A Bit of Background

Whisper. Tell the story, but tell it at such low volume that the audience must strain to hear it. Tell it like the truth can’t bear loud noise. There, now you know the predicament I’m in. Truth dare not speak in a loud voice. 

I spent the night on the sofa. Not because I was sent there in punishment for bad behavior, but because I fell asleep after too many shots of whiskey. Who can understand how that comes to pass? Who among our parishioners can remember awakening at six in the morning, sitting on the sofa with the TV blaring? That’s what too much to drink and too little to think can do to a man. You just implode. You just become the vapor you hoped you’d never have to inhale.

My story began way before I began to tell it. It owes its beginning to seeds that sprouted after we sent fifty thousand of our finest young men to die in Vietnam. Do you know about that war? Do you know how we, this society of ours, treated the men we sent there? We cannot begin to understand the depths of our psychosis until we admit to what we did to the young men who did what they were told to do. 

So, now you have some sense of how it began. I can’t assure you it started quite that way, but it was something like that. It ripped through Melvin Toot’s brain like that. It caused his struggles. He was not to blame for his behavior, not any more than the cop who shot him was responsible for the fear that drove him to pull the trigger, killing an unarmed Melvin just days before his sixty-third birthday.  The thing is, if the cop hadn’t killed Melvin, he would have done it himself.  So, I need to tell the story of how it all played out, just so you’ll understand. Somebody has to reveal the truth. I didn’t wish it would be me, but sometimes you don’t have the choice. If I’m going to tell Melvin’s story, I’m going to have to be honest about myself. Please don’t judge me until you have all the facts. Please. Don’t assume you know what’s in my heart until I tell you. Life isn’t as simple as you may think.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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