Monday, April 6, 2015

Dispatch #36: The Intersection of Politics and Friendship and
What the Hell Does This Have to do with Children’s Literature

by Lupe Fernandez

Let’s find out. We drop in on two high school friends on a road trip.

The quarter-pounder wrap crinkles under L_’s foot as he slams the brake pedal.

J_ braces himself against the Vega dashboard. “Watch it!," he says, "Do you know how to drive?”

“Hey, don’t bug me." L_ says. "I’m looking out for the feds.”

“We haven’t even done it yet," J_ says.

“You never know. We could have spies at school.”

“I didn’t tell anybody. Did you?”

“Who me? I don’t have friends.”

The Vega turns onto Telegraph Avenue. J_ looks at crumpled paper with the address for Draft Counseling Center. He peers out the window, searching the street names for Ward Street.

“There!" J_ says. "Are you sure this is the right place?”

“Hey man," L_ says, "this is Berkeley. Like Power to the People and all that.”

“Bunch of long-haired hippies.”

“You’re either part of the problem or part of the the solution.”

“Did you make that up?”

“I wish. It was the rally cry of the Sixties.”

“This isn’t the Sixties.”

“I missed out.”

J_ jabs his finger at a passing sign. “You missed the street!”

“Aren’t you looking?” L_ hunches over the steering wheel to see better out the dirty windshield.

“I’m looking," J_ says. "You’re driving too fast.”

L_ stops the Vega in the middle of the street. A truck behind him honks. L_ maneuvers a U-turn and then a left turn onto Ward street.

“That’s it.” J_ sees the address of a large two story house with steep eves and a wide porch.

L_ parks three blocks away. The boys walk up Ward Street to the house.

“You sure you want to do this?” J_ chews on his thumb nail.

“I don’t want to die killing people that speak my language," L_ says.

“You speak English.”

“The other language.”

“You can’t speak that one either," J_ says. "You’re flunking your foreign language class.”

“It’s not my war.”

“I’m proud of my country. My sister’s in the Army.”

“Good for her. I got a brother in the Air Force fighting the commies from a PX.”

“It’s not funny.” J_ slows his walk and stares at his brown shoes.

“It only gets funny when the Reds invade Disneyland," L_ puts up his palms as if he's surrendering.

“I’m serious," J_ says.

“I have all my body parts and I want to keep it that way.”

“You want somebody else to fight for your freedom.”

“Freedom to what? Invade other countries? It’s Viet Nam all over again.”

“All you do is criticize." J_ trails behind L_. "You hate school. You hate your family. You don’t care about anything.”

“You’re a rule follower. If they say jump, you jump. If they say fight you fight. If they die, you’ll die.”

L_ stop at a sign reading DC Center with an arrow pointing down a set of chipped steps to a basement entrance. The air smells of hashish and car exhaust.

“I don’t want to go to jail," J_ stops several feet away from L_.

“I don’t want to die," L_ says.

Leaves flicker sunset. A lamp clicks on in the basement window. A flower pot sits on a crack step. Laughter echoes from Telegraph Avenue.

The counselor sips his herb tea, listening to the angry young voices outside his office. There’s a scuffle. The flower pot crashes on the steps. The counselor steps outside and stands at the foot of the steps leading up to the street.

One boy remains.

Are they still friends? Should they be?


  1. As long as they weren't going to shoot up the draft office I am good. That rifle made
    Me nervous.

    1. Phew! Good thing assault rifles are only used for hunting deer.
      Banana Clip


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