1847, 1914, 1940, 1982

Submitted into Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt

5 comments

Fiction Science Fiction African American

“Good morning Mr?”

“Call me Malcolm, everyone does.”

“Alright Malcolm, my name is William Gladwell. Please have a seat just right over there. Can I offer you anything? Coffee, tea, water?”

“Some coffee if you please….do you mind if I light my cigarette?”

“No, not at all.”

“I swore to my momma I’d stop smoking after I got out of the army, she’d whoop me if- Oops...God damn.”

“Oh let me, I have a lighter here. I don’t smoke but it’s always good to have one handy. My father always carried a book of matches himself, before he upgraded to a lighter. There we are.”

“Thank you, thank you.”

“So we...well, I know we talked about it on the phone,”

“Uh-huh.”

“We’re interviewing many other men, your name popped up on my list. We will record most everything, some things we may cut for the documentary.”

“Uh-huh, uh-huh.”

“Uhhh, I recoken that’s about it. Any time you are ready.”

“No one’s gonna do my hair or make-up or nothing?”

“They’d have to do mine honestly. It’s more….candid you know. We just want to see you as you are and who you are. Documentaries are more….not honest but I’m sure there’s a word for it.”

“Huh, the closest I ever got to a documentary was the news.”

“Ah, I’ve got friends in the news, they do the cameras and such. I chose film-making, thank you, Ryan, it’s not luxurious but it is quite wonderful.”

“I don’t envy you, but hey, gotta do what makes you happy right.”

“I would say so yes.”

“Coffee’s good, you make this?”

“It’s not instant coffee,”

“It’s delicious. Not as good as my wife’s but it’s good.”

“Alright, need anything else? No. Alright, I’ve got the camera rolling. For the opening will you tell us your name, how old you are, where you’re from etc?”

“Well, uh, I’m Malcolm Brown. I was born in New Jersey but was raised in New York. I uh...I live in the Bronx now with my wife and two kids. One boy and girl. My wife’s name is Lizabeth, and my son Jacob and my daughter Anne.”

“Ah, and what do you do now?”

“Well, I work at a printing press. Been there for about...seven years,”

“You fought in Vietnam yes?”

“Yeah, I was drafted in 1940, got a draft notice on my birthday.”

“1940 Mr. Brown?”

“Oh! Did I say 40? 70, I meant 1970, that’s when I was drafted.”

“And you were stationed in New Jersey?”

“Yup rode up there with a group of boys. We were all huddled together, when we got out it was raining. You could smell the countryside from where you were standing. The commanding officer Lionel Becket, now he was a real sonofabitch. Can I swear?”

“Of course. Please explain.”

“He was a racist, yelled slurs at every single man he met.”

“Did he address you as a…ahem.”

“Uh-huh. He got thrown a blanket party a few times.”

“Did you participate?”

“I’m not sure if I should say.”

“Understandable. Tell me about the base you were stationed at.”

“It was kinda cramped, you know. The bunks were nice, you were in the same room with a group of boys, and you had your trunks at the end...Hm, the showers were this….wide open room. We all showered together, that wasn’t new to me. I wasn’t the youngest there, you know? There was a boy who was much younger than me, 14 years old. His name was George Tucker, poor little thing, he burst into tears when the commanding officer yelled at him the first time.”

“14 years, by God, how could that happen?”

“Hm...how old are you Mr. Gladwell?”

“I’m 26 last month,”

“Ah, so your father he wasn’t drafted was he?”

“No, but my grandfather was.”

“Hm,”

“He told me some things...never in depth. He liked to talk about the locals he met when they passed through towns. He was a medic, always had great respect for the nurses he worked with.”

“Yeah, I’ve never told my wife anything either. I hoped maybe I won’t have to. The first thing I ever showed her was the pictures I drew on the fields. When we sat at the base, I drew and tried to make sure I never lost any of ‘em. Drew a self-portrait once, my wife has it framed. All of my hair was really grown out then, that was the first thing my mother did when I got home, cut my hair. Anyway….”

“Would you like to stop for a moment?”

“No, no, I need another cigarette.”

“Certainly,”

“Little tired, I’m sorry.”

“There is no need to apologize.”

“.....I uh, you ever up past midnight? One AM, two AM?”

“Urgh, three at the latest for me.”

“Hm, was up last night with my daughter. She’s got a cold, so I stayed up and read to her. You ever….notice how when you’re awake so late, you feel those thoughts you try to fight down?”

“How do you mean?”

“Life….is so draining sometimes. You wake up every day, you kiss your wife, and you go to work. You do it every day. In some ways, it gets easier, but in other ways, it gets so much harder. Besides watching my mother and children get older, I think it’s seeing time pass you by. It’s knowing there’s nothing you can do but live and try to make things better for yourself. You move around, you talk to people, you just…..try. It’s pretty exhausting sometimes?”

“I agree yes.”

“........well, what were we talkin’ about?”

“Well, can I point something out? As we’ve been speaking I noticed your boots there.”

“Oh yeah, you like ‘em?”

“My grandfather was friends with many of the paratroopers, he told me they took great care because they were special shoes. Only given to them because of their position. Those boots have the shine of those shoes.”

