Joshua

A# – glide to A. “Joshua. Joshua. This is your new father,” is what the words meant. A smile like Orion’s belt: askance, far away. A touch on my cheek – calloused palms, unintended chafing. “Indeed, your new father.” Words I already knew were repeated. I was told he is my father. I am told things to remember. He brought money. Animal skin suitcase, father never hunted before. Seven paper stacks bound by paper strips. I am paper, I was told; a document. Ink cascades down my forehead, down my face – an ovoid blank. Words appear, words I remembered: “Stars” “Heavens” “Orion’s belt” “Beautiful” “Fuck!” “Shit!” “HELP” “Help” “help”

G. Breakfast table, new father, five men, one woman, me. Velveteen covers, embroideries of flowers I saw in the forest. Don’t know the names. I know their occupations: flower. They are laughing, yelling, roaring, cannonfire. Woman has pink lips, a ruby choker. Expensive throat slit. Scar on her lip, she smiles at me – no laugh, yell, roar, Howitzer M109 – I feel the exact same. A plate is given to me – toast and eggs, one strip of bacon. The television family ate this once. I saw them do it. They had a lot of problems. Father was abusive but laughing people made it okay. Woman was not real, couldn’t have been, fantasy on paper. Children should have been happy with a home. “Pretty quiet, that one.” Five men laugh at me, one points. I tense up. “Whoa. Relax, kid, you’re with family now.” No defence ready, but no defence necessary. I am with family. I wish I was quiet. I wish it was quiet. Loud, like hand grenades, like exploding stars. That happens, I remember it being told. Will that happen to the sun? M67, frag. Ka-BOOOOOOM! Table falls silent. “Jesus. Where the fuck did that come from?” “Where’d you even find this kid?” Silence after a bang is a good thing, I was told. ‘That’s how you know it’s safe, Joshua,’ is how I was told.

F to E. Two months ago, 0300, new father set up equipment. Not for spotting, but looking at the sky. Night raid? No. Too dark. No lights on in camp. Radio silence. “There are more stars out in the heavens than guns, Joshua. Or so I’d like to think.” The desert is cold and dry. My skin hurts when I drink. I want to drink but I don’t want to hurt. I am thirsty. “On clear nights like these, you can see Orion’s belt with the naked eye. But looking at it through a telescope is even better. Isn’t space beautiful?” I close one eye and peer through the scope. Emptiness and lights, all above me. The lights make me readable: the Joshua paper, document 77. Joshua is a part of this family, belongs to this father. Bang. C14 Timberwolf, 2500 yards northeast. No silence. Bad. “Fuck!” “Shit!” “HELP” “Help” “help”. Silence. Good.

String snaps. Another bang. I scream; I have been killed, but I don’t want to be. Silence. Breathing. No silence. Screaming. My lungs are filling with air. My blood is my blood, not a stain on the ground. Good. Mother rushes into my room. She knows what has happened. I was shot, in my head. Not a real bullet. She takes my guitar, used to be father’s, and wraps her arms around me, but not a chokehold. She makes me live again, warmth and humming. I put my arms around her and I become silent again. Not a target. Silence again. Better.

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