“The C-123s? I’m not sure if we have any of them. They might have one in the museum.”
“Oh. Those. Oh sure, we have two of them on the west side, but the rest are fenced off. You can’t get to ’em. Nobody goes in there.”
“Well, the toxin.”
Peter Schuck, author of Agent Orange on Trial, notes that, “as early as 1952, Army officials had been informed by Monsanto Chemical Company, later a major manufacturer of Agent Orange, that 2,4,5-T was contaminated by a toxic substance.”
BY THE TIME I reached adolescence, there was no longer any doubt as to whether I was like other young men. I was different, less than, not quite whole. Instead of attempting to come to terms with what I have now come to realize is a minor glitch in DNA, instead of facing up to my own uniqueness, the shape of my particular handprint, I tried hard to deny it, to prove to myself that I was in no way distinct from the two hundred boys and girls I entered Dixon High School with in 1988.
I know how lucky I am—that things could be much worse.
I look down at my hand in its present state, nearly three decades after the last surgery, after I finally said no more—no more casts, no more stitches, no more IV needles, no more Darth Vader masks spewing anesthesia into my lungs. I look down at the rumpled flesh, the grafts sewn between the spaces opened up to give me fingers, grafts of crotch skin, grafts that grow hair, and the lines of scars from the stitching, and the two tiny inner digits, and the middle knuckle that bears no crop, and the pinky that juts straight out, and the short, thick thumb,
and I am glad that at six years of age I finally said no.