“Ha, yeah. I like how they look you know. When I was younger, much younger, never had a good pair of shoes. Used to run around barefoot, which gave me strong feet but it’s nice to have something for yourself you know.”

“Yes, indeed……..do you know the name, John Laurens?”

“Lt. Laurens? I was in his battalion-”

“Mr. Brown.”

“Huh, what’s wrong-......you turned the camera off right?”

“Yes, yes, just before I asked you yes.”

“......is this a documentary?”

“Yes, it is. Though I am not making a war documentary.”

“I see. How did you find me? How did you know?”

“I’m not here to expose you without permission, please understand this. I saw a painting my grandfather made, a beautiful one I’d say. It was set in the Victorian era...a family of black Victorians, bright-eyed and lovely. Now I swore the father looked just like you, handsome and with such beautiful eyes. The eyes of a man whose wisdom was beyond….centuries of life. I thought he looked like you, like your military photograph you know. I thought perhaps I could make a connection! An exciting connection. I looked into it for myself and found...well, his name was always Malcolm, though his last name was different despite his appearance never seems to change…...you are not good at covering your tracks, but….did you ever want to be discovered?”

“.................”

“Mr. Brown?”

“Maybe. Maybe I did want someone to know. If someone was like me…..are you?”

“No, sadly. My grandfather, however, is. My grandmother passed many years ago, and it is hard now. He told me because he wanted to tell someone, anyone. He regretted that he never told her. He wasn’t sure if anyone else in the family was the same. I am not, I age perfectly normal. And no one, as far as I know, is the same.”

“Hm.”

“Are you alright Mr. Brown? I know this might be very jarring.”

“I dunno. I’m not angry or anything like that.”

“I have deceived you, and I apologize for that.”

“You’re making a war documentary aren’t you?”

“Well, yes. I’m supposed to be. Though-”

“Turn the camera back on. Mr. Gladwell…..please, I insist upon it.”

“.......”

“Alright, what the hell were we talking about?”

“Would you like to talk about Vietnam now?”

“Oh God, what’d ya want to know about Vietnam?”

“What was it like?”

“Well, it was beautiful, God it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was all green and trees and life. But you know, it was so scary….terrifying, because you know people were in the trees. You had to listen and watch but they were there. I have really bad dreams sometimes, about the trees. I can smell the napalm.”

“Hmm, what was your position?”

“I was a paratrooper.”

“Oh, I see.”

“It was a mix of us, black and white soldiers. My group, my battalion, we were all close. Which was properly unusual for the time. The black soldiers were treated….I’m sure you could imagine. Couldn’t listen to Malcolm X on the radios, some of the other soldiers carted around the confederate flag. Had ‘em on the Jeeps and all that.”

“Jesus. Another soldier, his name was Martian, he told us about the graffiti in the toilets. Men would crave the N-word into the walls.”

“Uh-huh saw those too. A friend of mine, Dick, once beat the hell out of another man during a drunken fit. I got called an ape so Dick attacked him on my behalf. He was so lucky he didn’t get court marshaled honestly. I thought it was dumb as hell, but I can’t say I wasn’t smiling all day.”

“Do you still talk?”

“Yup, saw him last Christmas. He’s married now, got a beautiful wife and two sons. He lives maybe...two hours away from where we are.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Course.”

“In the duration of your life, do you….feel guilty about living through it all? Knowing one day you will leave all of them behind.”

“No, no, not guilt, sadness. It’s really, really depressing sometimes. That’s why I draw you know. So I can have a little bit of everything around me you know. Oh let me show you. I gotta picture in my wallet here….yeah, here we are. That’s my lady, and my daughter right there and my son on the other side there.”

“Oh, she’s a lovely woman.”

“Yeah, she’s beautiful.”

“Your son looks most like you.”

“God I’d rather he looks like his Momma. He’s got her nose and hair but he looks more like me on his chin and the eyes. He’s got my eyes.”

“.........sorry, you draw very well.”

“Thank you.”

“Well...it’s been an hour. Would you like to stop now Malcolm?”

“No, no, you got me here. Now we have to keep talking.”

“Are you sure? You really want to keep talking to me?”

“Uh-huh.”

“That’s...wonderful news Mr. Malcolm.”

“You think anybody is gonna watch this?”

“Well, I think someone will.”

January 14, 2021 19:39

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5 comments

Francis Daisy
02:00 Sep 02, 2021

Kudos to you! It's not easy to write a story simply through dialogue alone. You did this so seamlessly...wow! Well done! :A

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Michelle Knight
22:06 Jan 20, 2021

Wonderful dialogue, giving us an insight into a veteran's mind. But I'm not sure I understand the aim of the interview?

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Megan Faith
20:35 Jan 21, 2021

Basically what I was going for was the conversation is between a filmmaker and a veteran. The filmmaker learned that his interviewee was (basically) immortal from outside circumstances. He then confirmed it during the veteran's interview and told him the same information. It's just a story of human connection.

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Michelle Knight
00:07 Jan 22, 2021

Ohh, I get it now. Great job

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Michelle Knight
00:07 Jan 22, 2021

Ohh, I get it now. Great job

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