Tommy the Truck

My brother went to Iraq, my baby brother that is.  His name is Tommy, Tommy the Truck.   Truck, as in Mac Truck, he likes it when you call him that.  Truck, Truck, Truck, now he calls himself that too.  

So I guess Tommy's not really a baby anymore, which is why he joined, to prove us all wrong, to show that he was the toughest.   You know, Bill and I used to tease him before he left for Iraq, making comments about, "baby Tommy, going to play in the sand box;" honestly, we didn't mean anything by it.   Nothing bad anyway, I swear.  I think we just hoped he wouldn't go.  Plus, I think the joking, somehow made it seem more bearable, less real.   Looking back now, I think Baby Tommy joined the army to fight a war, prove us all wrong, to show everyone that he was the toughest of us three.  Some things just aren't possible though.  Anyway that was us back then, Alex, Bill, and Tommy born in that order, just like that.   We were the Turner brothers, not so much now.   Ever since Tommy joined the army, while he found himself, we lost each other.

But hey, now Tommy could no longer be called a cry baby, siss-willy, bed wetter.   Not him, not anymore. Now Tommy's a real fighting machine.  Turns out the guys in his infantry agreed, as they took to calling him Truck.  This of course was because he was big.  He wrote us that in a mass email, signed it Truck.  You know, like a Mac Truck.   We used to get into fights over those e-mails, jealous spats, when one got a message, but not the other, me and John.  We started picking at each other like little girls over his words.   I wonder if he knew the power those things had over us.

Anyway, Tommy, he's a tough guy now.  You know, I wish it were true.  What gets me every time is this look he's got, the same one he had as a kid.  It's that blank stare, the empty fear, conceived in the hollowness within his gaze, like it's sucking air from his partially open mouth.   This look is the same one Tommy had when Alex and I told him about the werewolves, or the Sharp-toothed Under-Toad that would suck him beneath the waves at the beach.   But now, now instead of that emptiness, hollow stares fueled by a boy's naive, these looks seem fueled by a man's desperate knowing, knowing the truth. 

But what does Tommy know anyway?  He never made it to college, at least not yet, not like me and Alex.   What he gained though was a different type of learning.  What he learned was that within seconds, he could loose eight of the men on his team of twelve, covered in the blood of what remained of each.   He doesn't talk about that with us.  All we received from him regarding the message was summed up in a sentence, "We lost eight today, I was one of four left, had to wash the others off me in a shower."  

My mom is scared for him.  Dad is too.  I worry about them both, Mom and Dad.  Dad has stopped sleeping, has started taking pills to drug him up, knock him out beyond the nightmares.   And then there's mom too, she's started crying whenever she sees something on the TV, or in the newspaper, anything about the lives over there being lost.  Mom lost two of her brothers back in Vietnam.   The first came home in pieces, the second came home alive and breathing, but left his mind somewhere back in the field.  She takes Prozac now. 

But for now anyway, at least Tommy's home.  Not for long I'm sure, it's only a matter of time I'd guess before those hawks send him back over.  But for now, yeah, at least he's home.  Tommy doesn't do much though, doesn't say a whole lot.  He sleeps in, sleeps until noon like he did in high school, and no one's allowed to say shit to him, because of what he's been through.   The rest of the day Tommy spends in front of the television, riding about on his motorcycle, or sitting at some bar with his remaining high school buddies, those that never left.

Out here in Brownfield, we're close enough to Abilene, close enough to Austin, but far enough away from anywhere real.   But, it's home, not much out here other than the oil fieldsOil, that's the whole reason for this mess anyway, I think.   Sometimes I wonder if there'd been something, something other than the dead end manual labor jobs available, something other than that, if Tommy might have never joined up.  He was always "too cool for school," so once he graduated, what else was there for him here?  He never wanted to be an oil rat.  At least Tommy seems to have some sense of pride now, something other than the emptiness I'm sure he'd have found out here working the refineries.

Sometimes, though, I think Tommy's empty, lost in another way maybe.   While he gained a sense of pride through Uncle Sam, there's something that disappeared over there.  He didn't loose his mind like Uncle Mike, but something else.   Maybe something more like his self, something like a soul, or the notion of it anyway.  It's whatever made him Baby Tommy, you know, Baby Tommy.   I'd imagine whatever it was must have vanished, scared off during the explosion, floating away, leaving a hole instead filled with fear.  You can see it in his eyes, the fear, an emptiness, not Tommy.   Tommy's no longer there.  It's just like when we told him about those werewolves, something in him floated away, though came back when he caught sight of Bill laughing.   But this time, it's only the Truck.