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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019
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Chris Bays
Beavercreek, Ohio, USA


Blood Brothers

“High noon,” Pete mutters, pounding his fist into his palm. It’s a scorching school day in Iowa. Another day for me to receive tattoo bruises, medals of defiance. This time though it’s different. Pete’s my friend – my only friend – who had invited me to his farm. Unlike others, he didn’t laugh when I said Hallo instead of Hello. When I wore hand-me-downs from Germany, he didn’t challenge me to conform. Instead, he showed off Big Red, his prize pig that played fetch with corncobs.

We’d sit quietly together late afternoons shelling corn, for Pete was not much of a talker. Often the only sound was an occasional rustle of wind crossing cornfields and Big Red’s hooves scurrying through husks. Pete’s blue eyes did most of the talking as he gazed toward Big Red with a strange mix of sadness, happiness, and terror. Now and then, he would mutter how he wished he could leave this place or how I was lucky to have lived in Germany – far from this farm. I didn’t understand what he meant at that time. I thought, “What more could a boy want beyond this farm, the distant dusk-filled fishing hole, and a pig as smart as a dog?” When I asked him why he wanted to leave, his mouth twitched – opening and closing several times as if grasping for words and air – before striking his fist into his palm, yelling at me to shut up. At that moment he reminded me of his father who I once saw strike his fist into his palm in the same way while commandeering Pete’s mom around at a family meal to which I was invited. His father’s words were the only words spoken during that meal.

Towering a foot over me, Pete’s built more like a tractor than a nine-year-old. Square-shouldered, metallic firm, he outmatches me in every way, except one: his eyes glisten with sadness, not anger. Where did this sadness come from? Why did he yell that we’d no longer be playing with Big Red, and I too was better off gone? Though I shake inside, I try not to show it in front of him and the other kids in the schoolyard. “High noon,” he repeats, his eyes now brimming with tears. In the back of my mind, I hear papa’s growl, “Toughen up, you’re the new kid on the block” and mama’s plea, “Tell them your papa’s American, a military man.” I look up into Pete’s ruddy face, sensing a wound that words alone won’t heal. I whisper, “Bring it on.”

a boy
leads his hog forward, slowly . . .
slaughter truck

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end

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