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THIS IS A GREAT BR FISHING AND WISHING 100 ENTRY

One Devil in Baggy Pants

Published by LANNING | Tuesday, April 05, 2011 9:00 AM


502 words -- April contest entry


     On the spine, the publisher's colophon resembles, a little, the AA combat service patch of the 82nd Airborne. All American. This strikes me as very appropriate given the amount of alcohol consumption he says ensued when those who could come home did. He chose college, supported by the G.I. Bill. And drinking.
     The still glossy pages smell powerfully of some toxic ink, and the pictures of engines no longer running in the real world have not lost their charm. The book is one he read during those college days; the one book he chose to keep, to bring all the way back to Hawaii when he managed to come home -- All the Way! -- as the 82nd's motto shouts. Together with his diploma, this book is the only tangible evidence I have now of his undergraduate experience.
     He did, much to his surprise, come back from the European Theater alive. Immediately he became a card-carrying socialist and majored, in the end, in political science, although he did have to revert to capitalism after he married my mother and had us.
     This book has nothing to do with politics. The topic is automobile engine combustion theory, design, and maintenance, which to my knowledge, garnered him little information he ever put to use. But I see his fingerprints captured from time to time, smudges on a shiny page here and there. None of them perfect. So he must have worked on car engines before I was born. Maybe it was only for that semester when he selected this course. I know he was done with car engines, except for driving them, by the time I was old enough to see how he occupied his time.
     That's the definition of a true liberal arts education. Someone hunting all over the course catalog for a major that might mean something after four years of parachuting into battles from Sicily to Belgium, and then marching into concentration camps on the way to Berlin, the images of those four years permanently burned into his brain, indelibly imprinted in his memory.
     Operation Market Garden was the only time they ever failed to accomplish an overall mission, although his 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment did achieve their part of the objective at heavy costs. He told me that they all expected they'd die, and he always said, whenever we would watch A Bridge Too Far together, that Robert Redford was perfectly cast as Major Julian Cook, but that Ryan O'Neal was too young to play Brigadier General James Gavin.
     I'm familiar with many publishers, but I've never heard of this one. I want to go online to find out who they were, but I don’t really wish to find that they went out of business a long time ago. This is the one book he's left me. An artifact full of knowledge that must have been cutting edge in its day, but now is obsolete, archaic, forgotten, even though for me, it is very much here, relevant, and always now.



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