• bobby daniel’s old man’s cold dead arm •

Bobby Daniel. He had us all scared shitless. Rumor had it, he had already killed a kid. And nobody knew about it. He had buried him that deep. Story goes, Bobby had punched him in the stomach, after school, and the boy had thrown up on his shoes, and, that was it for the kid, the poor bastard, and that’s how it usually went, with Bobby Daniel. And we knew for any of us, at any time, for no reason, even, it could go the same, with Bobby Daniel. You did not want to be on his ‘shit list’, no way. And you never knew what it could be that would put you on it. It could be anything. Anything. You didn’t have to ‘deserve’ it. When it came to dying at the hands of Bobby Daniel, we were convinced, as he had said many times, when threatening death to us all: “Deservin’s got nuthin’ to do with it.” For many a boy (we were completely convinced), that was the last thing he heard on this side of eternity. And then, ‘the big sleep’. The ‘dirt nap’. Most definitely. In any case, you did not want to fuck with Bobby Daniel, believe you me.
Now, we come to, Bobby Daniel’s ‘old man’. Bobby Daniel’s old man, was the kinda guy, that’d kick a dog, yes, even his own dog. For crappin’ on the lawn. Even his own lawn. We had never seen him do it, but then, we didn’t put it past him. He was just that mean. Bobby Daniel’s old man was a real hard case.
In fact, we were pretty sure that Bobby Daniel’s old man was so mean, that even Bobby Daniel was scared of him, and Bobby Daniel didn’t get scared. At least, we never saw him scared. But his old man got his own way. On everything.
Oh, and he only had one arm. Did I mention he had only one arm, yet? I meant to, but, you know, just the mention of Bobby Daniel’s old man, and my brain gets numb, and then, my teeth, and then, I start to shiver, then I lose the feeling in my arms, and hands and feet. Needless to say, I don’t like to talk about it. Still, ‘might as well, get it over with.
Bobby Daniel’s old man drove this truck that had a knob on the steering wheel, so he didn’t need two arms. With Bobby Daniel’s old man, one arm was enough. That, and, from what we heard, by the way he did his own dog, we figured him to be the sort, if you pissed him off, who’d just to kick you to death. But, of course, we kept our distance, and answered everything with ‘sir’, and, ‘yessir’, and like that, and stayed as far away from him as possible.
‘Story goes, he lost his arm, in the war. Which war? I dunno, Korea, maybe? Nobody knew for sure. At least, none of us kids did. And we weren’t going to ask him, that’s for sure.
(Jugglin’ grenades, the way we heard it, how he ‘lost’ his arm, I mean.
Then, ‘way we heard it, one night, while slogging knee-deep mud, in a rain storm, in the DMZ, it accidentally got ‘stuck’, in a ‘tank track’ or something, and got practically, ‘torn off’, at the elbow. And what was left of it, he cut it off, himself, with his own Buck knife, or chewed it off, with his bare teeth, or something, and then, ‘way we heard it, under withering machine gun fire, with the bloody gristle of what was left of his mangled limb between his teeth, and mightily pissed, through the mud, and piss, and shit, he crawled all the way back to base, on his belly, expecting the medics to ‘sew it back on’, and when they couldn’t just sew it back on, ‘good as new’, he beat ’em with it. He beat ’em with his own dead arm, can you believe it? Put three of ’em in the hospital, ‘way we heard it, Army medics, I mean, and I’m pretty sure it’s true. And then, when he got tired of pummeling the poor bastards, cursing God, and the Army, and Korea, and all things animal, vegetable, and mineral, he threw the thing in the mud, and just walked away. His own dead arm. Man, oh, man, oh man. I mean, Jesus.
And now, every time Bobby Daniel’s old man comes out of his house, across the street, and I see that scarred stump sticking out of his rolled-up sleeve, my skin crawls, and then, I picture that muddy, bloody, abandoned arm, in the night, in Korea, and I get the creeps, all over again, and I can’t get it out’a my head. ((And then, there’s a lightning flash, and with it’s wedding ring, and all, gleaming through the grunge, and all, it flexes it’s formerly cold, dead, fingers, now, animate again, and crawls across the ground, of it’s own accord, seeking murderous revenge.
‘Way I hear it, it’s still out there. ‘Way I hear it, it crawls up on a sleeping victim, in the night, on it’s powerful fingers and thumb, real quiet like, up the back of the couch, where the guy who was somehow responsible for the tragic accident, the tank operator, maybe, where the guy was sleeping, and then, it wraps it’s fingers around his throat, and chokes the guy to death, throttling him, in his sleep, and ‘next morning, they find the poor bastard, with his eyes bugged, and his purple tongue lolling out.))
I used to think about that. At night, when the wind blows, and shadows dance on the ceiling, and branches scratch on the glass.
But, I never lose much sleep over it, even if Bobby Daniel’s old man does live right across the street. The way I figure it, even if his dead mangled severed hand was to be out for murderous revenge, I’d had nothing to do with it. I’m just a kid, after all. I’ve never even driven a car, let alone, a tank. And then, any way you look at it, you gotta admit, overall, it’s a helluva long crawl, from Korea.
~ Tim Burchfield



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