPG fire. We have casualties. Over. Roger that. Be advised we are taking heavy fire. God damn it! Stop! Stop! He told himself it was O.K. He would be O.K. His left eye looked up. All that flashing. He couldn't understand. It was so festive. Like a party.

* * *

6:00 a.m. Anthony exists. In a dream. He is sleeping. Inside walls. We have the whole beautiful world, Michelle. Anyway, I want you to see the moon. I want to see it with you before I deploy. The cicadas. So loud. OK. But if I come out there you gotta do something for me. I will. On her mattress. Her face looking up at him. He thinks he can change the world. She thinks if she rides her bike more he won't have to go back to that god forsaken country. If rural and inner city recreational drug users and celebrities and adult children of alcoholics and medical professionals and traumatized veterans who had been ripped apart and put together again and needed daily relief were no longer prescribed Oxycodone. She pulls his arm. Don't go! You aren't one of those brainwashed peaceniks are you? No. It's just. I don't want you to go again. Anthony. Yeah. Get back soon!

* * *

Anthony breathes because of machines. His bed is beaded in layers of sweat. The sweat washes him away. Stop! Stop it! He pulls harder. Tries to keep himself wrapped. In his skin. A smile.

* * *

We'll try to get you out. Are you OK? Roger. Going in hard! 64 is going down. We're getting RPG fire. We have casualties. Over. Roger that. Be advised we are taking heavy fire. God damn it! Stop! Stop! He told himself it was O.K. He would be O.K. His left eye looked up. All that flashing. He couldn't understand. It was so festive. Like a party.

* * *

6:00 a.m. Anthony exists. In a dream. He is sleeping. Inside walls. We have the whole beautiful world, Michelle. Anyway, I want you to see the moon. I want to see it with you before I deploy. The cicadas. So loud. OK. But if I come out there you gotta do something for me. I will. On her mattress. Her face looking up at him. He thinks he can change the world. She thinks if she rides her bike more he won't have to go back to that god forsaken country. If rural and inner city recreational drug users and celebrities and adult children of alcoholics and medical professionals and traumatized veterans who had been ripped apart and put together again and needed daily relief were no longer prescribed Oxycodone. She pulls his arm. Don't go! You aren't one of those brainwashed peaceniks are you? No. It's just. I don't want you to go again. Anthony. Yeah. Get back soon!

* * *

The sky was dark. It was a moment of grace. A moment of beauty. Like in a movie. Nine minutes in he fell. From the sky. Spread out. From the cockpit. Shrapnel blasted past his ear. Eyeballed him. Continued its wandering. A jolt took him down. The ground took him in. Blood filled his brain.

* * *

Anthony breathes in. Does not react when ice cold water is shot into his ears. A machine yanks air from his chest. Fills it up again. He feels himself in the bed. His dying is so quiet. It disentangles him from the bed clothes. It doesn't kick. Or twist. Or roll him on his tummy. To get one more look. At the ground. Anthony doesn't get up. He can't. His heart can only whisper. It's too quiet inside the clamoring white hospital walls. Too quiet. It has to go. It will not last the night.

* * *

The ground came to his skin. Bared its teeth. Don't panic. The ground was rough and rougher. Keep your wits about you so you can get away. Get home. The ground arched his back. Moaned for him. Are you hurt?

* * *

Anthony thinks of his last night. With Michelle. Her lips. His tongue inside her. A metallic click notes that his heart has stopped. Within its wet lining. He isn't breathing in. He isn't. Breathing. The arctic of his eyes. The sharp lines of his chin. He body isn't. Stiff. Inside her.

* * *

He was disoriented. Reds. And greens. And blues. Flashed. Over the canvas of "little America" in Helmand. Rifles wailed. Machine guns exploded. Fires seethed red against desert sand. Grenades. Climaxed. Outside. In a remote Afghanistan valley. Rockets rushed. Over his head. Gases escaped. Upward. Into the atmosphere. Cases contracted. Released their frictional grips on chamber walls. Brass expelled from a rusting chrome-lined barrel penetrated. Expanded. Fragmented. Tumbled into skin.

* * *

Anthony is comatose. Though he receives prayers. Thoughts. And gratitude. His brain starts to bleed. Blood mixes with cerebrospinal fluid. He rests peacefully. Michelle's legs twist under her covers. She turns. Throws her head into her pillow. Falling motion. Falling. Crumpling. Into sleep. She curls up against the wall. Grabs another pillow. Protects her face with her forearm and the palm of her hand. She tosses. And turns. She leaves her engagement ring on a chain. Around her neck. A letter on her bedside table ends P.S. I do this so you can sleep safe at night. Love A.

* * *

An orgy of motion. Anthony's head jerked back and forth. The air frame teetered. Cover me! Captain! Can you hear me? Get him out of there! Anthony didn't move. Or smile. He was weary. Pressed into the seat. The airframe teetered. On not existing anymore. Anthony filled up the desert. Overpreyed.

* * *

Anthony leaves without saying good bye. Passes away under clean white sheets. An outpouring of support and love does not save him. Even in kindergarten Anthony wants to fly. Fully. Outrageously. Like a storm.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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RAQUEL LISETTE BAKER

Raquel Lisette Baker is working on a PhD in English Literary Studies, specializing in Postcolonial Studies and African literatures in English.  She received a BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University and a MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College.  She has published in The Womanist and Crux.

If you missed Monday and Tuesday's pages, here is When He Gets Weary: A Revision, part one and When He Gets Weary: A Revision, part two.

This page was first displayed
on July 30, 2014

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