Of catfish and veterans

South Carolina, 2009

Today was, unapologetically, Tourist Day.

While Melani and  Trevor went to the Ripley’s Aquarium, Kendra and I got lost, found our way along (I swear to God) Iron Man Lane, and did some damage at the local thrift shops. Lunch was at Benjamin’s Seafood Calabash, where the buffet was about the size of our apartment. After loading up my plate, I went back to our table to find Trev making these noises:

“Meow *chew chew* Meow *chew chew*.” He looked up at me with one eyebrow raised. “Catfish. Meow meow! *chew chew*.” He then drank half a glass of water: “Drowned it. Oh no, wait – it’s a cat fish! Meow …” Strange child I have.

Some kind of squid thingy at the Ripley's Aquarium.
Some kind of squid thingy at the Ripley’s Aquarium.

Melani and Trevor did the Ripley’s Museum, then we put both kids in the Ripley’s Mirror Maze. While Mel and Kendra went into the Ripley’s 4D theatre, Trev and I went over to the pizza joint for coffee. They only had instant, but I told the guy I’d take it anyway. Black.

“Just sugar?” “No, no sugar. Just straight up.” “Oh yeah, I hear ya,” he says.

It took forever for the water to boil. Maybe because we were watching it. When he finally brought it to me, he said: “You be careful now, that’s real hot.” “It’s okay,” I assured him. “I can take it hot.”

He looked me up and down in that way. “I hear ya, baby. I hear ya.”

Spring Break 09 173

Waiting for the two to come out of the theatre, I sat next to a man who had six brothers and three sisters. He and five of his brothers were military. “One couldn’t. He had curvature of the spine, you know, he was handicapped. He tried to sign up, but they wouldn’t let him.” My new friend had been in the navy his whole life, through the Second World War, through Korea and through Vietnam. He was on boats for all but seven years of his military career.

“Two of the boats I was in were bombed,” he said.

“And you kept going.”

“Yes, ma’am. My mother said that the day we entered the military, she put us in God’s hands. There was one time I came real close. I was in a Jeep driving from Marble Mountain toward Da Nang. Those Jeeps weren’t easy, mind, they bounced all over. I was driving along, coming up to a bridge, and I had my rifle right here on the seat beside me. I went over a bump and my rifle fell down. I just reached down to get it, and when I straightened back up, there was a bullet hole right here –” He points to the air right in front of his forehead.

“Someone was looking out for you,” I said.

“Oh yes, oh yes. I still think about it.” He’s not looking at me anymore, but somewhere in front of him, where the bullet came from. “I have a dreams about that, you know. I think about it.” After a pause: “All of us came back okay. My sister says: ‘One of us will have to bury the other nine.’ One of us will have to bury nine. Four of my brothers are gone – we buried one on Saturday. I hope I’m not the one who has to bury the nine.”

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