He said, "It is terrible what happens." And "So, Mr. Tom, do not forget me"—an old-fashioned ring, pop tunes, salsa! salsa! the techno-version of Beethoven's Fifth, Fairouz singing how love has arrived, that's what he heard after they dropped the bombs, his ambulance crawling through smoke while cellphones going off here here here kept ringing— how the rubble-buried bodies' still living relatives kept calling to see who survived. And when he dug through concrete scree scorched black still smoking from the explosion, squadrons of jets droning overhead, houses blown to rebar, he saw cellphones' display lights flashing from incoming calls and when he flipped the covers, saw phone camera pics, pics of kids, wives, dads, single, grouped, some wearing silly party hats, scenes of hilarity compacted on the screen: it was "not good" he said, to have to take the phone out of the body part pocket: Hello—no, no, he's here, right here, but not— and then he'd have to explain...and so he stopped answering. A soft-spoken young man studying engineering, only moonlighting as an ambulance driver, he stood at the crossroads where Jesus turned water into wine and where, rising out of rubble, floating down the cratered street, bride and bridegroom came walking in the heat and as they came the wedding guests held up cell cameras clicking when the couple climbed, waving, into TRUST TAXI blazoned on the car's rear windscreen. The muezzin's nasal wail began to blare all over town, and the pair drove off to ululating shouts and cries, firecrackers kicking up dust in the square. The show over, we got back into our car, our tires crunching over rubble. As I sat there rubbernecking at a burned-out tank, he shrugged: "All this—how embarrassing." And "I hope this is the story you are after."
Copyright © 2011 by Tom Sleigh. Reprinted from Army Cats with the permission of Graywolf Press.