Voyaging to the ends of the Earth to escape the horrors of war, one man’s solace from the traumas of the past is found in nature’s beauty, and humankind’s best friend…
by: Dan A. Cardoza
Bloody hands, feet, and miscellaneous body parts that have been carelessly tossed in heaps were piled up clear to the withers of a sniffing, long-legged village mongrel. Kerosene glistened like honey over the twitching flesh before it turned to fire. First at our hamlet, then another, and another. Fires were lit and burned, even after the war ended.
The obscene act was retribution for speaking to the enemy, the ugly Americans. But mostly the digital pyres were lit in the guise of poetry and visual art, in order to demonstrate the dear cost of “Freedom.” The act was meant to be a righteous gift to the people, an offering from all the fathers who were fighting for country, and for their lives.
The horrified villagers were promised that in generations from now, their children would be “worshiped for such a supreme sacrifice, that they were “the chosen ones” — limbless Buddhas who were offered up to end their endless wanderings and needless clasping. That the exquisite atonement was all in the name of country.
The parents were instructed to tell their children, as they grew older, that they should expect cherished futures that should be celebrated just like births. The parents were promised that their children would be spared the pain of reaching for all the things they would never hold. The government would take special care to provide for all the people.
Father fled North Vietnam to the south with mother and I. There, we were evacuated by the Americans, first by helicopter, and then by a Navy cruiser. Father spied on the Viet Cong.
I was only five when I arrived with mother and father to the city of Auburn, California. After we were processed, we were bused to the nearby community of Weimar, in Placer County. Weimar was, in the beginning of the Twentieth Century, a former tuberculosis sanatorium. The somber village is located in the middle of a stand of beautiful pine and cedar trees. Weimar would become our temporary hamlet. It seems like a lifetime ago, the landing on a new planet. It was in 1975.
I’ll never forget the day we left the village back home. All my friends and relatives weren’t so lucky. They were forced to stay and endure the re-education camps.
Special privilege and secret money allows you to grow up secure and free in Northern California. Today, I live in a new world in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its here I find peace and a comfortable living with my grandfather’s sworn enemy.
After Harvard, I returned to California. Today, I work as a data mining analyst for Google and live in the city of Mountain View. I have a loving family, including a four-year old son named after his grandfather –– Tho. Speaking of family, I also have a loyal golden retriever. I’ve named him Easter. I lifted the name from the song “Crucify” by Tori Amos.
On lunch break, I kill time by inputting my own search data: How to teach a gifted child to play the piano? What is the easiest wind instrument to begin with? Best brand of soccer ball for a beginner?
When I can’t sleep at night, I count date palm trees. I scramble the names of each and every screaming voice, so I can forget the looks on their faces. I stack piles and piles of cut bamboo so I can climb clear up to the moon. After I arrive, I hide behind it. Safe, I count butchered water buffalo.
Sometimes I take Easter for long walks on the beach just south of the Presidio Fort. The Presidio is now a National Park. The beach is located just below the jumping end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The beach we walk along is named Marshall Beach, a clothing optional space.
When I feel the need, I peel off my clothes and challenge the riptide. So far, I’ve won every time. Back on the shore, I dress and calm Easter who had been barking into the wind. Then we stand and bend our eyes all the way around the mighty Pacific to Vietnam. It’s here I can hide behind all the screaming silence that never ends.
Dan A. Cardoza’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in the 45th Parallel, BlazeVOX, Bull, California Quarterly, Cleaver, Door=Jar, Entropy, Gravel, New Flash Fiction Review, Poetry Northwest, Spelk, and Your Impossible Voice.