“Yeah, I remember Charlie Brown,” he said through the haze of three straight bourbons with a lemon wedge and under the layer of gravel in his voice.
“What about him?”
That question hung in the air like the cigar smoke burning its ways into the walls with yellow insidiousness. I had read about the attack of the fifty foot robots on Thanksgiving and how Charlie Brown had led the resistance. I wasn’t sure why I was there. Maybe I felt like I owed something to my grandfather. Or maybe because everyone in this town just brushed it all under the rug without so much as a second thought. Or maybe simply because it made a good story and that’s what I’m always chasing to escape something. Anything.
November 20, 1973.
An unremarkable day as any other. The newspaper clippings and microfilms all talk about the parades and school plays that were going on. They talk about the football scores of teams long gone and of recipes that are simply to die for. They talk about how there was nothing much else to do except spend time with your families and enjoy the day off.
And yet, here I am in this dinghy trailer watching this old man hold on to his nasty blanket and rewatch the same cartoon of cats and dogs and mice and woodpeckers for the sixth time. I want him to tell me about that day. What can he remember? Where was he? What was it like? Did he ever get blood on his blanket? Did he ever feel guilty about it?
The pilgrims came over, cleared out those who were here first, and then celebrated the victory with plants ripped straight from the ground and game blasted out of the woods and fish robbed from the streams. Typical story as any go. Yet, they could have never imagined when the Great Pumpkin grew vengeful after not being welcomed to town and hatching a plan that took almost a month’s time to implement. They could never have imagined the idea that the Great Pumpkin, so gracious and respectful, could let loose the army of robots. They could never imagine the bloodshed as the adults were crushed underfoot and the children who took up arms underneath the banner of yellow and black stripes.
“He led us. He was a true leader. A man with true grit in heart and guts in his teeth. He took out at least fifteen out with that football of his. I can still see him sitting on top of the mound of dirt from the crater blasts and telling all of us to get going. I remember him charging into the enemy lines as we all followed sheepishly. I remember Lucy sitting down and crying into her hands. I remember Peppermint Patty still getting lost in the smoke and never being seen again. I can still hear the screaming of The Flying Ace’s plane going overhead as we crawled through the mud. That poor sonofabitch was shot down and burned up. He truly was someone worthy of a medal.”
Tears welled in his milky eyes as he spoke. His hands started to shake and he dropped the glass of dark amber poison onto the originally brown, almost now black, carpet. I stood up off of the small couch with the ripped pillows and bent over to collect the bigger fragments.
“Don’t worry about it kid!” he roared.
“Infact, get the hell out of here,” he almost whispered. With that, the trailer door slammed shut and I was met with the cold rush of November air. Almost forty-eight years after the time the robots attacked and the feasts all got interrupted. Above the static of the TV and the murmured curses about the past and how some things are best unearthed, I think I heard crying.
What about him indeed?
Daniel Wartham is a current grad student and spends his free time watching movies and taking walks to Waffle House at 2am. He can be found on Twitter at @DanielWartham.