When we were arguing on my twenty-fourth birthday, she left the kitchen, came back with a pistol, and fired it at me five times from right across the table. But she missed. It wasn't my life she was after. It was more. She wanted to eat my heart and be lost in the desert with what she'd done, she wanted to fall on her knees and give birth from it, she wanted to hurt me as only a child can be hurt by its mother.
When he was dry, he believed it was alcohol he needed, but when he had a few drinks in him, he knew it was something else, possibly a woman; and when he had it all -- cash, booze, and a wife -- he couldn't be distracted from the great emptiness that was always falling through him and never hit the ground.
At the sight of the flag he tasted tears in his throat. In the Stars and Stripes all the passions of his life coalesced to produce the ache with which he loved the United States of America - with which he loved the dirty, plain, honest faces of GIs in the photographs of World War Two, with which he loved the sheets of rain rippling across the green playing field toward the end of the school year, with which he cherished the sense-memories of the summers in his childhood, the many Kansas summers, running the bases, falling harmlessly onto the grass, his head beating with heat, the stunned streets of breezeless afternoons, the thick, palpable shade of colossal elms, the muttering of radios beyond the windowsills, the whirring of redwing blackbirds, the sadness of the grown-ups at their incomprehensible pursuits, the voices carrying over the yards in the dusks that fell later and later, the trains moving through town into the sky. His love for his country, his homeland, was a love for the United States of America in the summertime.
The traveling salesmen fed me pills that made the lining of my veins feel scraped out, my jaw ached... I knew every raindrop by its name, I sensed everything before it happened. Like I knew a certain oldsmobile would stop even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside, I knew we'd have an accident in the rain. I didn't care. They said they'd take me all the way.