Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Medic's Old Neighborhood

Listen to the audio file here. (podcast / mp3 file)

Hardship is only purifying if it is temporary.

The people who lived in the Medic's old neighborhood reminded me of plastic army men. Not healthy, fighting ones, but something else. I thought of the time my brother put two dozen green plastic army action figures in a pan, and then positioned the pan squarely over a low gas flame on my grandmother's old stove, just to see what might happen. It was a low flame, and the action figures did not ignite with a flash, or start smoking. Instead, they became soft, twisted, doubled over. Some even bubbled a bit. All changed colors. Some became dark olive, others oozed pure pigment, which left the heads as white as death, but the hands dripping thick charcoal muck. I could not stand to watch.

Today, the Medic told me of the dog who was left chained in the back yard during the heat of the day, a hard, hot day in July. A big dog, brought low by suffering, he whimpered, whined. Even though the neighbors heard him, they did nothing. The dog died in the middle of a scorched field; his water bowl contained water, but it was too hot to drink. When I heard the story, my stomach hurt. I did not know whether to cry, be sick, or simply attempt to steel my nerves and make my face a mask.

The Medic's father was a Marine. What he learned in the jungles of 'Nam served him very well in this ragged patch of urban sprawl that never quite shows up on anyone's map. Sneak through the jungle. Hit the vill'. Trust no one. Take what you want, but destroy half of it, just to test it to make sure it does not have a live grenade in it or ground-up glass. Laugh when they die. They tried to kill you, but they failed. Of course they failed. You're an armor-plated mother. You're armor-plated. You're armor.

That's what you say when you're hit. That's what you say when you're down.

That's what the Medic was trying to teach the dog.

Unfortunately, death set in before the lesson was fully learned.