the stories inside cigar-tin stories

Above: cigar-tin story #38.

Dropping off four cigar-tin stories to S today, she's buying them as gifts to her friends on a weekend getaway. She says it'll be fun to read the stories to each other (over drinks, I hope) -- which is very nice to hear. And it got me thinking how I always post the artwork for cigar-tin stories but never the stories inside. Well, I just posted one in the cigar-tin stories group on Facebook, and also in the 'Notes' section on my own page, and now I'll post it here.

Parachute Man

Just before Easter Break we had a special afternoon at school. All the grades went to the gymnasium and sat on mats and Miss Goody, the principal, showed a film called Watership Down, really it was more like a cartoon. Then she talked about EMPATHY. Supposedly, EMPATHY is about how everyone should see everyone else as a human being, and value each other, just like the rabbits in Watership Down valued each other, because human beings have DIGNITY, and all life is PRECIOUS, and we should all try to get along, especially over the Easter Break, and not fight and make our parents crazy. But I kept thinking about the part in the movie when all the rabbits get trapped underground by the bulldozers, and they get all jammed up and try to crawl over each other and claw each other bloody trying to get out, and then that other part where Bigwig fights General Woundwort and there’s lots of bloody clawing there too, and then the dog comes and kills all the bad rabbits and General Woundwort jumps up to fight him. Yeah right. They don’t show what happened but there’s no way a rabbit could beat a dog. No way.

Then on the ride home from school Patrick stabbed me in the leg with a Bic pen. It didn’t go in deep but it broke the skin. I had a red dot of blood with blue ink around it. Mom looked in the rearview mirror but I didn’t make a noise or do anything, just waited until she looked away and then grabbed the pen out of Patrick’s hand. I think he thought I was going to stab him back but I was trying to do EMPATHY.

Part of my Easter basket was a Parachute Man. What’s that? Patrick asked. He was eating my Cadbury egg but I didn’t care. Nothing, I said. As soon as he went upstairs I snuck out to the backyard.

Patrick doesn’t like going outside and mom never makes him because he’s spoiled so I knew he wouldn’t follow me but I didn’t want him to see me from the upstairs window either so I went into the alley behind the garage and took the Parachute Man out of his box. The Parachute Man was like a soldier or an airborne ranger, he had a machine gun slung over his back and a pair of binoculars and he was completely green, it was camouflage for when he hit the ground. He looked pretty grim. In the movies the kind of guys like my Parachute Man get shot a lot, usually while they’re still drifting down and then they scream and kick their legs and go limp and then the parachute lands on top of them like a tent with no poles.

For a cheap present in my Easter basket the Parachute Man worked pretty good. You just had to make sure you folded the parachute up in a ball against his back and then hold it there while you threw him into the air. He looked pretty cool up there. You could really imagine him floating down through enemy fire. But after about twenty throws it gets kind of boring, you know? It would have been cool to have him land in water but the puddles were all frozen over, there was still snow on the ground and the mud was hard, too. I was right behind Mrs. Kelly’s house and I knew she was dead and her house was up for sale so I went into her backyard to play and that’s when I got the idea to throw the Parachute Man into her tree. It took three tries but I got him way up there, right in the middle.

Now every day when I get home from school I go into Mrs. Kelly’s yard to see him. The snow is all gone and it’s too warm for a toque and Mrs. Kelly’s house is still for sale and I’m surprised that the Parachute Man hasn’t blown down yet but he’s stuck up there pretty good. He looks cool, trapped up there like that. When I’m bored in class or at the supper table or before I fall asleep at night, I like to think about him and make up stories about why he’s trapped and how long he’ll be up there. I have a lot of questions like, why does he have his machine gun strapped to his back and not in his hands, so he’s ready to take on the enemy? I’d take a machine gun over binoculars any day. The binoculars are kinda gay. The Parachute Man isn’t very muscular either. Doesn’t he work out? For a soldier he doesn’t have much DIGNITY. And why does he have that blank look on his face? It’s like he’s dreaming or something. Sometimes I even imagine he’s a girl, that I’m the captain of the parachute regiment and she’s my girlfriend and she came along on a mission and now she’s trapped and I have to rescue her. Or maybe she was trying to rescue me. It’s a little weird though, so I only imagined that two or three times.

Maybe the Parachute Man will never get down. I even thought about showing him to Patrick, I’d bet him five bucks that he couldn’t get him down and then he’d try to climb up there and because he’s such a girl he’d fall and smash his head open and I bet it would look like jam inside. I’d have to put some big rocks around the bottom of the tree first. But then I think about Miss Goody and Watership Down and what she said about all life being PRECIOUS and I decide not to do it. Besides, I’d rather keep the Parachute Man all to myself. That way he’s my prisoner.

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"Parachute Man" was originally published in the Queen's Feminist Review, #17 Spring 2009 issue.

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