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Contemplating the Memphis Belle
A short exploration of the space between the fact and fiction of B-17s, Friends, Families, Model Building and Carpet Bombing
Billy Bud
Billy and I were best friends and, as it is with boys, best careful competitors. We played with Belle until we were too old to hide ourselves in play. Then we tried to kill each other. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Where do the bullets go, the ones that miss? I don't think Billy understood my question - maybe he did. According to Billy, Americans didn't miss and adults don't lie. We began to circle in that pre-teen argument space. Perhaps I threw in something, words I heard in that program starring Walter Cronkite, "Six O'Clock Vietnam". A question about things, about good guys and bad guys.

He saw concrete and factual steel, I saw vaguely less, perhaps a shadow of the beast, masquerading as my Belle, raining death on us all.

Somehow the subject of our Mothers got into it. Somehow all of our arguments had something to do with the subject of our Mothers. There was tension. There was escalation. The space between our words got bigger, the details less clear.

Beautiful Belle, beautiful Mother, Beautiful Beast raining death, right and wrong. When boys get to an angry place beyond words they hit. We fist fought. To a draw. Only that once. We never discussed it again.

The argument never completely went away. We began a new kind of best friendship. He would ask me questions to which he already knew the answers and I would answer as if I didn't know he knew. We were silently jealous of each other's girl friends.

Do you sense the passage of time here? In time, we came to ignore each others accomplishments and benevolently acknowledge each others faults. We bought our first grass together. Primo bud.

He called me 'Dude', I called him 'Billy Bud'.
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