The Noise

Eric Fischl, "A Funeral" (1980) (image via

It's such a bummer for me, the way in which my dad was incinerated last week, along with our mule, the bad guys, and Aunt L.

The noise had been there for a month, making everybody nervous. Especially Aunt L, who was having a devil of a time folding laundry and cutting pieces of newspaper to line her shoes and making soup out of rocks and asphalt and that can of tomatoes we found in the store the next town over, where they had heard the noise last spring and then the explosion and the leftover rubble was not yet completely picked over by our starving neighbors in this miserable, struggling set of hill towns in Yemen we call home. 

Cousin Ali-Ali blames it on Fucking America. I'm not sure what he's talking about. I mean, I have some dim awareness that there is a place far away, where people do not stuff newspapers into their aunt's shoes, because she is old and it is cold and she has sores and no socks. I gather in this far-away place that not only do they have socks, but they have things out of which to make soup that are more appealing than hunks of road and blown-up building and cans of tomatoes spared the fiery destruction of the things everyone here calls the noise.

And it's funny, because — looking out the window right now, well it's not so much a window anymore, more like a blood-splattered and fire-scarred chasm and reminder of my father's day of being blown up. So I'm looking out this horrible hole, up to the bright blue sky, where I am looking for the source of this noise, high among the clouds and birds.

It makes my heart clutch, reminding me not of seeing lovely Samir, my secret boyfriend whose beard is so long now, but of looking deep into the dark pit where my dad hides the guns. And in addition to this terrible feeling in my heart, this desire to pick up one of those guns, which is an internal thing that is hard to describe, there it is, also, this noise. This buzzing. This faint whine.

Believe-you-me, it is not a pleasant sound to wait for, not in the weeks before the boom, some thing high up in the sky, I guess, zooming around up there, all day and night, looking at us, before it blew up my house, father, and those guys Samir has been hanging out with -- guys my very reasonable father was actually trying to talk out of going to the capitol. And it is much less pleasant to hear this drone now, after his death.

OK, so I am crying a lot now and am shaking a little and can't feel the tips of my fingers and so I am biting my lip to try to stop the bad thoughts I'm having and regretting a little all that internet research I did for Samir, about how to build a bomb and smuggle it onto a commercial airplane, and I can taste the blood in my mouth and I am thinking of what it was like, to see the puddle that my father had become, the fact we couldn't find his face, just his eyes, and I must stop before I begin moaning. Hoo-boy. This is not easy, life without my father, and now my mom spends all day in bed, sobbing and coughing from the cold that is let in by the blast hole, so sad she doesn't even notice when I stole away to the internet cafe next to the shuttered school, intent on destruction.

I try to think about this place, where they have tasty, more appealing soups than our rock-tomato concoction, where they have actual socks that are not made of newspaper, though Aunt L is dead and her feet disintegrated so it matters less? I have been told it is in America that young men with headphones and a screen are watching us on the ground here. Maybe they can see me washing dishes, right now, trying not to break down into hysterics and the insanity of a girl with not so many options, whose father was recently disintegrated? I'm not sure if anyone can really see me.

But, lordy, that one young man could see enough, I suppose, to have pulled a trigger or pushed a button or toggled a switch or hit the space bar. Is that how it happens? Is it a spacebar that gets pressed when my father's blood and bone are in sight and a young man at a base wearing the headphones decides it is good and time and he hits the space bar? A fucking space bar? Why didn't they have some special ops guys hop in a Jeep, drive out here, talk to my dad, realize he was a good guy, and then take the so-called "freedom fighters," or whatever the hell they were, and who were really quite stupid, honestly, to jail, where a judge could decide if they had done something wrong? I mean, fuck. Don't kill my fucking dad.

Deep breath. Samir is knocking at the door. There are men with him, in a white pickup truck. I barely recognize him. Not just because of the beard and the rifle he is holding but because of the look of resignation in his brown-yellow eyes.

He touches my hand, and I touch his shoulder. We don't care that the men in the truck are watching us, clicking their tongues, because this is it, and then the driver is revving the engine and I have to admit, it is probably time for Samir to go. We both look up at the sky.

Nathan Deuel

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