it’s been thirteen years and with another leap year it falls on a Friday again the day after Christmas his poppa’s death his funeral and the good thing he’s learned to be quiet he learned that at Basic because when they test you and it’s all a test don’t answer when the others don’t it’s not worth it he’ll be fine training to be a diesel mechanic might have to go to Korea says he’s even going to stay in like his grandfather

and I don’t know if it was about me or not that’s the problem when you draw attention to yourself and she was no different that day at the coffeehouse I’ve already written about that the stories she read which would be included in Salted with Salt one thing I remember is she didn’t mind that I wrote about her which even got a smile and though she doesn’t know it I stumbled her up alluding to something in one of the stories really stretching it because it wasn’t there and she said: Ya, I saw that and I don’t know if she caught my smile but I will admit when she accused Ben of mediocrity I wondered it about myself and when she said maybe after seeing that lizard on a pole I thought that meant something but we’ve talked since then and maybe she’s settled down like I’ve settled down brought children into the world and who knows maybe someday she’ll pick up a pen

and it’s Bell who interrupts. The presents have been opened and after the air clears a little about what the uncle has already written they get to swapping stories about boot camp and people can say whatever they want the leading cause of veteran suicide is not the memories of war but coming home and sensing the close bond the togetherness the loyalty is something not to be found but his younger daughter’s stomach is growling (she whispers it in his ear) so the uncle says:

this one’s for Jake. I thought it would be about my nephew joining the military about following in my father’s footsteps and it was but it was also about me a song from my college days and if there’s any statistical determination from this be aware of the quantum entanglement how things connect how the cause doesn’t matter like the liquid morphine I documented with the hospice nurse flushed down the toilet or the hit Jake took to put him to sleep how when you haven’t fixed for a while and then try to take the same amount as before you’ve lost your tolerance or maybe he melted down one of those time-released tablets got it all at once he was just young and didn’t know any better the kid never had a chance so this is as much for him as it is anything else because the boy hasn’t even been buried his mother flew out from California and fought for the ashes and funny that’s the first thing you did when you came home

You visited his grave you went out to Jefferson Barracks in uniform.
so how does it end?

we all have to face the fact the one day we will be extinguished

and she makes books. Sometimes she pieces them together with scotch tape and she illustrates along with the text so one day I’ll tell her I’ll tell her about how I got to the Napoleon bar and she can write it herself a story about her own father just like I did mine and that well that satisfies me and so today I asked her what story she would tell what she recalls about her cousins (and to give a little background their dog recently died a St. Bernard and to a little girl of five he was huge) so I asked her: What do you want to write about?

and she said: