ESSAY Peter E MurphyNWR Issue 109
The Dent on Private Murphy’s Forehead
Although Eddie Murphy didn’t earn his high school equivalency diploma until he was in his fifties, he always loved to read. Not just the New York Times
which he ripped through every day for most of his adult life, but books, good books, books by Ellison, Graves, Mailer, Percy, Purdy, Thurber, Updike, Waugh. He left whatever paperback he was reading on the window ledge by the front door so he didn’t forget it the next morn- ing when he commuted to work, riding the A train from Howard Beach into the city to hoist bricks and mortar and steel to the tops of buildings under construction.
He was a good-looking man with dark wavy hair slicked back. The one imperfection was a dent on his left forehead. I don’t know how else to describe it. He told me when I was little, that he was parading a dozen Japanese soldiers that he captured in Germany down Fifth Avenue when one of them tried to escape, grabbed his rifle and hit him on the head. ‘Daddy was a hero,’ I thought. My grandmother told me different. ‘He’s full of shit,’ she said laughing. ‘He fell off the back of an ice truck on Tenth Avenue when he was eleven.’
Eddie was a great swimmer. He said that during the war they didn’t fight on Sundays, so each week he swam the English Channel to France and took the subway back.
‘One time,’ he said, ‘I was off the coast of France, but I was too tired to go on, so I turned around and swam back to England.’ When I told this story to my friends, what a great swimmer my father was, they laughed at me and said I was stupid.
‘You calling my father a liar?’ I yelled, raising my fists. ‘You’re stupid,’ they laughed.
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Peter E Murphy
was born in Wales and grew up in New York City, where he operated heavy equipment, managed a night club and drove a cab. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University, which sponsors programmes for poets, writers and teachers in the USA and around the world. www.murphywriting.com
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