23 July 2009


A scribble of a first draft (a notion) of something I might do something with...it's fictional...but draws from something that actually happened. I grew up in a day when many of my friends were going to Nam. We were all military kids...socialized in the culture. Most volunteered. Some were drafted. 3 never came back...

Billy was a prairie god of Kansas wheat and winter-sown cornflowers. He was the youngest of six children, the second of two sons, and the only one of her own to take after his mother, Miss Kiowa County and Queen of the Gunter Electric Supply Memorial Day Picnic - two years in a row.

His eyes were sleepy with lashes you were tempted every time to touch, to find gold dust on your fingertips. And they were not intense, but intent, so when you looked into the deep of them, you could see the skies above his grandmother’s farm.

With a smile he shared all his secrets, so that he had none. And we were never in doubt that he was happy to find us in his world.

He was adored. And no woman was immune, including his mother, the little girls in his class, and every teacher who found him standing in front of her desk. From Kindergarten to his last days in High School, Billy Westergaard was the name even the prim smiled at, and touched a thoughtful pen to, before placing that delighted tick, present.

In 1968, Billy was drafted into the Vietnam War. And nine days after he stepped off a CH-47 in the province of Quang Tri, he was killed with a single shot to his left cheekbone.

Two days after that, MSgt. Westergaard’s CO and the base chaplain followed MSgt. Westergaard’s station wagon into family driveway. Mrs. Westergaard refused to let them in the house. She stood barring the doorway, and when her husband went to put his hand on her cheek, she slapped him across the face, and called the chaplain a son of a bitch. And when she went back inside, she locked the door behind her.

For 5 minutes, the three uniformed men stood on the porch, looking down the street, at their shoes, and eventually at each other. And in a collective sigh, they separated. Watching his CO and chaplain walk back to their sedan, MSgt. Westergaard pulled out his keys. In a short bend, he slid one of them into the lock. And then he straightened, and for a moment stood with a small prayer before opening the door.


Kevin McGinty said...

Go with it, Cat.

I was just a kid during Vietnam War. What I remember most was watching Walter Cronkrite keeping score. Every night, he'd tell us something like, 130 American dead and 375 enemy soldiers dead or wounded.

I guess to me, it meant we were winning. And I've been wrong about a hell of a lot more things since then.

It's funny, you describe your friend as the son of, Miss Kiowa County from Kansas.

I moved here twenty years ago from Kiowa County. Greensburg to be exact. Maybe I knew her as someone's grandmother and didn't even know it. Hmm, weird...

fredwrite said...

I'm bound to say it again: very sensuous writing. A physical pleasure to read. A metaphysical experience to ponder. Just let it out, Cat. We want more.

Catnapping said...

Thank you, Gentlemen.

Kevin: The family "Billy" was born to came from Salina...this will be somewhat fictionalized, so I'll be taking liberties. (e.g. IRL, it was his Aunt from his dad's side who was the beauty queen, and I think his dad's family came from Arkansas or Missouri?

His dad was actually kinda homely..so I guess all the good genes went into the aunt. heh. His mom was beeeeYUtiful, though. My god. She could have been a beauty queen. Yellow hair, blue eyes...creamy skin...her cheeks were always just almost pink.

We mostly watched NBC news with Huntly and Brinkley. And then the Today show on NBC with Hugh Downs, every morning...the olden days...

fredwrite: I hope to do more...I might end up putting this on the backburner. I still have to finish The Pipecleaner Man. Plus I have drafts for two more incidents from The Summer of 66.

I should probably put it all away for a few months, and start writing doggerel again.

Montag said...

Beautiful writing.

LDahl said...

So well written, I'm not sure you need say anything more.
I think I may have gone to school with your protagonist. '68 was the wrong date though.