Chapter 2 BETA
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On a Saturday night all the girls run free
singing: "Bury me not on the lone prairie . . ."
But where do you go when you finish broken-hearted?
Back to the dust . . where you started.
--Jenny: Stephen (Steve) Taylor
Frank Wallice was a stern, tall, muscular man who never smiled. His eyes were dark and glassy and they also never smiled even when they stared into you. His temper was short and he was full of anger which seemed to Dell could explode into a rampage at any moment . . . and Dell grew up fearful of Frank Wallice . . . fearful and wary for good reason. For Frank Wallice was a shell of a man whose soul had been shattered. His compassion and innocence had been gouged from his heart . . . his kindness and gentleness discorporated from the rest of his body leaving him haunted, traumatized and hollow. It was as if the very best of Frank Wallice still lay riddled with shrapnel and bullets, roasting in the napalm fires somewhere lost and forgotten along the war-ravaged road to Saigon.
Franklin Henry Wallice was the crown jewel of his family, the youngest out of four siblings and the only boy, Frank embodied the future hopes and dreams of his entire family and was looked upon fondly and with much respect by everyone for miles. This had been true ever since Franklin was a young boy. Frank matured from a boy full of promise to a devastatingly handsome young man to whom it seemed the future and even then world itself had been plucked as if grown intentionally for him as the fruit of his destiny. When he was old enough, Franklin Henry Wallice or "Frankie" as he was fondly referred to by his parents and adoring three sisters, entered into the United States Marine Corps straight out of high-school. He aced his eight-week boot-camp. So strengthened by the hearty country cooking and strong family support he was a formidable and invincible outcome to every test and challenge. He rose from his humble home-spun beginnings full-fledged prince in United States of America and shining knight under the flag of the Republic for which it stands. The day he donned his USMC dress blues even the sun in the heavenly sky could not beam half as proud and radiant as did Franklin Henry Wallice and his lady-killer smile in the picture taken the day he graduated a bona-fide US Marine.
Then something went wrong . . . very, terribly wrong in Frankies story. The euphoric brass patriotic tune accompanying the unfolding of his future became drowned out by terrifying screams and the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire. Visions of beautiful, for spacious skies became filled with the roaring engines of war jets and the shrieks of young men desperately clawing at the murky, blood-stained rice-paddy water for the shredded remnants of their foot, weeping and shrieking in the crimson waves of pain. As Frank served his country with bravery, determination and loyalty unwavering the steady, determined rhythm of the victory march and promise of glory was replaced with the crack of unseen sniper fire and the sickening pop the bullets made hitting the bloated, dead bodies bobbing in the water. His dreams of hope and heroism giving way to daily visions of haggard, tired Marines lifting flag-draped caskets which bore the remains of once optimistic comrades. His once cheerful memories of every citizen of Pilot Grove lining the streets, smiling and waving as he returned from boot-camp a proud Marine faded into a nightmare which returned in vivid colors and aromas every night he closed his eyes.
He returned home relatively physically intact with a purple heart and any zeal once residing for any adventure completely eradicated. The lady-killer smile now erased from his face and replaced with a shrapnel scar and a sunken cheek where now missing teeth had once filled-in his strikingly proud angular features. Frank was not a bad man and Dell had never known the man who left the idyllic hand-quilted comfort of his childhood and shipped off to war. Dell only knew the snarling angry menace which gripped his arm tightly with one hand when he stepped out of line while the other hand lashed his legs and hind quarters brutally with a peach-tree switch Dell was often tasked with cutting himself. Dell had often looked into the photo taken the day of Franks graduation and recognized the photo as the man he called "Dad" yet somehow that man in the photo seemed a ghost of the past and nothing like the man who had somehow found his way into his mother's life and fathered two more children. A baby girl named Caroline and a toe-headed blond boy just like himself named Gabriel Michael. Dell never saw Frank smile . . . save for sometimes when he sneered has he was flogging the boy for a show of weakness or some indiscretion.
Dell had learned to be quiet and fearful of Francis. He always operated under the assumption that all fathers were harsh and ill-tempered and just accepted it as so. The memories of his own father were connected with images of both his parents arguing and shouting and heart-wrenching, frightening sounds of his mother crying. It was not until he began school he was afforded any opportunity to learn and compare notes with other kids. The very first time he witnessed a young school mate run from the bus into the open arms of his waiting father it left him feeling startled and uneasy. The disparity between what Dell had learned a father was and what a father seemed to be to others further widened as he learned to read and digested story after story where fathers were protective, loving and strong in very different ways than Dell's own experience had revealed.
To Dell it seemed as if nothing he could do would appease Frank . . . that his very existence on this planet was an affront to the man. At every light-hearted moment or display of cavalier youthfulness, Frank was there swooping in like a bird of prey to take him down a notch or two. If he complained about the crust on his eggs, Frank swatted him with the switch and he was sentenced to sitting in the corner for an hour with Franks' smelly farm socks from the day before stuffed in his mouth . . . only to have to return back to his plate of now cold eggs to eat them all lest the punishment resume. Dell was often tasked with chores such as to pick-up the trash which had blown out of the burn barrel in the back yard. If he missed a single piece, he was swatted with the switch and sent to his room for hours. If he made too much noise, he was yelled at to "Shut-up!" and the punishment of the socks would be invoked once again.
He had heard the word "bastard" used several times in reference to himself and though he wasn't sure of its literal meaning, he knew it was a badge of shame somehow bestowed upon him and connected to his real dad. It was a constant strike . . . what they called in his Kindergarten glass a "black mark" against his name. In Kindergarten if you misbehaved or broke a rule, your name was written on the black board. If you broke another rule or spoke out of turn, a mark was placed next to your name. Score three in a day and your recess time was revoked. Score five and you were sent home to your parents with a note. Dell could not remember ever not feeling like he was born under a bad sign. Ever since he first heard the song on the radio the lyrics seemed to resonate with him and he wore the rumors of his father's misdeeds and the tears of his mother against himself as a cross he had no choice but to bear. This guilt kept him at the ready to accept whatever harshness and unfairness was dealt upon him without even so much as a second thought. But as Dell steadily grew older, wiser and more aware, a single voice of resistance and defiance began to rise above the din of deprecating inner voices. A voice which he would come to find out would not nor could not be silenced . . . and unbeknown to Dell then, who first regarded that voice as an inconvenience and sometimes a nuisance catapulting him into more trouble . . . it would later prove to be the very thing which saved his life.