I was conceived the Great American Bastard amid a hail of bullets, July 4, 1967.
My father tugged me out in an ecstatic rage onto the charred face of a North Viet Cong.
I would have never learned this of course, if it weren’t for my neighbor, who came to my office straightaway one morning to act out the incident in a gross avant-garde telling.
He was very upset (he was always upset whenever I saw him, and I’d supposed long ago he suffered from an acute emotional response) as he portrayed my father struggling to load his clip. “Just like he struggled with everything in his life” which, he further noted as “miserable”.
Indeed, with such an acted display of palsy I can only imagine the pain he must have endured.
In his fumbling efforts he’d spilled many of them into the pool of bloody ejaculate, and no sooner than they’d been loaded — shrapnel hit his genitals with explosive ferocity. Somewhere in this haze of shock, and pain, he recognized this bullet now carried the last of his line, and “just as his pa had done, an’ his pa before”, he discharged me into the belly of a Viet Cong prostitute dalliancing his commanding officer in the next room.
Throughout his telling, my neighbor urged the realization that I was in fact, special. “Goddamned intellectually special”, to be precise.
While I’m usually too modest for all that, this tale certainly gives me pause to consider.
Unfortunately, I found myself intermittently distracted with his lack of costume, or convincing props aside from a wet rolled-up newspaper, and squashed, tread-marked cat (which I noted as grossly exaggerated).
For some unrelated reason, he then swore to me that this would be the last time I ran over his cat — a sincerity I naturally welcomed as I’ve never enjoyed running over his pets.
After he had finished, I thanked him for his assurance, and in turn assured him that he had done the right thing telling me the truth about my lineage.
I found him years later — my father — spanging outside a coin laundry, and though he was far older than I’d perceived — upon a close, and rigid study I concluded it was indeed him.
He was terribly weathered — obviously still wet from the jungle; and dressed in tight army pajamas with a pink, PVC strap-on hanging low (no doubt to mask the shame for the loss of his manhood).
Upon introducing myself, I gave him a tremendous hug, and then asked for a sip of what I mistook to be whiskey fermenting in a milk jug spilled onto its side.
All at once, he started swinging his hips — wagging, and rubbing his member in a vigorous fit, all the while shouting paranoid vulgarities involving my mother, his last five dollars, and what he referenced as “the great pink donkey”.
Throughout this episode of incoherent depravity, he kept using the name “Charlie”, and at that moment I understood the extent of which he had been denied basic parental involvement — all my life I had been called Jim.
My coworkers still inquire about the events of that day, but they never ask me about my father — just the cat.
“Still running over his cat?” they ask. To which I hang my head in frustration, “Yep. He lied.”
But I often fantasize about that day in Vietnam, and as I do I can’t help thinking that as he held that bullet in his moment of sexual epiphany, he had indeed saw potential.