Release (poem)

‘Breathe’

She said,

‘Relax’

She plead.

‘Let go (Let go).’

I’ll never let go.

Breathe.

Stretch.

Release.

Exhale.

Meditate!

‘Let it go!’

She screamed,

Shaking my tight shoulders

As I sit so still, so stiffened.

My heart has been strained

To within an inch of its loving.

I know you can’t take anymore.

‘Listen to me!’

I know you are tired, my love.

Breathe.

Stop.

Sit.

Still.

So still am I,

Just sitting here in ill like a dove.

‘Why don’t you hear me?’

She asked through her tear.

Because I am gone,

Vanished before dawn,

My heart could take no more, my love

No more will my body be abused in its cove,

Shattered to diamond bits before Hell and its lone!

No more.

Breathe…

Sit…

Watch…

Love…

No!

No love,

Love is unkind.

‘You can’t stop loving’

Oh yes I can.

‘No one ever stops loving’

Breathe for me, dear.

Release the pain you hold so near.

‘Breathe!’

Exhale…

I’ll never look in my best friend’s eye

And tell her that I forgave them.

No, I’ll never forgive their fines!

‘You can love them.’

She whispers to me.

I look at her in her beautiful eye,

And I finally let myself

Breathe.

Relax.

Cry.

‘Meditate, it helps.’

She said.

So I meditate.

Hug her.

Kiss her.

Love her.

Love the sin.

‘Live at let the games begin.’

Never Shall There Be Remorse

Hello my fellow WordPressers and followers and subscribers and… um other random people who happen to catch sight of this post 🙂 Here is another story I have written. This one is about forgiving your past with no regrets (or remorse) and just living your life- moving forward with the past lessons your have learned and with gifts in which you received from it. Here’s the synopsis! I hope you enjoy it!.

Emily Travis, a young fifteen year old from Montana, becomes impregnated by her not-so-nice boyfriend and in turn is abandoned by him at a local motel in Idaho after they planned on running away together to elope in Las Vegas.

 

You know how at least once in your lifetime you meet someone who is not-so-good for you but you can’t help but love him because-because he actually sees you? The kind of guy who would gladly leave you for any other girl who was the slightest bit prettier than you?The kind of guy whom your parents totally disapprove of  because he’s covered in tattoos and piercings and hides a hooka in the backseat of his car for “emergencies”(of course my parents didn’t know about the hooka part), and of course the fact that he was six years older than me. I’m surprised they didn’t lock me up in a basement somewhere until I was forty. I don’t know why I let myself fall for a guy like that. Maybe because he said he loved me? Maybe because I was a rebel and I never really listened to my parents when they told me I couldn’t see him. Either way, I made a mistake. But I’ll never regret my mistake.

I don’t even really think of it as a mistake.

More like a blessing… an opportunity.

The best thing that ever happened to me.

 

 

One year earlier…

“Shh! Stop they’ll hear you!” I said giggling while Jason tickled my bare waist.

“You stop…” he said, so slyly and seductively holding me close as we sat in the backseat of his old red Camaro. He had lit up his hooka while we fooled around wildly close to my parents’ trailer. Jason liked things dangerous and risky and so he would park the car close to my trailer in order to“spice things up”when we would fool around.

“If you keep doing that we’re gonna get into trouble!” I said in between squeals and giggles.

“When you gone let me take that pretty little flower a yours, Emmy?” he said close to my ear. He had a bit of a southern accent for someone who lived in Montana and it didn’t quite go with his pale face and tattoo invested skin and his pierced ears, nose, chin, lip, tongue, and eyebrows. When I look back now I don’t really understand why such an eccentric fellow tickled my fancy. He wasn’t all that handsome, and he wasn’t all that nice.

When I looked into his eyes as his hand went to undue the zipper of my shorts I saw a twenty year old man, hungry, not for my heart, but for my body and the sacred place that had never been touched- never been seen by uncorrelated eyes. I saw only a greedy boy who wanted to take my virginity. And, for some reason, I didn’t mind. I let him touch me. I let him whisper in my ear the things he so desperately wanted to do to me. I let him utter words of love even though I knew they were lies.

I gently touched his chest to push him away.

“I can’t do this now, Jason.” I said, my buzz wearing off ever so slowly as I spoke in a dreamy unfocused tone, “Do you even have protection?”

He looked at me, an expression of confusion at first and then it turned sly and deceptive as he leaned in to kiss my neck.

“We don’t need no protection, Emmy.” he said in between kisses. “You know if you ain’t on your period you ain’t gonna get pregnant.”

