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March Howls, 1968

Excerpt from THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN by Chuck Cascio

      March howled through the Ides, each day bringing grisly new horrors. We plucked pistachios from a huge bowl in front of Bingham's color TV, sucking the sweet salted green nuts from their red shells, spitting the hulls into a wastebasket, fingers and lips stained blood-red with dye, we judged…and we theorized about the slaughter we were seeing:

      Bingham: "Soldiers do what they have to do."

      Bobby: "Overdo it just a little, maybe, bro? This war gonna kill us all; everyone in this fucking room."

     Bingham: "Who's to say we overdo it?"

     Moon: "What the hell, man, we are to say…I mean, someone gotta say somethin!"

     Fish: "Stuff happens. It’s war."

     Me:  "Does that mean it has to happen again and again?"

     Bobby: "All them people bein mowed down every day, like the cows in that movie Hud.”

     Moon: "Yeah, but those cows had a disease, man; all that these people have is slanty eyes."

     Bobby: "Sometimes that's all it takes to build the wall, right, brother?"

     Moon: “Say, you got that right—slanty eyes, different religion, different language, diff…er…ent skin. Just about any goddam thing’ll do if people want to hate bad enough. And one thing you can count—people sure enough want to hate.”

     We watched and thought and surmised and wondered and assured and speculated; to me, the world seemed increasingly littered with garish obscenities, human slaughter, human suffering, personal loss, vanishing youth:

     The Erica I met that night with Bingham was gone; the night of winning pool was an innocent piece of history; my Bob Dylan story seemed juvenile; Sally-Boy was a lingering dream becoming less real than our fire escape; the Fish I knew was morphing into something unrecognizable before my eyes, his wild mass of hair suddenly neatly trimmed; ancient Vietnamese watched their culture explode; young servicemen returned limbless…or not at all…and we sat in the now-vulnerable room of a college campus and watched life change while we ate pistachio nuts and, eventually, washed their red stain from our fingers.

Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved