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Kimberly Parish Davis: Forever and Ever

March 19, 2009

He said, “It was a glorious day. The sun was shining, and Sally was minding her own business, listening to music on her . . .” 

Daddy put his hands over his ears—he couldn’t remember the word for “iPod.” He just went on.

“. . . when the bomb went off.” He blew his nose. “It was a little while before we found her. My boy, James, got hit on the head, and I found him first.” He looked at me and nodded. “We found Sally in her room. The music was still playing, and she was smiling.” 

The preacher touched him on the shoulder trying to get him to sit down, but Daddy wasn’t finished. He leaned into the microphone. You could hear shoes shuffling around and people crying. 

“Sally didn’t take no drugs. She didn’t drink nor smoke. She had big plans. Top of her class. She was the best daughter I could ever imagine.” 

I caught the preacher looking up at the balcony at the back of the church and turned to see who he was looking at. Some guy with a headset on was pointing at his watch, like “time’s up!” Mother fucker.

The preacher stepped up and touched Daddy on the shoulder again. It was all he could do not to snap the man’s head off, but my Daddy, A.J. Parker, was a peaceful man all his life, and he sat down. Two minutes. That’s all they allowed family members. Texas City found some way to pay for the memorial service. Truth is, I’m not sure which jurisdiction paid for it. Maybe some rich bastards chipped in. I wasn’t looking at that. I was too angry. Too upset about my sister dying like that. Nothing felt real outside my own mind during that time. Besides, Daddy couldn’t have paid for a fancy funeral service. Two minutes was the best he could do for my sister’s memory. 

January 23, 2009

“He was seven years old. We just spoke . . . He loved his new school.” That’s how I imagine Hannah telling her roommate, Emma, about it.

“Oh Hanna!” 

The two of them had come from Palestine together to go to the U of H. Their homes were on the Gaza Strip, and everyone they knew there was in the line of fire from the Israelis. Hannah had managed, somehow, to reach a friend of the family who told her about the shelling that had taken her baby brother and sixteen other students at his school.

“How could they bomb a school, Emma? In the middle of the day?” Hanna probably asked.

And I guess Emma said something like, “We are rubbish to them, Hanna, our homes are in the way of their apartment blocks,” 

You know, it was at a really touchy time between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Israelis had these settlements where they’d just show up with bull dozers and destroy Palestinian homes to put up Jewish settlements.

“The Jews breed like rabbits.” Hanna probably spat. I can see her saying, “I want to hurt them back.”

I imagine Emma being like, “Stop it, Hanna. You sound like a man.”

And Hanna being like, “The men are right. If you poke the bear long enough, he is going to bite you.”

“Fighting makes matters worse,” goes Emma. I like to think she was the reasonable one, but I’ve learned not to generalize too much about people.            

In my version, they watched television or surfed around the Internet for news about what was going on in Palestine. There had been a lot of fighting—a lot of bombed out buildings. One website told about the attack at the School where Hanna’s little brother was killed, and she was probably dealing with that while Emma was news surfing.

I expect Emma screamed when she came across the article. “Aaaaaaaaeeeee! Daddy!” 

And Hanna would have come around to the computer and read:

“Forty-four-year-old Eysa Fares, with the Medical Relief Services, was called to a residential block in Jabaliya town where he and a colleague were attempting to evacuate an injured woman when they were targeted by an IOF artillery shell that killed Dr. Fares and the evacuee outright. His colleague was seriously injured.”

She probably didn’t read much past that. Eysa Fares was Emma’s father.

March 19, 2009

So, when we were leaving the memorial service, it was the tail end of winter. It was a beautiful day, but people weren’t into that. The pretty redbud trees looked like they made folks cry.  Me and Daddy, since we’d lost someone, had to stand up at the door of the church and shake hands. Daddy would nod. He didn’t figure he’d ever see any of these folks or their money again. I was just pissed.

