Do you remember when you rented Born on the Fourth of July to watch at your 10th birthday party?
Do you remember?
But your father watched it first. And when he was done he found you in the yard and he roughly took your arm. Do you remember?
And do you remember his eyes, cloudy, bloodshot, almost rocking in their strangeness—
How his hand tightened—
And he could barely speak. And he said, “You—you aren’t going to watch that movie.”
And when I asked why he said—
And when you asked why he said, “I don’t know why anyone would make a movie like this.”
And he said—
And he said, “I don’t know why anyone would watch a movie like this.”
And after watching Saving Private Ryan one veteran was quoted—
One veteran said, “There was always the smell of death ….”
And he said, “There were a lot of dead soldiers, and one of the worse smells were the dead cows. That whole ordeal came back to me: the fear, the smells, the anguish of losing close buddies. It was hard to sit through it.”
And another man said—
And another veteran said, “I don’t know why they would make a movie like this.”
Why that fear, and why that anguish, and why the dead who can never rise now falsely raised and made to live and walk about and made then to die anew—
Why did you write this novel?
Why write this book of genocide and western slaughter; this book of cults and priests; this book of suicides; this book of the orphaned child; this book of rot and dust; this book of murder; this book of children and mothers dead; this book of women made nameless; this book of women smothered silent; this book of rape; this book of corruption; this book of wilderness; this book of madness and wolves; this book of God atop His mountain; this book of His awful gaze; this book of His creature of soot and dripping oil; this book of His awful word; His commandments and pronouncements and dreams of fire; this book of God and His ravage; His revelation; this book of God and the man He was; this book of God and the man He is.
And who would read such a book?
Who would desire it, and who would not pull away?
Do you remember when your father could no more hold together, and so he burst apart. Do you remember when he could no more rise from bed. Do you remember when he could no more lift a bottle to his lips. Do you remember when he tried to speak but he could only groan. Do you remember when he tried to see you but his eyes rolled into his head. Do you remember when you thought, He’s going to die in bed and I’m alone here. Do you remember?
And do you remember when you returned from school and he was gone, and he would never return. And there was no note, save on the kitchen counter a twenty-dollar bill.
And do you remember how quiet the nights now when you were alone in that vast cavern of a house, and the house itself almost nothing within the vastness of night. How the darkness was a hand around your world. And here the silence of the country, save the droning of cars along distant highways, and here the cows in their dream and here the barn cats ravaging the swamps, their thousand forgotten murders.
And do you remember the bottles and pornography and cigarettes and sheets you bundled and carried from his room, and how into a barrel you stuffed them, soaked them with fuel oil and made them burn, and now the black chuffing smoke, and now the swirl of ash—
I know. I have seen it.
You would forget it but you cannot.
You would burn it all and never remember.
But you cannot.
ROBERT KLOSS is the author of two novels, The Alligators of Abraham and The Revelator; a novella, How the Days of Love & Diphtheria, and the hybrid genre work, The Desert Places, co-authored with Amber Sparks and illustrated by Matt Kish.