Unspeakable things


Horst Faas/Associated Press


He walked out when I was three. Literally went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back. My dad. My father. He was never really my dad. How could he be? I never knew him. And now this. Why me? Why would they send his stuff to me?”

A cardboard box containing the personal effects of a man she had never known, but called himself her father, arrived out of the blue. It had been forwarded by the Veterans Administration in San Francisco. Somewhere along the line, this man, her father, had listed her as next of kin.

“Mama said the war made him crazy. It wasn’t his fault, she said. She loved him, you know. Even after what he did to us. To her. Just up and left her with two kids, no job, no money. She used to look through old pictures of him and cry.”

Poking into the packing tape with a kitchen knife, the acrid smell of alcohol laden sweat and stale cigarette smoke rose up to meet her even before she lifted the cardboard flaps. Inside she found a tattered and torn army field jacket. It bore the name Mackenzie. Her name.

“It haunted him. Some village in Vietnam. ‘He had been made to do unspeakable things in the name of war’ that’s what Mama always said. She never told us what. I don’t even know if she knew. But whatever it was, he couldn’t live with it. It made him crazy.”

Inside one of the pockets, was a picture. A picture of a man she knew from Mama’s photos to be her father, his arm around a little girl, a frightened mother with an infant in her arms by his side. He had a wild almost crazy look in his eyes.

She turned the photo over in her palm. “Tom, you got a pen?” She scribbled something almost indecipherable on the back of the photo. Tom could see her tears in her eyes as she wrote it. But he didn’t ask. There would be more than enough time for that tomorrow.

Please click through and read Susan Braithwait’s brilliant response to the Genre Scribes prompt from last week, as this piece is written in response to, not only the prompt word, Villiage, but also as a result of the emotions her piece brought to the surface when I read it.

This piece is my response to the literary prompt offered by Debbie on 50 Word Thursday this week. The quote is: “Tom could see her tears as she wrote it.” The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.

In addition I was able to use the first two JusJoJan prompts, Photo and Poke even if I didn’t exactly use them in the way it was suggested.

14 thoughts on “Unspeakable things

  1. J, you’ve trumped it again. It seems simply written, yet the story told is complex.
    UK wasn’t involved in the Vietnam war, but with East Anglia hosting several USAF bases, American airmen would often be met in the Norwich nightclubs. I knew several, none would speak of their time in Vietnam.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s