But Daddy was wrong about the white folks not helping. The bombing seems like it gave the State of Texas a chance to show off its brand-new emergency response team they put together after Hurricane Katrina.  So, families who lost their homes in the bombing got to move into this apartment complex that had been sitting empty just about five miles north of our old neighborhood. FEMA actually got their heads out of their asses for once and recognized an opportunity for a win-win deal. The developers that were about to go bankrupt got their debts forgiven, and we all got a place to live. A couple of the big box stores in the area got on board and donated furniture and clothes and stuff. We actually made out pretty good. We didn’t feel it then, though. Me and Daddy were hurting too bad. So were the other people who moved into those apartments with us. 

The media was the worst part. Those bastards about drove us crazy. Okay, sure, seventy-five people died. Another two hundred and sixteen were injured. It happened on a Sunday afternoon when everyone was home. Our neighborhood was right up next to the refinery. Lot of little houses with big families in them. But we got seriously fed up with all the reporters. It didn’t take long before Daddy quit answering the phone. One time he whipped around with his fist raised at this CNN cameraman. I never saw my daddy raise his fist to anybody. He hollered, “Leave us alone, you hear? We have nothing more to say to you people.”

It was really hard, you know? Sally and I were only a year apart, and we got along good. We hung out with some of the same friends. When we were little, I was a real shit to Sally, but she almost never hit me back. She’d get upset and cry to Daddy sometimes, but mostly she looked after me. Daddy had to work to feed us, so even though she was only a year older than me, she kind of took responsibility. She’d either walk us to the cafeteria up by the highway, or she’d figure out something to cook. Daddy’d give her a twenty-dollar bill sometimes, and that would be when we’d go to the cafeteria. 

Daddy started worrying about me round about April. I remember him saying one night, “Son, I don’t believe I’ve heard two words out of your mouth all week.”

I said, “I got nothing to say.”

That’s when I started talking to the recruiter. 

March 1, 2009

So, rewind to the beginning of March. Hanna’s coming in from class one day. She’s like, “Emma! You home?” but there’s no answer. She goes in the kitchen to get a drink or something, and there’s this a note on the refrigerator door.

I’m sorry. They called to say that I will have to leave the university because there is no money. Daddy’s assets are frozen. My credit card has stopped working. I don’t know what to do. They want to deport me, but to where? I love you, my friend. I’m sorry.

Hannah must have freaked out, and run to Emma’s room, and found her on the bed. looking like she was asleep. 

March 15, 2009

I looked at the news footage from that night so many times, it just makes me want to puke.

This is an Eyewitness News special report. A suicide bomber has carried out an attack in Texas City. The bomber entered the Texas City World Petroleum Refinery and positioned herself near a high-pressure relief valve where she detonated explosives attached to her body at 3:45 this afternoon. It is believed that the woman was an engineering student at the University of Houston. Sources believe she had an identification card that allowed her access to the facility.

They showed pictures of the refinery burning. It was dark, and all the flashing lights made it hard to see a lot. The camera scanned past soot-covered people crying and bleeding. 

Then the reporter came back on and said, “Fire crews are working to contain the blaze as we speak, and they are saying that this is bigger than the 2005 BP explosion. A number of homes have been affected nearby. Rescue crews are streaming in from all directions.”

That sonofabitch played for two days straight before Hanna’s video reached the network news stations, and then that was all we heard for a week. 

Hanna Assani looked at the camera. She didn’t look like a terrorist, except for the head scarf. She looked more like a fashion model. She had a soft voice, and she was crying while she read her message. I still think it’s pretty wild that the networks even played the tape. They wouldn’t be allowed to today. She said: 

I represent the innocent people of Gaza. I do not belong to any political group, and no one has made me do what I am about to do. May God forgive me. Our God, yours and mine. I deeply regret what you are about to experience. I feel that sadness now myself, because my family has been taken from me by Israeli soldiers. I commit this act to open your eyes, Americans, to show you what it feels like to have your loved ones taken for no reason. You look at me and see a Palestinian—a terrorist. You’re wrong. Yesterday I was just like you.

By this point in her little speech, she was staring straight at the camera and her voice had gotten super intense. She was almost spitting at the camera or cell phone or whatever.

