The Man Called America

I helped the man called America put up a large tent.  While I spiked the last corner ring to the ground, he quickly prepared the inside.

The way we set it up, the tent faced the house, with a view of the bonfire a little way off to the left, and a view of Kyle, still doing his surgical work under the pool of the flashlight, a little way off to the right.  The dark, silent house loomed in the background.

I rounded the tent and pulled back the flap to go inside.  Expecting something spare, and utilitarian, I was surprised by a luxurious interior.  A plush oriental rug covered the floor.  There were two legless wingback chairs of carved wood, a lamp complete with a fringed shade, and all the bourgeois accoutrements…  There was a liquor cabinet, a phonograph, a small piano…  It was a feast for the eyes.  Even the walls of the tent were hung with tapestries and luxurious fabrics.  On one wall were a few African masks, on another, a spectacular watercolor of a mountain landscape.  The place more resembled the abode of a white prime minister on African Safari than the tent of a mercenary.

America, already seated in one of the wingback chairs, had a glass of whiskey in hand.  He reached across one of the armrests and placed the phonograph needle on the spinning vinyl.  Music blared from the old brass speaker.  The tune was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.  I noticed that the fabric under the phonograph was a small, antique American flag, which draped the phonograph stand.

The man looked at me.  “Oh,” he said, “There you are.  Well, you better make yourself comfortable.  Kyle’s gonna be workin’ all night, and we ain’t goin’ nowhere.”  He took off his cowboy hat and dropped it on the rug.  He ran a hand through his sweat-matted hair, took a sip of his whiskey, and sat back.

I found a chair.

“I always like to listen to Sinatra after a lot of people get killed,” he said.  “It’s war music…”

I looked at him curiously.

“What can I say?” he said, “I’m a sentimental man.  I guess I got it from my Mommy and Daddy.  They were sentimental, too.  That’s why they named me America…”  He took a sip of his whiskey, closed his eyes, and smiled.


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