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  • Jessica Evans

Louis Blake Prefers to be Called Red

Louis Blake was born three months and twenty days before his biological father, Sam Coe, died in an explosion on the other side of the world. Louis, who preferred to be called Red on account of his hair, never knew Sam or his mama, Edith. Edith was aware she was pregnant when Sam laced up his boots and headed for the sandbox, but couldn’t find the courage to tell Sam.

Louis Blake, orphan, cherub, and unwanted, grew up in Nashville to a doctor-lawyer couple who spoke their own dialect of love. His eyes were quarter shaped and bright spring green, so bright that his friends teased him about being them being fake. Red’s July birthday was close enough to the 4th that it felt like all the fireworks were for him. Every year he celebrated his own life and America so closely that the two became synonymous. Lacrosse player, future Stanford student, trombone player, voted by his 2002 graduating class to be most likely to succeed.

Louis Blake never understood how close he came to being someone else. In 2004, when the surge in Iraq was at its full height, and some of his Sigma Chi brothers thought about joining as officers after graduation, Red shook his head and pounded his fists on the table, his eyes becoming saucer shaped, flaming. He told them to rethink their choices, that no war was worth dying for, even if America was at risk. His fraternity brothers shook their heads, asked him why he was studying poli-sci if he wasn’t willing to fight. That evening, Red happened to walk past a television airing cable network news, reporting on the recent casualties from Iraq, and for a split second, an image flashed across the screen that looked a whole lot like his own reflection, the same round shaped eyes, bright green to the point of looking artificial. Red shook it off, sure that there was no one in his lawyer-doctor family who would be dumb enough to go to war. He shouted for his brothers to come look at the screen but by the time they got there, the image was gone, a ghost-image of his heritage gone in an instant.

Jessica Evans writes from Arlington, VA. She is the EIC for Twin Pies, poetry editor for Dress Blues, and serves as a mentor for Veteran's Writing Project. Work is forthcoming in The Louisville Review, Outlook Springs, LEON Literary Review, The Wild Hunt and elsewhere. Connect with her on Twitter @jesssica__evans 

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