We are excited to announce the publication of our most recent Ploughshares Solo, “Heading for a Total Eclipse” by John Philip Drury! In our Ploughshares Solos series, we publish longer stories and essays first in an affordable, digital format, and then in our annual Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Series. For more information and some great reading material, check out our previously published Solos, or the Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Volume 2.
About “Heading for a Total Eclipse”
In this touching and humorous essay, John Philip Drury recounts coming of age during the Vietnam Era. With a low draft number and an exit from college looming, Drury faces the imminent possibility of fighting in a war that he opposes. In the meantime, he tries and abandons a dream to become a songwriter, labors mightily to lose his virginity, and looks to the adult world around him for models of what he most wants to be—an artist. “Heading for a Total Eclipse” takes a look at a young man’s attempt to maintain his integrity during a turbulent era, and in the face of impossible choices.
Here’s an excerpt from the Solo:
As the program began, a congressman who served on the Armed Services Committee reached down into a glass barrel and pulled up a blue capsule bearing the name of a month and a day. He was followed by young people, both male and female, who extracted the rest of the birthdays, plunging their arms into the big fishbowl. It didn’t take long for the suspense to end, since my birthday, June 4, emerged as number 20.
I was stunned at my misfortune. I wasn’t looking forward to returning to the one-bedroom apartment I shared with another sophomore, Glenn Twilley, whose lottery number turned out to be 366, the very last birthday selected by Selective Service, the extra day of leap-year. I felt annoyed, even bitter about the irony, since he was a Republican who supported the war—not that he wanted to go to Vietnam and do any fighting himself.
It struck me as ironic that earlier that year I had written, in a letter to a friend, “If I’m drafted I won’t go; if I go, I’ll enlist.” Now I was number 20, assured of being drafted if I ever lost my student deferment. On campus, male classmates greeted each other not with their names but with their numbers, laughing if they got above 200, groaning if they didn’t break into triple digits. Life, after all, was a numbers racket.