Now before you assume that I am an ignorant teenager eager only for the pleasure of manhood, that is not the case. I was high, and I was, in fact, a tad bit aroused, but I was also exhausted… yes I know it’s a pathetic excuse and you would probably be better off believing that I had been drugged against my will and forced into what I was about to say next. But I don’t know why I didn’t get out of the car and run into my perfect little trailer to my mom, hug her tight and tell her what happened so that she could have the prick sent off to jail. But I was young, I was naive, I was high, and I was desperate for love that I was too young to understand or handle maturely. I let myself go.

“You’re right,” I said wearily, “forget that I said anything.”

I smiled at him and relaxed my legs.

He pulled away from my neck and smiled a cocky smile down at me.

“You sure?” he said, it wasn’t exactly a question per say because he had already started taking off his pants and was finishing undoing mine before he could say “sure?”.

“Babe, slow down I-”

He rammed into me then and I spent most of the time panting and screaming and moaning. Sometimes simultaneously. Which, in time, actually did end up exhausting me.

It seemed as though he were just ramming and ramming and ramming himself into me over and over again with no specific purpose or even pleasure! I hated it, but I didn’t want to stop him. I felt that I owed it to him. Why did I feel like I owed anything to him? At the time I did not know but later on I would have let him ram into me a million more times. Okay maybe not a million- but I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

He had been at his ramming for quite some time before the door was jerked open by a red eyed perspiring father who just so happened to have a shotgun in his hand.

“Dad!” I shouted for no particular reason except that I was surprised but not all that shocked to learn that he had heard us.

And of course the fact that Jason was still well into his ramming when the door was opened.

“Get The Hell Off Of My Daughter!” he bellowed as he cocked his shotgun to scare the boy.

“Whoa! What the fuck! Chill dude!” Jason shouted. He scrambled out of the car pants-less and slightly panicked.

“Did you- Dude?” my father was speechless towards Jason’s informally addressing my father as “Dude”. “I’ll show you a dude!”

He aimed his gun upwards and fired. Jason, frightened by my fathers crazed state and his gun, jumped into the drivers seat, screamed at me to get out of the car, threw my shorts out the window, and gunned for highway I3.

And that, my friends, is how I lost my virginity and ended up with a nice little surprise a month and a half later.

Or lack there of.

Three months later…

I hadn’t seen Jason in over two months and when I finally did see him again I was slightly heavier (not very noticeable unless said person was super picky) and “glowing” according to his diagnosis. I had to sneak out late and meet him at the state park. My father hadn’t quite gotten over the scene he had come across and the fact that I was “knocked up” didn’t help him cope.

When I reached the park and found the swing set we would usually meet at I saw him sitting on either one and I noticed that he had let his hair grow out and that it was now braided to his scalp. He looked just as unusual now as he did the last time I saw him. And I’ll never understand why he chose cornrows for his thick curly red hair.

“You pregnant?” Jason said after I sat down next to him on a swing and told him the news. “How do I know you ain’t been screwin’ around while I was gone?”

I was surprised he even accused me of this. For one: I wasn’t the screw around type; and two: I had been in pain and screaming the whole time while we had done it. Why the hell would I have done it again!

But I didn’t bring up this little tidbit because I was afraid I would upset him. So instead I said…

“Maybe you would know if you had stuck around.” it was more of a mutter but he heard me just the same.

He bolted up from his swing and grabbed me painfully by my elbow.

“Have you been fuckin’ another guy, Emily?” he hissed at me. Pulling me so close I could feel the spit that escaped his mouth.

I tried to yank my arm back but he pulled me closer and grasped my arm tighter.

I let out a short wail.

“Answer me.” he said frighteningly calm.

“No! Let me go! I demand.

“Was that an answer?”

I sucked in a deep breath.

“You were my first and my last.” I said, “Please let me go, now.”

He practically tossed me away when he let go. He started to pace and mutter incoherent things.

He stopped, finally, after a few minutes of pacing and looked at me. He stared at me with a look that held sadness, regret, contempt, enmity, and wanting all at once.

“We’re gonna have to get married,” he said, “ you know that right?”

I stared at him, stunned and amused, and slowly wrapped my arms around him.

“I know. But my parents won’t let me marry you.” I said. “It would be like giving their baby a loaded gun to them.”

He stared at me thoughtfully for a long time. Which surprised me because he never liked to look me in the eye. Especially with remorse.

“We’ll elope then.” he said matter of factually. No emotion, no happiness.

“You don’t want to marry me.” I said quietly. It hurt that he “loved” me enough to have sex but not enough to marry me when there was a growing child involved.

