August 1945

August 03, 1994|By Joyce S. Brown

Here is a snapshot of my brother

wearing khaki, leaning on a jeep.

He is at war in a far place where

women wear slacks under silk dresses.

When I am not figuring how to pull

loose teeth painlessly, I rummage through

his darkroom, remove lids from jars of

chemicals, reel from fumes, admire

sheets of glossy paper and in a corner,

model airplane wings, thin as

communion wafers. Upstairs, my sister

scotch-tapes pictures of Van Johnson

to her bedroom walls while I inspect

finger-nail-red lipsticks, sniff

bottled perfumes on her bureau top.

''Blue Skies'' and ''Ain't Misbehavin' ''

on the radio: I know the words by heart.

Evenings, by the light of the moon and

cigarettes, my father, shirt sleeves rolled,

organizes games. I push my bed close to

the window and watch grownups play charades.

Uncle Doug, who drinks too much, sings

airmen songs. Soft percussion of ice in

glasses, murmur of words, blur me to sleep.

At dawn, crows browse on the lawn I step

across to reach the red clay road which curls

through fields of goldenrod to a lake where

fish with paperclip, bacon, string, and

return fishless, always. When the sleepers

finally arise, I play Sousa on the gramophone

and march around the house until the war ends

at lunchtime and my brother's showing us his

soldier photographs. Summer stops as suddenly

as war. VJ Day winds up parties on the lawn.

Grownups snap like birches under ice.

They sell house and barn from underneath

the baby mice small as lima beans, asleep

folds of a parachute stored in the loft.

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