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Your sense of direction scampers off, and you trudge around aimlessly over moss, under branches, and around the skirts of spruces, lost—until, much later, you are back on a familiar path, though not where you thought you’d be. But Do-or-Die Dan took place in the immediate post-war years (around the time Dad was driving home from the overnight shift and killed a reckless biker in a head-on collision, opening the deep well of guilt he’d been sitting on), so there was still a risk he’d get into the war. Not all paths led to Vietnam, but all paths crossed it. My father always wanted me to know how funny life could be, which was why he’d told me about the time he’d been hiding in elephant grass for the good part of a hellish day at war, when the soldier he was ducking the Vietcong with lost patience, jumping up so his head popped over the tips of the green blades, and said, “We’re over here, motherfuckers! I never thought to ask what happened next, how they dealt with the continuation of that situation. After his tour in Vietnam, my father started a career as a cockpit mechanic on Grumman’s F-14 Tomcat in Calverton, Long Island. A bunch of the guys on the night shift, like the man he’d learn to call Do-or-Die Dan, were also veterans. Friday nights, when all the good times started, were especially torturous.
“I think that guy was drunk,” Oskar said when we pulled away. ” After running through a few scenarios, we decided Dan would most likely climb the tallest tree he could find, in his attempt to gain an eagle’s-eye view of the terrain.
He’d fall out of the tree and make a splint with the branch that took the journey down with him. ” I thought about my father, wounded in his own way, lost in a tangle of unfinished tales that circled around the forest of his past—nugrybaujant and drunk at the kitchen table at two in the morning, trying to find the way out of the darkness.
He sulked and fretted all week, but showed up on Friday in good spirits—a complete turn-around. I think I broke a couple fingers.” That’s not what happened at all: in the bathroom, Dan had run scalding water over his hand to make it appear injured. But then he says he forgot his wallet in the hangar. Now it’s all swollen.’ He got me to the hospital quick.” Joe, the new custodian, asked Dan how he’d had the nerve to bust his own hand like that.
Then, at about 11 pm, Dan came to the foreman cradling his left hand. It burned red, but the pain was worth a good excuse to cut out early. “Well let me get it checked out and see what a doctor says. He turns to go back, so I say to him, I say, ‘At least unlock the car so I can sit. Unlike most of the other men on the night shift, Joe had not served in Vietnam. “Situation like that, you just do what you gotta do.” Sitting at my own kitchen table in the forest late one night, where I was revising a story about a son haunted by his father’s war trauma, my son interrupted to ask about the documents spread before me.
He completed an MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, and his nonfiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Essay Lost In The Forest
He splits his time homesteading with his wife and son in the forest in Lithuania, and teaching at Green School in Bali, Indonesia.It turned out Dan had three mangled fingers, a cracked knuckle and a fractured wrist. Benny had seen Dan scalding his hand in the bathroom that night. “I’m scared shitless,” he told his coworkers on a smoke break outside the hangar. I tell what I know in neat stories with beginnings, middles, and ends.The stories link together like chapters covering my father’s fifty-four years., we’ve spent the last 15 years producing uncompromising journalism.More than 80% of our finances come from readers like you.This man was the first I had met with such a serious case of the condition, though since taking up residence in the woods, I have often been nugrybaves myself. Do-or-Die Dan was a classic, and as good a starting point as any into the dark woods of my father’s mind.You achieve a state of nugrybauti when the thrill of having spotted choice edibles slides into uneasiness, brought on by the feeling that the forest has changed around you. The smoke from his cigarette curled in the air of the candle-lit kitchen in our house in Mastic Beach, New York. This story’s path crossed with many others we’d been on before. Dan was a Vietnam veteran, like my father, but my father met him after the war, at work—so I knew that with this story, the chances of my father getting lost in battle memories and falling into silence while I sat still at the table, needing to pee, waiting for him to turn his distant stare to me and let me go, were slimmer than usual. He laughed through the telling, and I laughed along. It was the first time I ever heard my father swear.I tell my son the stories my father tried to tell me. And how did it feel to live with this experience lurking at the center of his being?Do-or-Die Dan—with the tangents edited out, embellished with details—is a favorite we return to often. As he told his stories, I could only quietly hold my bladder and wait for him to come through the other side of his silence. We sat with his answer until our cigarettes burned down. Driving the old man and his bucket of mushrooms out of the forest, the man tells me the reason he had separated from his sister in the first place: They’d had a fight and he’d stormed off to forage on his own, and when he came back he saw she’d left with the car.I can’t work with a hand that might be broke.” “You shouldn’t drive with a broken hand, either,” the foreman said. I’m getting dizzy from the pain.’ Asshole laughs at me, but he unlocks the car and tells me to wait. There were the mundane letters my father had sent home to family; his citations and awards; the transcript from when he was court-martialed for going AWOL after his tour; and his juvenile record from the Freeport Police Department, typewritten on an index card.“I’ll take you in my car.” He walked Dan out to the parking lot, then left him there a moment while he went back to the hangar for his wallet. After an absence, Dan came back to work with a story. It detailed three offenses, starting with “suspicious children” in 1963 and ending with “auto theft” in 1965, when he was sixteen years old—the offense that ultimately landed him in the US Marines as, at his father’s urging, he made a deal with a county judge to sign up in exchange for having the criminal charges dropped. He is fascinated by the life of his grandfather, who died two years before his birth.