I’m not going out there, Nate, he told me with a smile.
You have to, I said. No, I don’t have to do anything but make a decision and I’ve made it. You have to go, I told him, you promised me, Sean. I lied. He draped the ammo belt across the back of the chair and sat down at the table. What if I told you I lied to you too, that I have a gun? You would never lie to me, Nate, you’ve never told a lie as long as I’ve known you. Sean smiled again and closed his eyes, pulling his stocking cap from his bald head. The sweat suddenly flooded his features. They’ll come through the doors and the windows and the goddamned floor, Sean, they’ll destroy you before you ever know they’re here. You don’t think I know that? he told me. I know you know it and it’s driving me crazy! I’m soft, Nate, I’m old and soft; I wish I’d died in the desert. I couldn’t ignore the visions of Sean’s profile against the dark contrast of his rifle, the smell of the gunfire, the cammo, the blood, his red eyes and the soot and grease across his face, the wind, the sand, the heat, the vulgarity, the frustration, the tears. Nate, he said, I’m too old to go back to being a kid. But you’re too young to die, I told him and immediately regretted it. Are you fucking kidding me, Nate? I don’t mean it that way, Sean. Yes, you do, you fuck! Sean—. I’m too young to die? Sean! This is all I’ve ever known, you piece of shit! He lifted the rifle, removed the magazine and furiously thumbed out the cartridges one by one and they rolled across the uneven table and gathered around my feet. I’m a fucking killer! he screamed, and so are you godammit! I made a gentle attempt for his shoulder but he slapped my hand. What the fuck was I supposed to do, Nate? come back here and stab a fucking badge into my chest and spend my days shooting kids and niggers like you did? that’s what I was supposed to do? Sean—! Fuck you, I’m old and I’m soft and I can’t live this way anymore! This is crazy! Goddamright it’s crazy; it’s all fucking crazy so what’s the difference now? I couldn’t look at him. I stared down at the tips of the bullets in strange constellation on the floor, worthless now, worthless as the tiny shards of glass and wood splinters among them. I’m gonna leave now, I said, I’m gonna get in my car and go home; I can’t watch this happen. He was crying. I walked through the house stepping around the debris and opened the door. I think he told me he loved me before I closed it behind me but I’m not sure.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.