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Semper Fi

Dan Gilmore
Dan Gilmore
  • I meet this friend for lunch
  • once a month. His name is Bud.
  • Forty years ago Bud was swigging
  • Scotch in an officers’ club. I was
  • in Berkeley handing out anti-war
  • pamphlets. Now we’re both
  • in Green Valley, home of the
  • famous Green Valley Smile.
  • We don’t have a lot in common
  • except age and prostate problems.
  • We missed last month’s lunch.
  • Bud’s grandson, David, got
  • blown up in Iraq, so Bud went
  • to Arlington for his funeral.
  • I’m waiting near the wildflower
  • garden in the back patio
  • of the Toltec Grill. Butterflies
  • everywhere — yellow, red, and
  • orange. Wings fluttering around.
  • I’m sitting in a swirl of them.
  • I’ve never seen so many
  • butterflies in one place, and I’m
  • wondering how they keep
  • from bumping into one another.
  • Bud shows up cradling David’s flag.
  • It’s folded in a triangle — white stars
  • on a blue background. Bud always
  • has an excuse for being late.
  • This time his ophthalmologist
  • was running behind. “My eyes
  • are still dilated,” he says. “Can’t
  • see nothing but a blur.” He orders
  • a Scotch and tells me about David’s
  • burial — the twenty-one-gun salute,
  • how a lone bugler played taps.
  • He says it gives him goose bumps
  • to talk about it. “He died defending
  • our freedom,” Bud says. He raises
  • his glass. “To David,” he says.
  • “Semper Fi,” he says. I want to tell
  • him everything I know about Iraq,
  • but what can I say? So there
  • in the midst of all those butterflies,
  • I clink my glass against Bud’s and say,
  • “To David. Semper Fi.”

Dan Gilmore dropped out of high school at age 16 and worked as a professional drummer and bassist. Still illiterate at age 18, he took remedial classes, entered college, and eventually did postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley. Gilmore became chairman of the psychology department at Central University of Iowa, after which he was instrumental in founding Thomas Jefferson College, a grade-free innovative program that became a model for other such programs across the United States. His first novel, A Howl for Mayflower, was published in 2006. “Semper Fi” appears in Gilmore’s collection Panning for Gold, recently published by Imago Press, and is used with permission.

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Dan Gilmore
Dan Gilmore
  • I meet this friend for lunch
  • once a month. His name is Bud.
  • Forty years ago Bud was swigging
  • Scotch in an officers’ club. I was
  • in Berkeley handing out anti-war
  • pamphlets. Now we’re both
  • in Green Valley, home of the
  • famous Green Valley Smile.
  • We don’t have a lot in common
  • except age and prostate problems.
  • We missed last month’s lunch.
  • Bud’s grandson, David, got
  • blown up in Iraq, so Bud went
  • to Arlington for his funeral.
  • I’m waiting near the wildflower
  • garden in the back patio
  • of the Toltec Grill. Butterflies
  • everywhere — yellow, red, and
  • orange. Wings fluttering around.
  • I’m sitting in a swirl of them.
  • I’ve never seen so many
  • butterflies in one place, and I’m
  • wondering how they keep
  • from bumping into one another.
  • Bud shows up cradling David’s flag.
  • It’s folded in a triangle — white stars
  • on a blue background. Bud always
  • has an excuse for being late.
  • This time his ophthalmologist
  • was running behind. “My eyes
  • are still dilated,” he says. “Can’t
  • see nothing but a blur.” He orders
  • a Scotch and tells me about David’s
  • burial — the twenty-one-gun salute,
  • how a lone bugler played taps.
  • He says it gives him goose bumps
  • to talk about it. “He died defending
  • our freedom,” Bud says. He raises
  • his glass. “To David,” he says.
  • “Semper Fi,” he says. I want to tell
  • him everything I know about Iraq,
  • but what can I say? So there
  • in the midst of all those butterflies,
  • I clink my glass against Bud’s and say,
  • “To David. Semper Fi.”

Dan Gilmore dropped out of high school at age 16 and worked as a professional drummer and bassist. Still illiterate at age 18, he took remedial classes, entered college, and eventually did postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley. Gilmore became chairman of the psychology department at Central University of Iowa, after which he was instrumental in founding Thomas Jefferson College, a grade-free innovative program that became a model for other such programs across the United States. His first novel, A Howl for Mayflower, was published in 2006. “Semper Fi” appears in Gilmore’s collection Panning for Gold, recently published by Imago Press, and is used with permission.

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