WAR

Lydia Stryk: American Tet

Lydia Stryk: American Tet

Scene: Jim alone in his garden

(American Tet takes place in the spring of 2004, the first anniversary of the Iraq War—a moment in time in the ongoing conflagration.)

JIM: The thing about nature is. That nothing dies. Or death–being dead– just doesn’t apply. Nothing dies. You can kill it. Starve it. Drown it. Torture it. But it comes back to life. Or forget life. It just comes back. It’s there again. Forget then. It’s here. That’s why gardening reminds me of war. Fighting a war. They’re that close. Feeding, starving, nurturing, poisoning, raising, cutting down. I would basically be considered a killer. If you would ask my daughter. A life-long professional killer. For thirty years I got paid for organizing and implementing effective destruction of a given enemy. And now I’m a gardener. I’ve killed men, women and children. In cold blood. From no further away than I am standing from you. I’ve scorched fields and defoliated forests. And I have all kinds of medals to prove it. Life is not a value I believe in personally. Life is in fact without value. It’s just a force. Everything lives to live. That’s all. Last year, Elaine and I stopped moving. Finally. Neither of us comes from here. Neither of us likes it here, particularly. But neither of us could stomach ever moving again. I’m still young. But I’m sick. So I took a part-time desk job. The misty winds of Agent Orange have destroyed my lungs. Elaine thought it would be good for me—therapeutic, she would say—to make myself a little garden. So I did. Here in the backyard next to the shed. I have my corpses lined up here. My seeds here. Sometimes when I am gardening I think of the past. Or my family. That crazy daughter of mine. Of Danny over in Iraq. But mostly, I tend to stop thinking. Which is why gardening is such good therapy. You’ve got one bare hand in the cool wet soil. The other around the root of a tree. You lay it in there. Fill that hole up. The bed? The grave? Or you’re pulling up a weed with strong, deep roots. And there’s a moment, when it gives in, gives up, and then you have the whole damn thing in your hand, you can feel it trembling. Is it alive in that moment, or dead? That’s the mystery. And the fact is. I don’t know if I’m alive or dead. This is my little secret. No one knows this. The confusion of the gardener. And the soldier.

End of scene.

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