Force­feed­ing

New England Review - - Table of Contents - Daisy Fried

One year the pa­rade came soon af­ter a girl we knew died. They said it was a stroke; later we knew it wasn't that.

The ar­mory at the end of our street spat out tanks with soldiers to drive them, set­ting forth with thun­der­ous clam­or­ings on in­ex­orable cater­pil­lar tread past our house as past our neigh­bors' houses, apart­ment hives cut out of near-man­sions, stu­dents mostly, some with signs: US out of Nicaragua, No Nukes! some with ban­danas, joints, Corona and Bud.

Most years my mother shouted and broke out into du­bi­ous kind­nesses; she could be good for a snug­gle, if sel­dom; my broth­ers and sis­ter de­vel­oped com­mu­ni­ties of blank­ness: if I were ex­cluded? ev­ery­one be­com­ing what they would be.

My fa­ther with a book (Ed­ward Hop­per mono­graph, or The Way of All Flesh) watched white-boot ma­jorettes with fling­ing legs and flung ba­tons, Cub Scouts, their blue, their badgey bling, yel­low neck­er­chiefs knot­ted neatly, rows of re­servists in cam­ou­flage and boots with poles braced in hold­ers just above their groins, flags strain­ing to furl and fold. Ru­ined men

in re­flec­tor sun­glasses, beards and wheel­chairs, plac­ards that said Viet­nam. Or names of other wars. Korea. The World Wars. In di­min­ish­ing num­bers, the First. My fa­ther got out of the peace-time draft by be­ing too tall.

We were a fam­ily that didn't fa­vor plea­sure. I learned this an­other far day.

I was hun­gry. For pop­si­cles. Saltines. One year a woman stood near us, cry­ing, and said “I al­ways cry at pa­rades. I al­ways have. I don't know why.” One year a woman stroked my sis­ter's face and crooned Je­sus loves you and my mother came shriek­ing My daugh­ter is Jewish! Which wasn't per­fectly true.

That's how we had our own pa­rade be­fore the real pa­rade, by liv­ing where the tanks were. That's how we didn't lift a finger. Deep cracks opened in our maca­dam from tank weight. Their vi­bra­tions as they rolled to­wards us, vi­bra­tions that came back to us af­ter they were no longer in sight, pumped into our bod­ies, rammed in, made us shat­ter and shiver with sour and mash and choke slush­ing through our nar­row pas­sages and ves­sels, nerve and vein.

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