King is an Army veteran, visual artist and creative writer. His poems have appeared in Number One, The Chiron Review, and other publications. He enjoys sports, the outdoors and almost anything associated with the arts in and around Nashville.
The Army is usually a man’s plan B or C or D — that’s the first thing I learned through military service.
I believe Michael Stewart to be a model example of the caliber of person who matriculates there: A habitual liar to a poetic extent, Stewart was supposedly a starting tailback at a Texas college and he also played baseball in the minor leagues. These were a couple of his lesser fibs. He was 5-foot-6, about 125 pounds, and he resembled a leprechaun both in voice and persona — not exactly a vision of athletic domination, needless to say. For any fool who believed a single word he had to say, the Army was definitely Stewart’s plan B, as a blown-out kneecap had ended his journey to NFL stardom and The Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Yet the Army was thrilled by his busted kneecap, and they jumped at the chance to acquire his services: Therein lies the eternal rub, even one the great Stewart could not wholly explain.
I hated his guts when I first met him — mildly insane and completely annoying as he was — but one day I saw him in a different light. He was fairly drunk and in a truth-telling mood and finally confessed that he was merely a loser — 25 in the Army was a “loser” to him, and I was shocked to have witnessed the truth behind his lies: deep-down he possessed the spirit of greatness. He wanted more but did not know exactly where greatness could be found, or the form in which it may reside within himself.
I tried to console him, to assure him that he wasn’t a loser, but he would have none of it: He was certain of his plight. He was also certain he was going to hell for his lies, and I saw a man broken, beaten down by life. I was a dopey nineteen-year-old who harbored his own illusion of greatness, and I felt horrible for Stewart and what he believed.
Yet the very next day he was bouncing from the walls — Stewart had returned from the precipice of hell just as brazen as ever, and I learned to accept him for who he was. We even became half-ass friends or something of the like.
I inherited that same bravado, an alcohol problem, and a tangible madness from Stewart and the U.S. Army. He’s lost somewhere in Texas combing the deserts on LSD or just whacked on Guinness — spinning grandiose tales in suicide taverns to the half-ass cowboys and the haggard drifters. They’ll consume his bait fucking hook-line-and-sinker. Michael Stewart, now 41, could put Twain to shame as far as timeless yarns.