Fiction: Jacob Drew
What Can I Do with My Fondness for Saddam Hussein?
What can I do with my fondness for Saddam Hussein? I certainly can’t tell anyone. He is the worst man since Hitler (maybe even worse than Hitler, depending on whom you ask). The bodies have piled up in mass graves, or disappeared in torture houses. If I sound coy, I don’t mean to. This man gassed. This man starved. I’ve seen pictures of old women, enfolded in black cloth, holding the bones of their dead sons. There were small skeletons in these graves, too. It’s enough to make you reconsider having children.
So what can I do with this fondness? Name one thing that stops a conversation faster than, “Hey, I actually kind of like Saddam. Well, not like, but—” It certainly didn’t make Clarissa happy when I told her; we’d just had a breakfast of French crepes stuffed with salmon and basil cheese, the perfect meal after a morning of languid sex.
She stopped on the sidewalk. A bus drove by coughing out black exhaust. “He’s a really horrible person,” she said. But what she wanted to say was, “I can’t believe you had your dick inside of me an hour ago.”
The thing is, he gardens now. The Americans have set him up with a little villa of sorts. I’m sure it’s no vacation. He’s not eating crepes with basil cheese these days, but I hear, when he was still in charge, he would have feasts prepared for every meal. They’d do this at all of his palaces in Iraq, just in case he dropped by. If he didn’t, they would dump the food in the trash, as if to stick to the embargo. Do we call this tyrannical whimsy?
I’m sure the GIs push him around a little. They don’t give him fresh blades to shave with very often, which is obviously nothing, when you think about the things he’s done with blades. But there was a picture of Saddam in the New York Times. I don’t think he knew anyone was taking it—there was no bravado, no bluster. No defiant finger-wagging or mouth caught open as he proclaimed to a Western Journalist that he was the rightful ruler of the Iraqi people. It was just him in his courtyard, hunched over his rows of cabbage and tomato plants. He held a garden hoe and seemed to lean against it as he busily turned the soil. You could tell that when he moved, he doddered.
My grandfather had the greenest thumb of any man I’ve known, and he may have been the best man I’ve known. I remember, in his magical backyard, running between the rows of bulbous lettuce heads. Chasing bees. Snapping snapdragons.
That’s it. That’s the only connection. Just this fleeting image of two old men, tending gardens. One was a town doctor. All the soccer and baseball coaches I had growing up would say the same thing: “Sure, I know your grandfather. He delivered me.”
The other man is the worst man since Hitler.
Clarissa said to me, “You know it’s not funny. Don’t write this down.”
Since graduating from BU’s Creative Writing Program two years ago, JACOB DREW has been living in Somerville and earning his keep as a computer programmer. His website, thepokerhound.com, which analyzes poker statistics, was launched in August. On the writing front he has recently published an article on Right Whales in Wildlife Conservation, and he’s very excited to be publishing his first work of fiction in 236.
(c) copyright 2005, Jacob Drew; author retains all rights.