He took my chin firmly between his fingers and made me face him.

“I do want to marry you.” he said with a slightly indignant smile. “I love you, girl, you know that.”

He seemed to be forcing the words to form between his lips. ‘Did he want to physically hurt me?’ I thought, ‘No, surly he’s just overwhelmed but the sudden news of his becoming a dad.’

I told my self lies like these very often when I didn’t want to believe in the evil that really was this world. I gently took his fingers away from my chin and touched my lips lightly to his.

“Alright. When can we go?”

He thought about it for a couple of seconds then nodded to himself.

“I need to get a few things settled first,” he said, “We’re gonna drive down to Vegas to elope and then I wanna drive up to California to get my acting career kicked off so I can support you and the baby.”

I nodded in agreement.

He had told me once that he dreamed of becoming the biggest movie star in the world. Bigger than Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt put together. This was another thing about him that didn’t quite match his looks nor his personality, but I just told him that that was fantastic and I wished him luck.

“It’s gonna take me about five months to get things together,” he said, “ you think you’ll be alright?”

I nodded and he kissed my forehead. He seemed to want to get away from me as soon as he could because right after he kissed me he left. No goodbye or can’t wait or anything. He just left, nearly running away even.

I saw him drive off, tires screeching, into the night. Leaving me pregnant and alone on a beautiful starry night.

When I made my way back into the trailer I thought about Jason and how I was going to leave my family to be with him. Should I tell them? Should I not? I really didn’t want to up and leave them in the middle of the night. But I didn’t want to face what could only end up being a loud and angry vocal dispute over my well being and the baby’s, and the fact that they thought they knew what kind of guy Jason really was and how he wouldn’t- couldn’t support me financially, or emotionally. I just couldn’t deal with it.

I later came to the conclusion that I would lie.

Tell them that I was going to spend the night at a friends (preferably Bethany, since they actually liked her) and I would call and explain everything after Jason and I were bound.

It felt like the perfect plan.

And it would be the perfect plan.

Five months later…

I was seven months pregnant and hating it.

I couldn’t sleep comfortably on my stomach like I liked and so I was forced to lie flat on my back or on my side. Which I hate.

I ate too much and my feet would swell so badly I couldn’t fit a pair of my favorite shoes!

Oh! the horror! The agony! Not my shoes!

But of course I packed them anyway because I was not going to leave them with my mother (who had been eying them ever since we bought them). I was sure my swelling would stop after the baby was born.

And then, of course, there was the weight gain.

I had noticed, during my packing, that I couldn’t take a very large bag with me because I had told my parents I would only be staying with Bethany for about two days. I would have to really pack some stuff in there to have enough clothing and toiletries for the road trip.

After I finished packing my mom drove me to Bethany’s house, we said our quick goodbyes and separated. I wasn’t all that surprised that she hadn’t known I’d been lying to her. I had called Jason before we left the house to tell him that I was on my way. As soon as my mother left he pulled out from behind an abandoned building close by and stopped  the car to get out and to help with my luggage.

“You should’ve brought more than one bag, Emmy.” is all he said to me after he loaded my bag into the trunk.

“I told my mom I was only staying for a few days,” I explained, “ I didn’t want to look suspicious having three bags for less than a weeks stay.”

He didn’t look at me, touch me, or even act like he was happy to see me.

“Whatever. Get in the car we don’t have all day.”

And so we got into his Camaro and started on our way towards our new life with our new baby and wonderful future ahead of us.

It had been around seven o’clock in the evening when we had started our departure and Jason had driven us at least six hours before he claimed to be tired and stopped off at a motel across from a run down looking Walmart somewhere in the middle of Idaho.

“Come on,” Jason said as we got out of the car, “I want to get a play before I hit the sack.”

It took me a few minutes to understand what he meant and when I finally did I was frightened by the idea.

We were in the room when I spoke up.

“Jason, I can’t have sex with you,” I said carefully and quietly, “it might hurt the baby and I don’t like the way it feels.”

He dropped the bags on the floor with a loud ‘boom!’ as if he forced them from his hands like you would a basketball and stared at me, hate filling his eyes.

“You’ll get used to the sex, Emily,” he said with calm contempt, “I need you…now… and you expect me to wait until…when?”

“Until I’m ready. Jaso-”

“Ready?”

“Yes! But it’s not just for me-Jason think of the baby-”

“I don’t give a shit about that baby!” he shouted. “Get your ass over here!”

I stared at him with what I’m sure was a blank expression. And I backed away from him towards the door.

“No.” I said in a tone just as plain as my face.

