by Ron Currie, Jr.
Maria, his housekeeper, sets a plate of scrambled eggs and extra-crispy bacon at the head of the table. She pours his coffee. She says, Good morning, Capitan. He nods, wishes her good morning. She wants to call him Admiralóthat was, after all, the rank he was given upon his retirementóbut she knows this would anger him. The Captain considers himself a Captain still.
The Captain is, as he sits eating his eggs, the only man in the United States Navy to ever have been court-martialed for losing his ship during wartime. His back is straight, shoulders squared. He is seventy years old.
Maria busies herself in the kitchen. She scours the frying pan and worries. She wants to return to the dining room, to ask the Captain if there is anything else he needs. She remains at the sink.
The Captain finishes his breakfast, takes his coat from the rack in the foyer, and goes outside to meet his handyman, John. The two of them set about preparing the shrubs for winter. They use twine and burlap and blue plastic tarps.
The Captainís home is two hundred miles from the nearest ocean.
Years ago, before it was sunk, the Captainís ship delivered the bomb that destroyed the city of Hiroshima.
The Captain still receives letters from the families of the men who died when his ship was lost. Once Maria found him sitting on the edge of his bed with one such letter clutched in his hands. Sheíd begun to apologize for intruding, but the expression on the Captainís face had silenced her.
Later, Maria found the letter in the bathroom trashcan. Merry Christmas! it began. And what a merry one it would be if you hadnít murdered our son! When Maria read this, she crumpled the letter into a ball, brought it downstairs, and threw it in the woodstove.
The Captain comes in from tending the shrubs. He mounts the stairs and closes his bedroom door.
Mariaís hands tremble. She is near tears. Something is wrong, but she doesnít know what to do. So she begins preparing the Captainís lunch, though it is still early.
Upstairs, the Captain removes his officerís sidearm, a silver-plated .45, from its holster.
In the kitchen, Maria weeps while slicing a tomato. Her vision swims. Blinded, she brings the blade down across her thumb, cutting to the bone. She screams.
In Kyoto, Japan, the man who sank the Captainís ship goes to his bed. Like his father, who perished in the Hiroshima blast, this man is now a Shinto priest. He is older than even the Captain. His joints ache, and his dinner sits stubborn and heavy in his stomach, but as he lies down he greets sleep the way he has every night since the war ended, with a prayer for both the dead and the living.
All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.
Ron Currie, Jr. lives in Waterville, Maine. His work has appeared/is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, Glimmer Train, Other Voices, The Sun, and elsewhere. "God is Dead," his debut book, will be published by Viking in 2007.
Read the interview.
|Issue Thirteen (June 15, 2006): A Foreign Woman by Roberta Allen «» Fetichismo by Christopher Battle «» How the Broken Lead the Blind Until They Both Become Something Else Entirely by Matt Bell «» See Odi Naked by Lisa K. Buchanan «» Memory of Sky by Jai Clare «» The Captain by Ron Currie, Jr. «» Bingham by Steve Cushman «» The Table by David Erlewine «» Daffodil by Kathy Fish «» Fishing by Mike Hagemann «» Real Estate by Jennifer A. Howard «» Emily Avenue by Jeff Landon «» Tough Act by Steven J. McDermott «» Cheering by Srdan Papic «» Something Blew by Ellen Parker «» Euclid's Elements by Mary Lynn Reed «» Miracle by Chad Simpson «» Her Lips by Claudia Smith «» Man and Dog by Girija Tropp «» Randomization by Joseph Young «» Interviews: Roberta Allen «» Matt Bell «» Lisa K. Buchanan «» Jai Clare «» Ron Currie, Jr. «» Steve Cushman «» Katrina Denza «» David Erlewine «» Kathy Fish «» Mike Hagemann «» Jennifer A. Howard «» Jeff Landon «» Steven J. McDermott «» Srdan Papic «» Ellen Parker «» Mary Lynn Reed «» Chad Simpson «» Claudia Smith «» Girija Tropp «» Joseph Young «» Cover Art "Despair" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor|