Archive of Issues
Archive of Narrations
Syndic Literary Journal



Charles Rammelkamp

Narration by Charles Rammelkamp

“All I know is the parade and fireworks have been canceled here in Potawatomi Rapids; don’t know what they plan to do in Washington this year.” My father and I share the same politics, roughly, but I didn’t think the hospital was an appropriate place for the tirade that was sure to come. We were here for his scheduled coronary artery bypass surgery. The hospital hadn’t been overwhelmed with COVID patients yet, and they’d even allowed me to escort him into the hospital, since I’m a physician, too, a third-year resident in internal medicine in Ann Arbor, across the state. I’d come up to help him through this, for the first week, after which he should be able to get around on his own, though full recovery would take about twelve weeks.

“Well, after last year’s gaudy military parade with the tanks on the mall, the one our ‘morbidly obese’ president demanded, like the petulant little toddler that he is, I can’t imagine the big baby canceling a ‘really huge’ display in favor of something as trivial as public health, can you?”

“I don’t really care. I just miss going to the park and watching the show from our car,” I said. Actually, I don’t much care for pyrotechnics, I was just trying to divert Pop from his rant. Don’t get me wrong, I can thrill to a “Peony” or a “Chrysanthemum” burst in the night sky as much as the next guy, or the one that looks like a comet spreading its arms, but I can take it or leave it, actually.

“Remember that year when Mom was still alive and we all went to the lake? The city launched all those fireworks from a boat out on the water, and –”

“That bastard Reagan was president then, wasn’t he?” Pop interrupted. “You were what, seven? Eight?”

I looked around nervously at the nurse. This is a Republican town, and it didn’t seem like good juju to get on the wrong side, politically, of the people in whose hands you were placing your life. But Yvonne (she’d introduced herself like a waitress in a restaurant) just smiled sympathetically, amused by Pop’s piss and vinegar. Who knows? Maybe Yvonne was on our side.

“Just what the hell are we celebrating, anyway?” Pop went on. “Putting kids in cages? Obscene tax cuts for Trump’s cronies? Sucking up to Putin? America’s becoming a banana republic run by a corrupt family.” Pop had taught History at Potawatomi Rapids College before his retirement a dozen years before. I’d meant to follow in his footsteps but dropped out of a Ph.D. program to go to med. school. A late bloomer, in my late thirties. “Remember Papa Doc Duvalier and his son Baby Doc, in Haiti? Watch Trump try to install one of his numbskull children next. Or that idiot Kushner, who’s already screwed up the COVID response.”

Just then Doctor Monroe came into the room, a guy about my age. He went over the details of Yvonne’s general examination, then greeted Pop and me, and he and I shook hands.

“Your dad’s a tough bird,” Monroe said with admiration. “He’s been managing with the beta blocker and statins, but that left circumflex artery’s just wearing out. But it’s a fairly routine procedure.”

Monroe seemed to like talking shop with another doctor, probably not so great with the small talk, though with all of us wearing face masks, it kind of inhibited conversation anyway. But when he confirmed that I’d be staying with Pop for a week after he left the hospital, and I said my wife and kids and I were talking about coming up again over the July 4 weekend, he said, “Nice. They’re canceling the fireworks and parade, you know. Which is a good thing, of course, but I still feel bad for the high school kid who’d been picked to recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” referring to another Potawatomi Rapids Independence Day tradition.

“Yeah, we were just talking about that before you came in,” I said.

“The Horse’s Ass probably won’t cancel the fireworks in Washington,” Pop spat. “He was at Fort McHenry for Memorial Day, even though the mayor of Baltimore implored him not to come. Never misses a chance to be on TV, no matter that he puts lives in danger. Another campaign opportunity. What an embarrassment.”

Monroe laughed behind his mask then, his eyes crinkling up with amusement, and all at once I felt better about him. He was one of us, I realized, and Pop was going to be in good hands.

Even though I’m a doctor myself and should be inured to this, I’m also human, and I felt reassured when they wheeled him out to surgery. They’d keep him overnight, and I’d wait for my summons the next day to bring him home for the recovery.


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
History of Syndic
Write Letter / Contact Publisher
© all photos/text

Archive of Issues

Archive of Narrations