They walked silently to the conveyor belt and then went out into the parking lot. There was a huge black vehicle plate in front of them. Keith recognized it as a Cadillac, but it looked more than… “Dad, is that some kind of? truck? His father responded with his usual measured look.
“Keith, this is what they call Escalade. It is the most recent thing. I had an Eldorado and did a pretty good trade on it right before Christmas. It has four-wheel drive, like a jeep. Your mother and I found it very useful for getting on the slopes. And you can store your skis inside. “
“Well, that’s already something.”
“I’ll say it is. It has all modern comforts. Four-seventy-two V-8s. Three-speed automatic. Feed everything. You barely know you’re driving it, really. And with all-wheel drive on, you barely have to think about the time. We go out when everyone else is locked in the house. “Keith took” we “to mean” I “; his father often left the house without warning, usually after saving up a couple of drinks and addressing a few sharp words. to Keith’s mother, retreating into her frosty beauty and flawless clothes as she looked out the kitchen window.
After years of riding on half-tracks and whatnot, it didn’t seem unusual to Keith that he needed to get on this Escalade, nor was he put off by the vertical windows and somewhat coarse dashboard with its thin stretched vinyl over raw steel. His father sat upright, a long way from the recumbent position he would have assumed behind the wheel of his old Sedan de Ville or Fleetwood.
“You know, I still can’t call this place Kennedy,” Keith’s father said in a friendly tone, guiding the Escalade out of the parking lot with a spinning finger. “For me it’s still Idlewild. Tell me something that guy did to deserve an airport that bears his name, as well as getting himself killed. Let me tell you something, Keith. The business community, the community of serious men? They despised he. We he despised him. And it got us involved in this Vietnam. For what purpose, exactly? In Anzio I saw the faces of my enemies as clear as day. According to Cronkite, you can’t even see these guys, these Cong. He says they shoot you from trees. He says you don’t answer. Instead, burn their villages and bomb civilians ”. His eye was on Keith, who felt compelled to answer.
“I’ve seen a lot of you, dad. The closest I see you right now. “
“That’s right. And what exactly did you do over there?”
“Didn’t Mom tell you? I wrote every week. ”Now his father was really watching him.
“I didn’t approve of it, Keith. I don’t think your mother needed to know everything about your days there. ” Days over there! I like what? summer camp! “I don’t remember writing sobbing notes to my parents when I was abroad thirty years ago. I don’t remember telling my parents, who were surely already worried, that I couldn’t sleep at night because of the men and women I had killed. That I was a suicide. That I was … “and here the old man’s lip curled into a grin,”drug use. “
Well, this one ripped it up. Clearly Mom was reading the letters to him. But wasn’t that what Keith had wanted in the first place? “Listen, dad. It wasn’t smooth sailing over there. But I volunteer to go. I. left college go, because they were going to enlist Mike. You know. And I signed up for two extra tours so they wouldn’t recruit anyone else from our family. Pope, you know. “Now the old man’s blue eyes seemed to lose some of their appearance.
“Yes, Keith, I know. It was the right thing to do. Your brothers are … sweet. Weak. They sit around the house and talk about smoking drugs. About rock music. John went to Woodstock. Do you know Woodstock? Did they talk about it over there? Well, after two weeks he didn’t come back, so I went to get him up north. “Keith had to stifle a chuckle as he imagined his father, in his flawless suit and Eldorado, climbing the muddy ruts of Yasgur’s farm.” Well, long story short, we found that some … woman … he took all his money and left with another guy. So he worked as a short-term cook in the nearest town. Too ashamed to even send a telegram. You can imagine what I thought, seeing him in that state. “
“Yeah, it sounds … uh, pretty bad.”
“Well, he’s home now. But it does not work. Maybe I should have left him at that restaurant. Which brings up a very relevant topic, Keith: What are you going to do now that you’re back home? “
“Ah, I’m still considered part of the reserve corps, so I’m officially off-duty as of now. But I was thinking of doing another tour … here in the States. I thought… I might be a recruiter or something. ”Keith’s father shot an angry look at him.
“Let me understand. You’ve been abroad for three years, fooling around …”
“Dad, I don’t know if I would call him …”
“Fuck you, that’s what I’d call it,” snapped his father, “as your peers got jobs, started careers and started building equity in management roles, and now you propose to … stretch this disadvantage of being a poster for the people who nearly got you killed, too many times to count? “
“Listen, dad. We need good men over there. We have the option to turn it over. To reject the NVA. To really make a difference. Stop the spread of communism first … before it is here, you know? “
“I do Not you know, keith. What I know is this. You are twenty-five and have never done a real job. So me know that this is a problem. And I am ready to correct this problem, immediately. I spoke to Hank Green, who is Vice President of the Western Division. Next Monday you’ll catch the train early and make sure you’re at his door when he gets to his office. You’ll be on the road and selling before you know it. Hank realizes you start at a disadvantage and will treat you accordingly, as if you’ve worked with the company for the past three years instead of playing cowboys and Indians in that godforsaken jungle. And I’ll tell you one more thing, young man. You… ”But in that moment, there was a horn and a flash of motion to Keith’s right.
She was the same girl from the airport, but now she was in the car with three hippie friends, a rusty blue VW beetle. They were honking and swerving. He could see the girl’s lips forming the same sentence over and over. Then they cut the bow of the Escalade, clearly intending to have Keith’s father lock the brakes, but instead the old man gave the throttle. There was a disgust crunch while the nose of the Cadillac crushed the driver’s side of the Volkswagen before sweeping it away with little apparent effort. The little blue car drove back into the Jersey barrier two lanes away. Keith heard thud then a whoosh which seemed to envelop them for a short warm second before fading.
The hood of the Escalade was slightly bent, but they were still going at around forty miles per hour as the cars behind them stopped abruptly. “Dad,” Keith finally managed to breathe, “… should we stop? Or do something? ”In response, his father pinned the big Cadillac over his shoulder. I turned it off and stared at him with those cold blue eyes.
“We’ll go home and contact the proper authorities, Keith. Our authority. I don’t have time to stand up all afternoon and wait for the NYPD to come to us with no rush. Everything that has happened in the last three years, Keith, including today, is … finished. We won’t talk about it again. ”Yet as he tossed and turned in his childhood bedroom that night, unable to sleep, the ghosts of light and noise reaching ten thousand miles to reappear in his red-hot brain over and over, Keith was certain that he would not be able to keep that oath of silence. It occurred to him that his DEROS, his date of return from Vietnam, was in his past – but this was a new kind of tour ahead of him, with his fears and its horrors, and that there was no expiration date to be found on that upcoming tour, except one.
ARTICLE BY COURTESY OF HAGERTY