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Volume 3, Issue 3, October 31, 2008
Image courtesy of Aly Greaves
To Love Forever
by Bob Burnett

       I buried my beloved wife somewhere in the Cambodian jungle on 14 May 1970, buried by the explosion of a fragmentation grenade in the VC tunnel. I left her with a crude stake hammered into her chest.
       I fell in love with Karen Ann McPhinney in the sixth grade. I pulled her hair and called her names, pushed her around on the playground. She ignored me. In the eighth grade, I asked her to dance and she left me standing red-faced when she turned away giggling.
       My life changed at a New Year's party, middle of our senior year in high school. Dope smoke thick enough for a contact high. Loud music and strobes. Peace symbols and bell-bottoms and tie-dye. Karen was with Tommy Lee Bryant. I was with some blonde with stringy hair whose name eludes me. Dreamy float to the midnight hour.
       Karen stepped in front of me, placed her hands on my chest, moved them to my shoulders, my neck. She locked her fingers my long hair, yanked my head down, pressed her mouth against my ear, and whispered words I had waited years to hear. Then Karen Ann McPhinney crushed her mouth on mine and changed the shapes and textures of my world forever.
       After high school, we chanted slogans and demonstrated and held peace marches and made love on the grass under the stars and floated through the days on Purple Haze and doobies and sweet red wine. But even at Berkeley they expected students to show up for the occasional exam in order to stay in college and keep the draft deferment. I didn't know I'd flunked out until I got my draft notice. The draft board was unimpressed that I'd burned my draft card.
       We loaded what little we owned in my VW bus, but the Colombian grass missed the turn to Canada and we were in a wedding chapel in Vegas. I took my overdue draft notice to the Marine recruiter and he said it was no problem. Sign right here and raise your right hand.
       They cut my hair, taught me to march, taught me to kill, and shipped me out to where I could put my new skills to use, killing little brown men with hands and feet and teeth and knives and other weapons of a less intimate nature.
       I spent the last of my liberty with Karen at a cheap motel in San Diego, and she kissed me goodbye with tears in her eyes.
       That was the last time I saw her alive.
       Three weeks later and halfway around the world from my love, I was hustled out of the replacement depot before I had time to unpack my seabag, and choppered to the latest hot spot.
       I was assigned to a rifle squad, replacement for a grunt who went home in a body bag. I have some memory of preparing for a patrol. We must have gone out. How else could I have become a prisoner? I remember nothing of the patrol or of my capture.

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        To Love Forever (pdf)
        To Love Forever (prc)
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