Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Playing Iwo Jima

Here's my favorite super short story, which reminds me of dirt clod fights we used to have in the orange groves on the way to school in Riverside, California. It reminds me of World War II battles we used to wage in our Papillion, Nebraska backyards in late June and early July, when we'd pick Army men, set them up on a mound, and then throw firecrackers at our buddy's men until one of us blew up all the soldiers, or we both ran out of firecrackers. Then we'd scrounge up some soda bottles, return them to the store, and head off to one of the fireworks stands. But what am I talking about? Oh yeah. Today's story, which shows the insecurity, the cruelty, and more than anything the joy of being a young boy. Frog lovers beware!

Playing Iwo Jima
By Chris Spain

What I am doing now is I am butt-welded to a John Deere 4020, unzipping the earth west of Muleshoe, lifting her dusty dress. I am probably alone out here, only who knows? I will put it together for you the way I put it together for myself. There is heat waving off my tractor's fenders, dust devils jumping the farm to market road, and Sarah waiting in the turn row with a bag full of Ogallala water. Sarah waiting in the turn row is the only part of this that is for sure a lie. There is no question I am plowing the beaches of Iwo Jima, turning up bones from Frog Wars fifteen years ago.

The rules were that there weren't any rules, but if you got frog on you you were dead. I had no arm, Harold called me woman, so mostly I was dead. When they picked armies, Jap and Marine, I was last — last to go, even after Sarah. The Japs defended the milk barn, Iwo Jima, and the Marines waded ashore through the cotton. You combated with a pocket full of black cats, a pocket full of frogs, and a punk between your teeth. The punk's glow gave you away, but when you torched that fuse it was like pulling a pin. Stick a finger-thick black cat in old frog's mouth, make him look cigar-smoking, torch that fuse, and hurl the frog grenade across the West Texas sky. Last-ditch assaults were pure carnage, frog bombs dropping everywhere. When you got a direct hit, you would say, "Take that, fuckhead, I frogged your ass!" And if they got you, you would say, "Oh fuck, I been frogged!"

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