In this month’s New Voices Revisited, we return to Neville F. Dastoor’s “IED.” In “IED,” we find the trauma of war following our narrator home, through a prose that is, at once, “powerful and vulnerable.”
I shouldered my bag and walked the ascending fairway. It should have been a fine place to be, a cartooned lawn and white butterflies dotting the path. It should have been all for me—the health from the tall sentry pines for me—if not for me then for no one.
In the war, Kirkwood conquered his swing. Firebase Cobra, Uruzgan province, he finagled a driver and twenty-dozen golf balls into an airdropped resupply. We punched tee holes into flattened MRE boxes and snapped blue chem lights and swung over the concertina wire into the night. The game was to match the strikes with the awful blasts from the howitzer. We couldn’t quite sync it. On our last box of balls, Kirkwood pulled in an immense breath and closed his eyes through a scything swing. The shot channeled whole the cannon’s monstrous boom. Kirkwood whooped and roared Behold my glory! and he flung the club and raised his tree-limb arms high until the bloomed explosion, the giant silhouetted there like some mythic conductor commanding fiery organs on the faraway hills. Then he turned sensei: Mind the breath, Chief. I swung and missed the thundering gun. The swing’s there, in the guts of the game. I kept hacking in dissonance. The fifth dimension fairways.
Kirkwood could teach you to golf or to kill or to breathe. Captain James T. Kirkwood, he stressed the T and the Kirk—Landed the starship Enterprise right down Taliban Lane, and don’t you forget it. Kirkwood, six-foot-whatever with John Henry forearms hauling double the gear and GI-Joe’ing it with red leg holes seeping, and when I was gagging he was stuffing friends’ body parts in bags, then patching and patting me: Mind the breath, Chief. Kirkwood, the black-Yeti vegan, yoked like egg batter, leapt out the Humvee after missions and shed his gear and dropped to the lotus pose at his bunk. He offered his bliss to the team, lined us up one night under a fat yellow moon. IED, boys, IED: Inhale. Exhale. Detach. Come out the other end loving every damn thing. I couldn’t.
Three months later, a Saturday morning, I drove broken Minotaur to Fort Bragg’s Stryker Golf Course. I paid for thirty-six holes and six Budweisers. The old Master Sergeant starter sniffed the air. Maybe rain, he said. We swapped gone-a’warring bonafides, and he winked and crooned—One hundred men will test today…but only three will win the green beret. I belted my golf bag to the cart and unzipped the side pocket and reached under the parachute cord for three balls and three tees and placed them and three beers in the cart’s holders and drove to Hole 1.