“No…” he said in a low threatening voice. He started towards me- first slowly- then he noticed my quickening pace and pounced. “No,no,no! Come here, Emmy, baby, I’m not gonna hurt you.”

I wasn’t fast enough to reach the door before he caught me, trapped me- knocking hard to the floor. He held my wrist painfully to hardwood that made the floor of the motel room. I attempted to scream but he covered my mouth with his own and hiked up dress his knee.

I fought him, I fought him as hard as I could, but I was so tired. I had barely slept in the car and I was so hungry. I was too weak to get away from him.

And he said he didn’t care about our baby?

Would he ram into me hoping to abort my pregnancy?

The thought made me fight him harder and longer and I even bit his tongue! I bit down so hard I felt my bottom and upper teeth meet. I tasted his blood as his mouth bled out between the corners of his mouth. But he kept going!

That had been one of the traits I liked about him; his persistence.

But now I hated it. I wanted him weak, I wanted him dead!

He finally rammed himself into me and I couldn’t help but scream through my nose. It wasn’t as loud as a vocal scream but it helped distract me from the horrible pain he was purposefully inflicting on me.

He had gone at it for several hours before he was satisfied. He fell asleep soon after and took up most of the bed so that I wasn’t comfortable the whole night.

The next morning I was awakened by a hard nudging to my ribs. It was Jason kicking me.

“Wake up!” he said, “I need you to go across the street and get yourself some more clothes.”

I got up, dressed, felt relief that the baby had moved a little in the process, and headed over to Walmart.

I never liked Walmart; I always saw odd people in there: some hardly wore clothes, some wore too many clothes, children screamed for useless toys while their mothers ignored them. It all gave me a headache.

Jason had given me sixty dollars to get myself a few things: a bag, underwear, a couple of dresses, and get the hell out of there-were his exact orders.

I spent at least two hours in the store racking up a total of forty-five ninety. I felt relieved to know that I would go back to Jason with fair change, I felt like he would, somehow, be proud of me.

But when I walked out of the store, which was, thankfully, fairly empty, I didn’t see the Camaro.

I didn’t worry about it though, I just went back to the room.

I tried the door but it was locked.

I looked in the window.

No bags and no sign of Jason.

I started to panic- hyperventilate, and my feet were starting to swell.

This was not going to be a good day. Was what I had been thinking when I felt my feet start to swell

I went to ask the man at the counter if he had seen a man I described as Jason.

“Yeah he done checked out an hour ago.” said the counterman.

I said thank you in the most amiable way that could to keep myself from crying in front of the stranger, and I walked off in search of a place for myself to sleep.

When I had gone a few miles my feet started to hurt and  numbed to the point where I just couldn’t go on anymore. I sat down by the side of the road with my large bag full of clothes and my fourteen dollars and ten cent stuffed inside my bra.

I was hungry but I didn’t know how long I would have to travel so I pushed the thought of food out of my head. I embraced my legs pulling them close to my chest, folded my arms across the top of my knees, and laid my head down to cry myself to sleep

Sometime later, a little before twilight, a black Range Rover slowed to a stop a few yards away from me on the same side of the road. I heard the door open then close, I heard his footsteps come towards me with a couple reluctant pauses every few steps. I heard all of this but I did not care to look up at the stranger. I had only looked up to see if the car was his Camaro. But it wasn’t him, and so I let my head fall back onto arms.

He stopped few feet away and, assuming by the fact that he was silent, he just stared at me.

“Miss?” said a clear young manly man-like voice.

I slowly looked up at him; he was tall (at least from the ground), his skin was a little tanner than Jason’s, his hair was dark with soft curls that fell slightly above his shoulders, and his eyes were an interesting gold-like hazel.

My face must have given my physical condition away because he stood up straighter and looked me directly in the eye.

“You need some help.” he said. It wasn’t a question, it was a matter of factual diagnostic.

I nodded to him, still lost in his eyes. He didn’t sound mean or rude or disrespectful. Just careful, as if he would anger me with the slightest mistake in words.

He nodded back.

“My name is Alexander Penn.” he said with a smile. “Is there somewhere I can take you Miss…?”

“Emily Travis.”

“Right, Miss Travis, is there anywhere I can take you?”

I shook my head. I didn’t want to show up at home in a strangers car. A male stranger’s car.

He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.

“I’m currently living in on a large estate my father left to me…I inherited it along with his corporation that my uncle is now running until I turn twenty-one” he said, “it-it has a very nice guest house, a pool house, and then there’s the main house, where I stay…”

He paused for a moment thinking about how he should propose his offer.