I could hardly wait to get my degree and go home to my family, but because nobody will help us, my family and my friends are gone. My home is destroyed. My little brothers and sisters blown to pieces. They have been burned like garbage. And here in America? Even news of my home is hard to find. Americans don’t even know where Gaza is, our lives are that cheap. So, I’m sorry, but I hope you people learn something from experience.

Hanna also sent the news station her passport to prove that she acted alone. Of course, all kinds of conflicting stories cropped up once she was gone. The terrorist groups wanted her to be a martyr for them, but their claims that she belonged to them were false. I don’t know why the government didn’t just make something up about her belonging to whatever group they most wanted to start a war with. Whoever was driving the war machine that day most have been goofing off or something. 

July 4, 2009

I remember exactly when I told my father I was enlisting. It was July 4th, and I was laying around playing games on my Gameboy. Headphones on. I remember Daddy snatching my shoulder.

He said, “James? James! Drag your butt in here and give me a hand with these dishes.” The neighbors in our apartment building had barbequed out on the balcony.

Daddy said, “Boy, what is the matter with you? You got to do something besides staring at that game all day.”

I don’t think I said much. Besides not being ready to tell him, I remember being upset about the news again. They kept playing this patriotic bullshit about how they were honoring us because it was the fourth of July and we were “heroes” and shit. I know I was a mess—needing to shower and brush my teeth.

Daddy stood there and looked at me for a while, like he was trying to read my mind. “Son, I miss your sister too. I miss our house. I wish none of it had ever happened, but I have responsibilities. I can’t just stop living because something bad happened. We are all gonna die one day.”

And something snapped in my head, and I started. “Dad, you know how you been after me to get a job?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, you know my birthday is next month, right?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, I was thinking you might go with me so I could enlist in the army.” It fell out of my mouth real fast. I didn’t want Daddy to interrupt me.

He put down the plate and the dishtowel he was drying it with and reached out to turn my face, so we had to look eye-to-eye. “You serious about that, son?”

“As a heart attack.”

“You talked to anybody about it yet?”

“A recruiter came to school. The councilor sent me to talk to him.” My grades had dropped a lot since Sally died. I just didn’t give a shit. So, the councilor had been in my face just about every day.

“You been thinking about this for a little while?”

“Yes sir.”

“You think you’re gonna go over there and kill some Arabs and that’ll make you feel better?” 

“No sir.”

“Because I might be thinking that way if I was you. But killing other people won’t help. You know that, don’t you?” 

He stared at me, and it was hard to keep looking at him and not cry, but I did it.

March 15, 2010

Me and Daddy moved into the new house before it was finished, because he wanted to do a lot of the work himself. We got some money from the State of Texas, but Dad was particular about stuff. His house could never look like everybody else’s. So, he was out in the yard with a couple of sawhorses set up and his tool belt on when this reporter walked up and stuck a microphone in his face. 

When they played it on the news, they opened by showing the neighborhood today. All the debris from the damaged houses was gone. New trees had been planted, and a bunch of new houses were going up. Dad was the only fool out working in the yard.

The reporter looked at the camera and said, “This is A.J. Parker. He lost his daughter and his home in the bombing last year.” Then she looked at Dad. “I wonder if you have a few minutes to talk with our viewers, Mr. Parker?”

Daddy kind of looked down and shook his head. He looked like a big old bull that was fixin’ to charge.  His nostrils flared when he set his hammer down and turned toward that reporter.

The woman was pretty dense. She kept right on talking. Daddy didn’t tell you what he was feeling very often. He was a quiet man, but once he lost it, there was no stopping him. The reporter lady said, “Can you give us any insight into how this year has been for you?”

And he looked straight at the reporter, not the camera. He was about a foot taller than her—even in those six-inch heels she was wearing. He took off his glove and pointed his big fat index finger at her—it had to be intimidating—and he said, “Ma’am, this has been the hardest year of my life. I lost my baby girl. There’s days when I can’t hardly get up in the morning, but I just keep on putting one foot in front of the other.”

The best part came right after that, but the TV news didn’t show it. Daddy went off on that reporter. I taped the whole thing—had it up on YouTube for a while. My buddies on the base got a kick out of it till CNN made me take it down.

