Never a Big Kid
Michael Maiello
A cloud of thinning steam floats in the sky behind the first jet fighter I've ever seen flying into Kirtland Air Force base on this July day. The wind brings nothing but dust, which clouds my beer as I sit outside a bar on old Route 66. Albuquerque's getting bigger and they've paved dirt roads with hot tar to accommodate the hulking automobiles of the desert rich.
My son is going to Korea and I wonder why Asia keeps popping up in my life. I lost my brother at Iwo Jima. I didn't have to go, owing to my limp. I drink some muddy beer and wish my son had a limp. But he's fit, and ready to bring medals home. That's what he says, like he's twelve years old, like he's that skinny boy with fair skin telling me he's going to play in the World Series some day -- maybe for Brooklyn if some scout notices him on the field and whisks him away to New York.
I saw him off at the bus station this morning, and he's still not as big as his duffel bag. He was never a big kid. But maybe with those jet fighters and that bomb like a thousand suns, they'll bring my boy home. Until then I just sit and wonder how soppy, far away Asia has managed to find me in this desert corner toying with my life like a trickster god.

First published: August 1999