Thursday, July 1, 2010

Would You Rather Be Happy Or Right (Abridged Version)

Salute - 418 Words
Lindsey Thompson

I’m sitting to coffee at midnight, looking over my haggard brother just home from the front. He takes a drink from his own container, hidden deep beneath layers of leather, and shoots me another wild-eyed gaze. He hasn’t slept in days; I can see that in the bloodshot vessels streaming across to the iris, I can smell it on his tainted breaths. I didn’t expect him to call for me, of all our family, to pick him up. We aren’t close; nothing between us is similar, save a Y chromosome, and the identities of our parents. Neither of us says a word as the second hand ticks and the fryers sizzle. Finally, after another sip—this time of coffee—he opens.

“I know what I said when I signed up for this. You and I both knew the money was a big part of it, with everything paid for and thousands to spare. But that wasn’t all of it, you saw that too. I told you I was ready to go bust into towns and shoot down some Arabs and terrorists, that I wanted to protect my country by killing whoever ran into my fucking crosshairs.” Another sip from the hidden elixir. A breath, a clearing of the head. I remain silent, stoic, my insides churning. “Fucking Arabs were easy to pick off. Turban-heads.” Here he leaks a sardonic smirk. “I was damn good.”

“There was this battle. We don’t go close range much, but we were in a town. And…there was this kid. Maybe 13 years old. God, there’s no way his voice could have dropped yet. He screamed when he saw me, eyes full of fear. He scared the shit out of me, coming around a corner. I…I didn’t mean to shoot, I didn’t know I had pulled the trigger until his head rolled back.” The tears are coming now. “Then his older sister rounds the corner and sees him, and she screams like I’ve never heard a human yell before. She glares at me, head and hands covered in his blood, and grabs a gun, screaming in Arabic.” His breathing is heavy. “I killed her too. I shot them both so fucking full of holes to shut out the sounds…”

His mouth opens, but nothing comes. He lifts a shaky hand to his mouth, and tears begin to trickle between his fingers. I see that his sleep is haunted, his silence shattered. All I can do is sit across and watch him crumble, for I am frozen.

I Want To Destroy Something Beautiful - Josh Woodward

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