My brother Eddie and I stared at the backs of the solemn folks in ill-fitting dark suits and veterans’ VFW garrison caps surrounding our father’s old drinking buddy’s casket. Eddie whispered, “I gotta take a leak.”
Typical Eddie. Total mammal. If he was outdoors, country road or golf fairway, he just couldn’t help stepping into the brush and watering the flora.
The reverend droned on about a better place and dust. I couldn’t imagine anywhere better than this military cemetery, welcomed by its perfect white smiles of tombstones.
As gunshot salutes faded, Eddie reappeared, grinning like a fool.
“Where you been?” I said.
“Behind those bushes over there.”
“You were serious.”
“Heck, yeah, I was serious. When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
“What’s so funny?”
“Ten years ago I had an argument with this guy at work. When they pulled us apart, I told him if I ever got the chance, I’d piss on his grave. Well, while I was over there, guess what I found?”
“Uh-huh, I did.” He laughed through his crooked smile.
“And you think this is some kind of joke, right?”
“On him, yeah.”
“What if someone did something like that to your grave?”
“I wouldn’t know about it.”
“What if Ma decided to come visit your grave one Sunday and found some guy relieving himself on your head?”
“Could. How would you like it if visited Grandma’s grave and found some drunk kid off-loading Milwaukee’s Best on her headstone?”
“I’d kill him,” Eddie said.
“What if someone saw you?” I said.
“Look, I always look around to see if I can take a leak without being seen. I really didn’t piss on his grave. Just nearby. No harm, no foul, okay?” he said.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” we heard behind us. We turned to find a tall, black Marine in dress blues staring hard at us.
“Saw what you did, man,” he said to Eddie. “That’s just wrong and you gotta come correct. Or I’m gonna correct you.”
“I don’t know what you’re taking about,” Eddie said, choking on a dry gulp.
“It’s bad enough you dishonor the brave man who’s being buried here today, but then you go and dishonor another one.”
“My brother is very sorry for his abhorrent behavior. Aren’t you?”
“Look, corporal, I’ve got a bladder problem and sometimes I just have to go…fast. This was one of those times,” Eddie said.
“I heard you laugh and say you thought what you did was funny. You know what I think is funny? When a tough guy gets called out and turns out he’s nothing but a bunch of air. You a tough guy? Or something else?”
Eddie reached for the car door.
His hand was consumed by a large brown hand that seemed the size of a baseball mitt, only not as soft.
“Ow, leggo,” Eddie said, “that hurts.”
“You know what really hurts? That guys like you can be assholes in this country because of guys like me and the men you disrespected today.”
Eddie tugged, but the Marine just squeezed harder.
“Oh, God,” Eddie sobbed, dropping to his knees.
The sound of breaking china came from where their hands met in what seemed a sign of peace. Tears appeared in Eddie’s eyes.
“That’s the kind of behavior I expect in honoring the dead,” the Marine said. “I think you’ve come to accept disciplined, honorable behavior. Please stop by and honor these brave folks again, sir. Semper Fi.”
He released Edie’s hand, about-faced, and melted into the bushes where this all began.
Eddie tells everyone he broke his hand catching it in the car door. The tool.
A place-keeper story today for my ruptured duck of a Story a Day quest for September. Couldn’t get to the prompted one, but had this in the old sack. Poor story from a stumbling, sleep-starved September writer.