Daddy died while I was overseas. When I got home, I found the letters I sent him. He didn’t ever throw them away.

March 15, 2011

Outside Kirkuk, Iraq

Dear Dad,

I was thinking about you today, since it’s the anniversary of the explosion. I hope you’re doing o.k. I miss you, but I’m doing good. It’s pretty quiet over here—just some routine patrols. It’s not too hot yet—about the same as home, but I feel like I’m walking around in some old movie. Everything in Iraq is beige.

The people put up with us. I know I wouldn’t like it much if a bunch of guys with guns and body armor came through my bedroom first thing in the morning looking for IRAMs, (that’s improvised rocket assisted munitions), but these people don’t say anything. They just let us in and wait till we’re done. I try to be nice, but there are a few a-holes who want to rough the men up. I don’t want the little kids to think we’re all bad guys.

I don’t really know anything else to tell you right now except that I’m looking forward to seeing you in a few months. If you’d ever get a computer, I could talk to you on SKYPE. 

Love, James

May 16, 2011

Bagdad

Dear Dad,

I got to watch a sniper team working yesterday. Those guys are sick. There’s way more to it than just being a good shot. They really take some time setting the shot up. An insurgent I could not even see was shooting missiles from the roof of a school, so this sniper dude had to avoid all kinds of civilians. I would need a recommendation from the commander to get into sniper school, but I’m thinking about it after this tour. 😉

The insurgents are hard to deal with without putting civilians in danger. I’m beginning to get why some of the guys act like jerks when we find young men in the houses, especially since one of our Humvees got blown up the other day. I knew all the guys in it. Two of ‘em died, and the other two had to be medevacked out. One guy had little kids. We used to play ping-pong all the time. 

What are we really doing here? I mean, I get why they’re messing with us, because if they were in Texas City stomping through our houses every day, you know we would fight back. I wish we could just go home.

There’s a lot of garbage on the streets here, and the buildings are all torn up. The people don’t look us in the eye much. I wonder what it looked like before the war. The houses are empty inside. No furniture, just mattresses on the floor. Makes it easy for them to pick up and move in a hurry—like when their buildings get bombed.

It’s getting up into the 90s most days, so thanks for those gel packs to cool my neck. They work great. My buddies want some too. It’d be great if you could stick a couple extra in the box next time, and some more jellybeans. I didn’t get any of that last batch you sent. That a-hole clerk just left the empty package in the box so I’d know you sent ‘em.

Love you, James

My Daddy had a heart attack on the job one day while I was training to be a sniper. I wonder if he would know me now. I got over there thinking I was ready for action, but I wasn’t. I saw a little action. IED exploded one day and we came under attack out in the middle of no-fucking-where. My buddies were pissing themselves, forgetting what they learned. Most of them got killed. Only me and my buddy Paul made it out. He got shot, and I just stayed with him—kind of opposite most of the gunfire. When it got quiet and I figured the gunman was coming down to check out the wreckage, I climbed up on the back bumper and plugged the bastard. I wasn’t afraid. Just did it. That didn’t help my dead friends, but at least it was just.

I got a medal. My buddy Paul lost a leg.


Copyright 2022 Kimberly Parish Davis

Kimberly Parish Davis is a fiction writer and the Director of Madville Publications.

Palestinian women gather near the Israel-Gaza border during a tent city protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, April 3, 2018. – REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

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6 comments on “Kimberly Parish Davis: Forever and Ever

  1. allisonfine
    August 19, 2022

    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • kim4true
      August 20, 2022

      Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vox Populi
        August 20, 2022

        good story, Kim. I like the way the incidents are layered, so the tragedy is seen through a number of different characters’ eyes.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Katherine Lawrence
    August 19, 2022

    Why? Why do “we” persist in killing? We because any time we share hate, lack compassion, or shut our eyes and plug our ears to it all, it continues.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      August 19, 2022

      yes, the cycle of murder and destruction continue far longer than the reasons that started it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • kim4true
      August 20, 2022

      Indeed. So many of us are willing and ready to be better than this. Now if we can just overwhelm the ones with less altruistic motives, maybe we can improve our world. I still have hope.

      Liked by 1 person

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