When my mother passed away, it fell on me to clean out the old family home, since my father and brother had died years ago. In the attic, I found an old steamer trunk, full of treasures from my past. Near the bottom of the trunk, I found a photo album. When I opened it, I saw my long lost brother staring back at me. This was the photo I had taken two days before he committed suicide.
In 1966, when he returned home from Vietnam, no one knew about PTSD. The horrible college kids that spat on him and called him, “baby killer,” did not know he had received a Purple Heart for saving the lives of five fellow soldiers, nor would they have cared.
I took this photo, framed it, and have it sitting on my desk, at the nurses station at the VA hospital where I work. It’s been enlarged to an 8 x 10, so everyone can see that look, and be vigilant on recognizing it in the veterans who come to us seeing help.
Though my brother, I have been able to help those who suffer from PTSD, and, perhaps, have saved their life. This is how I honor the sacrifice he made.
Story by Louise Spiller
Ridding himself of his long-time buzz-cut and growing a mustache were not the life changers Jerry had expected. The girls just were not flocking to him, much less fawning over him. In fact, despite adopting a devil-may-care attitude and a propensity for leaning seductively in doorways, they were not even paying much attention to him.
He looked down at his burgeoning paunch and decided that what he needed was to get himself into Adonis-like shape. Then, for sure, he would be able to click with the chicks.
He adhered to a strict work out regimen with a weight bench, an elliptical and a stationary bicycle. He cut out starches, except for the occasional pizza and plate of spaghetti but, otherwise, it was all vegetables and turkey breasts.
Sporting his newly chiseled physique, carefully trimmed cookie duster and Vidal Sasson-shampooed hair (with conditioner), he strutted his stuff on the avenues, the discos and shopping malls with rosy-hued dreams of catching the eye of any type of feminine company.
To his utter amazement, he remained unnoticed. He had doused himself with Jade East so an offending aroma was ruled out as the reason. He couldn’t figure it out so he sat on a bench outside a shuttered Walden’s Books store in the mall and pondered his plight.
He came to the conclusion that suave and debonair was not the answer. Girls dig “bad boys”, so that’s what he would become.
He rushed out and got a tattoo. Unfortunately, he chose to get one of a skunk.
Story by Norm Knott
“Where did you find that”, Dad asked when I showed him the old polaroid.
“It was in a box of stuff, mostly pictures, that we got when we cleared out Grandma’s house”, I said. I teased him about being a show off stud muffin and he smiled.
“Your mother took that”, he said. “We were staying in the back bedroom at Grandma’s and we were on our way to the lake for the day. Grandma kept you because you were too small to tag along. Truthfully we wanted to party with our friends and didn’t want a kid to slow us down. How many times have I wished you had been with us, or that we had just not gone. Things might have been very different.”
“So this was taken the day Mom died?”, I asked, incredulous that this photo was a memento of that day.
“Yes”, he said, “we were fooling around and she took it before we left. I guess Grandma found it and tucked it away.”
I thought about all the stuff we had hauled out of Grandma’s house, some we kept but most we threw away. No telling what stories and secrets were lost.
Trying to lighten the mood he said “not bad, huh?”
“Yeah, not bad. Maybe a little chunky”, I said, trying to smile. “And that moustache. What were you thinking, Don Juan?”
“Zorro. I remember she laughed and said I looked like Zorro.”
“Maybe. Chunky Zorro. I doubt he had a tattoo.”
“Another decision I should have thought longer about”, he said.
Story by Steven Yancey
Me: What do you love most about life?
Me: Are you saying that because we just did it?
Me: What is something you couldn’t give up?
Me: What about being an artist? Photography?
You: What would YOU rather give up, sex or photography?
Me: Oh, fuck… I feel like I should say photography. A part of my would just die, if I had to give up making art, but I don’t know if I could live without sex.
You: I need sex.
Me: I need you.
Story by Allison DeBritz