What’s the goal, though?
Later, back in the confines of the garage, Ollie and Hicky and I drank. This foray into their mission had fostered a pinch of camaraderie between myself and the crew. I had labored with them that night. I had participated. Now the beers had me curious about PLA aspirations.
You guys aren’t delusional as far as I can see. But you know these operations won’t stop wars or death. Any media attention you receive is one sparkle in a bucket of glass.
Ollie’s response felt rote.
Good argument. One that I’ve had with myself many times. Ya know, once I broke free of the violence, I stepped back and saw what I had done then I saw the consequential violence around me like ripples around rain drops.
Hicky shook his head at us. I did not come prepared for a poetry contest, fellas.
Then butt out.
You see, Tower, my guilt broke me. As far as I could see, the only way forward was an ironic reversal of sorts.
So you’ve performed some sort of metaphysical accounting of your sins and hope to alleviate your guilt by subtraction?
What happens when you zero out?
Who’s to say I haven’t already, Tower?
You have done a lot. The LAPD armory. Those tanks in Russia…
And a fuckton more. Maybe enough to zero out. Maybe that’s why yer here. Maybe the violence owes me something now.
That’s a lot more anthropomorphizing than I’m comfortable with.
Look, I get it, Ollie. As an endeavor to atone, I see how one might be tempted. But your enemy is colossal. Immense. Bigger than anything. Bigger than everything.
Hicky pointed the open end of his beer bottle at me. That might be the point, Tower.
I used to feel that way.
Ollie laughed at me. There’s a pile of dead cops that says you’ve felt that way recently.
This is not a debate I wanna have right now.
Hicky straightened himself and pointed the bottle at me again. You said the enemy is colossal, Tower. You’re right. But only out of dumb luck. The enemy is gargantuan only because the enemy is in your own head. It is your head, your mind. And we both know that one mind contains the entire universe. The enemy is not the state or any singular shitbag like Cruz. They are vines to be hacked down on the journey, my friend. I think maybe you know this. The proximate obstacles are hurting you right now is all.
Proximate obstacles? That’s some pretty heavy shit, Hicky. And here you thought you weren’t a poet.
I’m an empath. It’s a curse. He paused for effect. Please don’t kill me.
This sent Ollie into violent amusement that bent him at the waist.
Cute, I said. You’re real cute.
Three years ago, he found a baby in a trash bag about a mile off the road. A young couple from Indianapolis adopted her in a storm of media a year later. He walks past the spot every weekend on his way to the river. He stops and looks and takes into account how time and growth have changed the geometry of the shadows under the scrub. He wouldn’t have seen the bag if it had happened this year. The grass is too tall. The rotten log has collapsed. This spring has been overcast. That baby girl would have died this year. A lot of things would be different if it had happened this year. The train is roaring through the valley. The wind rattles the poplar leaves above him. He would’ve been consumed in other thoughts if it had happened today. He never would have seen it. All he would have seen was the past. His wife. The tubes in her nose. He’s crying now, consumed in the slow grind of his past.
Three boys of various heights stood in stilted shock staring at the wadded lump of the pilot’s body as the deputy stood over it, speaking into the radio clipped to his lapel. The distorted tail of the small plane jutted from the jagged opening in third floor of the courthouse above them. Smoldering bricks, glass, and lumber granulated the verdant lawn of the square. An undulating intestine of black smoke bent over the top floor, the singular clue of the event for the townsfolk who had begun arriving by foot and vehicle. The deputy returned to his truck where he again directed the trio of youth to move across the street to the vacant store front. Sheriff Connery’s voice leapt from the speaker near near his ear. Jackson? Yeah, Sheriff. Tell me there ain’t a crop dusting rig on it. There is Sheriff; there’s a rig. Goddammit. Yeah, Sheriff, and Wally’s body is out here in the open, all broke up. Goddammit. I’m grabbin a sheet right now. Don’t bother, Jackson. But Sheriff—. I said leave him! he wanted this; he deserves the embarrassment! But Sheriff, there’s kids and women out here. Grow up, Jackson, just keep em off the grass!
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.