June 8th. That’s my birthday. We Gemini’s are known to party. And party is what I’m gonna do tonight. Know why? Because even though it’s not my birthday, New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Halloween, or St. Paddy’s Day, today is bigger than all of them put together. Yep, today, December 1, 1969, was the draft lottery and my birthday came up last…number 366.
That means that babies, old men in wheelchairs, and inmates in prison are going to the jungle to be cannon fodder before they send me there. My sigh of relief is going to last at least a week. At least two cases of Schlitz and about an acre of dope. I may never come back. Think I’ll jump into my Bug and head to Vegas. Jerry will want to make the trip with me too. And maybe Donnie. Three of us with all our stuff is about as much as we can cram into that little shitbox.
“Jerry, hey, it’s Dave. Two words…road trip. Grab all your shit and I’ll pick you up at 3. We’re goin’ to Vegas to celebrate. I got picked last…366. See you in an hour. No? Why? What happened? Our birthdays are only four days apart. You’re number 20? Crap. What about Donnie? He was born like four months after us…I think on October 18th. Hold on, I’m gonna look in the paper. Shit! He’s number 5 and he’s not even in college. He always said he’d go to Canada before going to ‘Nam. Maybe we change our destination. How about Vancouver? I hear that place is a great party town. It doesn’t even get that cold in the winter. I’m calling him now. I’ll call you back.”
“Hey, it’s me. Yeah, I talked to Donnie. His parents are freakin’ out. You know his brother Barry is three years older and he’s over there now flying helicopters. Dale, his cousin, got killed there in ’67 and he was just 19. They don’t know what to do, but I wasn’t kidding, I think he’s going to Canada. This sucks. At least we’re in school. We gotta stay there, keep our 2-S’s, OK? Maybe Donnie could say he’s a queer. They don’t take queers. I gotta re-think this road trip. I’m losin’ my buzz. Seems like most of my buddies didn’t do as good as me. And Sam came up with number 2 and said he doesn’t even care. He was goin’ over to kill gooks anyway…just like his dad did in Korea. That whole family is crazy.”
Fast forward fifty years. Jerry got called up early in ’70 and, being the jock that he always was, he went straight through to the Green Berets. He made sergeant and was severely wounded in the Easter Offensive in ’72. He never fully recovered, physically or mentally. I lost touch with him around 1980. The last I heard he was living on the streets in Portland.
Donnie actually moved to Canada…Calgary. He met a nice girl, got married, had kids and found his way into the oil business. He made a pile of money and when Carter pardoned all of the draft dodgers in ’77 he didn’t bother coming back. We stay in touch, mostly trading Christmas cards.
And me, I got my degree in education. Went on to a master’s in history. I’ve taught high school history for nearly forty years. And still not a day goes by that I don’t think about the day I “won” the lottery. Were any of us winners back then? I guess it’s all just a game of chance.
– Alan Leafman
PS – You might have noticed from my photo that I have more than a passing interest in Crayola Crayons. I am working on a treatment for a musical about Binney and Smith and the story of the company they founded, Crayola Crayons (working title “Growing the Rainbow”). Starting in the 1880’s up to the present. Turns out Crayola is now owned by Hallmark so they are the natural production company to pitch it to. I’m just a little older than you but I’m sure you remember that your social status in grammar school was, in part, determined by the size of your Crayola box (big FB topic). You either owned the 48, which was then succeeded by the mega-sized 64 (with built in sharpener) or you suffered from acute Crayola envy. Working on character ideas and their roles but I’m pretty sure the star is going to be their ace, #1 salesman Roy G. Biv.
Totally inspired by my years of reading the Monday Morning newsletter and your trilogy. Thanks again. – Al