D. is a Vietnam War veteran, with 20 years in an Army combat team under his prodigious belt. He now pushes dustmops at a rural elementary school somewhere in the middle of Idaho, head custodian at a tiny community where the elementary, middle and high schools all sit side by side, sharing the same names.
He didn't like being in Vietnam. He's got a son in Iraq, and they don't like being there, either. But there they are, sailing through their stormy lives, and somehow D. has made it to 9 years at this school, and two grandchildren. All the friends who survived to retire with D. are long gone; D's wife thinks that this work, which he doesn't really need to do, is how he's managed to get through it all.
If D. had his way, he'd be hunting and fishing and ably holding down his station at the EZ-Boy all the live long day. Only grudgingly will he admit to the truth of his wife's claims. He wears half-tint aviator sunglasses, scrabbly whiskers and heavily stained plaid flannels. He has a droll, rough way of understating things, the kind of dry NCO humor that takes a bit before you realize that he is not, in fact, condescending to you. Small children can't get enough of him.
I'm re-reading 1 Henry IV, in anticipation of playing Hotspur for a podcast recording. There is a world of difference between D. and Falstaff, but, for purely physical reasons, D. now ambles around my imagination playing Falstaff, with the same rough, droll bark that D. uses to shepherd 2nd graders around the cafeteria.
I imagine D to be a kind of reformed, sober Falstaff--the one who actually is capable of killing Harry Percy. D is the anti-Falstaff, as it were. I have no doubt in my mind that this mighty bear of a man, who now wades through shoals of adoring kids for a living, most probably endured his own share of darkness and death-dealing while under arms.
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Happy Chinese New Year, everybody. Who let the dogs out?