Essays & Shorts

FEATURED STORY:

Whitmore, 1969Back from Vietnam, seeking salvation in Bob Dylan

by Dominic Smith

Atlantic Monthly CoverWe drove under a tin-white sun. In Des Moines, my brother and I had each dropped a tab of acid and now the Midwest rushed at us—great rows of corn and swaths of open field, a startling horizon of alfalfa haze. We stared out at a diorama of little wooden bridges and clapboard houses, processions of blinking radio towers, neither of us speaking. My brother, Whitmore, drove like a man skipping bail, forcing my father’s Oldsmobile into a high-pitched whinny. He streamed his hand out the window, his knuckles whistling in the wind. Slightly mesmerized, I watched his hand as it fishtailed into an elegant sine curve. We were listening to Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home on the eight-track. It was the summer of 1969. Men were getting ready to land on the moon. The girls I knew wore slacks and smelled of sandalwood and cherry vodka. You could fit the whole world inside an album cover.

My brother had his other hand on the wheel, his index finger raised like a flagpole, in exclamation at the music. He seemed to be saying, Here, this is what I’ve been trying to tell you. When &ldqou;It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” played, I saw a single tear appear in my brother’s right eye. I looked out my window at the neon-green farms and the heat shimmering off the blacktop roads, pretending not to notice. Whitmore was twenty-three—four years older than I was. He had returned to us a few months earlier, after a two-year stint in Vietnam. In the Los Angeles airport, as he disembarked from his trans-Pacific flight in uniform, a young woman with braids spat at him. This event had dogged him all summer.

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OTHER WRITING:

The Projectionist (2004)
Winner 2004 Gulf Coast Fiction Prize
The Hazelbrook Herald (2002)
Winner Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize
String Theory (2003)
3rd Place, Raymond Carver Short Story Award
Salinger’s Nine Stories: Fifty Years Later
The Antioch Review (2003)