The New American Hero

(A quick look)

by Noga Sklar

Can you see the handsome young man sitting by my side, driving through the forest behind the wheel of his decrepit truck?

Yes. I would trust him with my life. Sip of vodka.

We left Alan behind at home, sleeping.

Have any of you ever “driven through the forest” along narrow, temporary roads,  barely visible, fated to be swallowed eventually by the “temperate rain forest”? Excessive quotation marks in a strange, unfriendly world.

I wonder if my stepson collects guns, but I’ve never asked. I wasn’t ready to discuss the answer. Plus, I’m too ignorant of firearms or calibers to engage in a conversation. He seems ready to face anything, ranging from a bear emerging from the woods to the Chinese invading the United States.

That’s how Alan explains to me the impressive number of water bottles under the sink in Erik’s prefab home. Attack. Invasion. I found out it is just a routine emergency measure, in case the water freezes inside the pipes in the morning cold.

What a great kid (sip of vodka). What a great soldier (there’s good proof of that). What a great lover (I can only imagine).

He is 25, and this is the first significant amount of time we’ve spent together. When I first met him five years ago, we were total strangers, but now, for some reason, we are mother and son. I’m his “madre,” half-Mexican perhaps (shot of vodka). I cook for him; we venture together into the forest; he gives me a kiss on the cheek when he leaves for work. It’s great.

Suddenly, I share a deep love with my American son, stepson. Neither of us seems to care that he did not grow inside my womb. Exaggeration. Poetic license. The next moment I start to worry about him. Why would he stop at the gas station to buy a bottle of blue water? It appears to be water, but the plastic bottle makes it look like a blue liquid, perhaps some benign variation of absinthe — “Neuro” something. It promises to relieve stress and increase mental acuity.

He offers me a sip of his drink, which is freely consumed here. Weird America. I hesitate, preferring to stick to the familiar vodka. Ice cold, a twist of lime. Speaking of which, I can’t deal with this refrigerator that crushes ice. I make a mess on the kitchen floor. Daisy, the dog, licks it up with pleasure. Right, a strange world. Another sip of vodka.

I am proud of my son, who is some kind of evolved human I have never met before. “I’ve never seen anything like him in my entire life,” says Alan, in reference to something else, but it fits beautifully. Erik is highly focused, an entrepreneur, but I won’t tell you what his company does. I never know if what he does is top secret or not.

It is his second enterprise. The previous one fell into oblivion thanks to the Brazilian server I hired to run his website. I paid for eight, nine useless months, during which the website was never online. Ah, Brazilians.

Yes, I still remember.

My son’s first business plan was to sell lumber and breed horses on a forest property he had bought a couple of years ago, but now it is up for sale. I made the video and designed the website. It did not last. Time goes on.

“Don’t you think you’d better wait?” I had dared to ask, as he had told me the region was now expanding. Alan had advised me against meddling in his child’s plans.

Erik tells me the mortgage is a burden. He wants to get rid of the expense, to free himself of the dream he dreamed not so long ago, from the need to hunt for his own survival, from the forest, from his so-called autonomy. He yearns to enjoy life after ten years of intensive work in the Navy. Bondage. I understand. Another sip of vodka.

“Take another sip of vodka, Dad,” our son urges, hoping Alan will finally stop bugging us. We laugh.

Yes, I must confess, that’s all I’ve ever wanted: someone to help me make Alan stop talking. I can’t relay the conversation between father and son that followed; all I can say is that it touched on bullets, gauges, the unexpected things that happen when out shooting.

I left. I’d rather dream.

The property Alan and I want has a broad, beckoning horizon. We have plans to build a beautiful home there.

I’m suddenly irritated that I hopelessly ruined my plans to take a brief vacation. We’ll see. Provided the Chinese delay their attack, of course.

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