Then he continued-

“I-I would very much appreciate another being on the estate with me other than my dog.” he said with a laugh.

I smiled, it was a weary one, but I smiled up at his kind face as he held out a hand to hoist me to my feet.

“Wow! how far along are you? If you don’t mind my asking.”

I shrugged.

What would be the point in not telling? I was going to be living at least on the same land with him, it only made sense to get to know each other.

“I’m seven months.” I said with a smile as I rubbed my baby bump. A little habit I had developed every time I thought about my baby.

“Sex?”

I froze and started to stutter-

“I-I n-no I don’t really-I-I’m not-”

He stopped my rambling by placing a finger on my lips. His finger was soft and it smelled…interestingly sweet.

“Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” he asked instead.

I shook my head and turned to pick up my bag and carry it to the car.

“No, I’ve got it.  Just make yourself comfortable.”

I gave him the bag and placed myself in the passenger seat of his Rover.

When he settled himself in he drove off in the direction towards his home.

My new home.

Our new home.

My hand never left my belly the whole drive through.

Present…

I never thought I would be so happy with Alex, he was so good to me. He was kind to Will- the Son I never knew I was having- as well that strangers would often walk past them assuming he was his father. Will was a beautiful pale baby with hair as red as father’s and eyes a bright green like mine. He was very talkative for a three month old and he loved to argue with me about God knows what. Alex had been there during childbirth, I insisted that he stayed for the birth of the baby he saved. When I told him to stay his face lit up so bright I thought he would burst with happiness and for a second I had forgotten about the pains of an on-coming baby and gazed only at Alex as he walked back to my side and took my sweaty little hand in his. I looked into his eyes as he held my hand and I thought of all of the things I had learned about him from the two months I had spent with him before Will. He had taught me many things from cooking to the rules of football. He hired me a tutor after learning that I was only fifteen, and till this day I still do not like history very much. But I loved math. I cherished the numbers and their formulas, the way the pi sign looked in the middle of certain equations. I loved numbers so much I told Alex that I would love to go to college to be a math professor. He laughed at me when I told him but he told me that I could do it. And I believed that he was right. That was also the moment we had our first kiss. He pulled me close to him and pressed his lips to mine, so gentle, yet so tender. I wanted him to want me, not the way Jason wanted, but I wanted Alex to actually love me for me, not my body. Alex knew about Jason and he very much hated him. But he didn’t wish that it never happened.

“Because I never would have met you if it weren’t for him.” he said, his lips barely kissing my ear as he uttered his true feelings. “Never shall there be remorse, Emily.” That same night we slept in each others arms, skin to skin, but no sex. And I was happy. Alex was happy. And Will kicked with joy at the idea of no longer being poked and kicked at.

He deserved to be in the delivery room with me, just as a husband should be with his wife.

I often thought about Jason and what happened to him. And one night, a month after Will was born, I saw him! He was an extra on Days Of Our Lives. He had only had twenty seconds of camera time but I saw him and quickly pointed him out to Alex.

“Wow… he is an odd looking fellow ain’t he?” Alex had said

We both laughed at the truth of his words while Jason bussed a table in a staged restaurant and made surprised faces when an argument broke out. I’ll never forget Jason. I’ll always love him, even if it’s only out of sympathy.

Alex proposed to me just a few weeks before today and I know I have done everything right. My mistakes, my debates, my baby, my Alex, my Jason. Everything is just right.

Alex said he would wait for me to come of age so that we could have a real marriage ceremony and even invite my parents down from Montana. Maybe even Jason as well.

But I do know that I am happy.

Alex takes care of me, so beautifully.  And my angel sent down to me, is the best baby boy I had ever known.

And I did not regret one thing that had happened to me last year.

Never will I feel remorse.

Never shall I regret my past.

Kin (short story)

The is a story I wrote for a contest recently. It is based on a song ‘s music video  “Devastator” by For Today. If you want to know if I captured in relatable contents to my story from the music video check it out for yourself and then decide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gJHf95Iz4k

Synopsis:

 James is the only surviving brother after the end of the war in Vietnam. He finds himself unable to cope with his brothers’ death after forty years and hasn’t gone to his two brothers’ graves.  His son then persuades him to go and James reluctantly concurs. Through out his journey to the cemetery James begins to reminisce with himself about the memories he and his brothers shared together. Good and bad.

“No matter what happens, we are kin…andwe always will be.”

“No matter what.”

“Higher than brothers.”

“Higher than ourselves.”

“More than kin.”

“We are one.”

Kin

Dad, you need to do it.” my son says to me.

We are sitting out on our back porch, waiting on Mrs. McCabee to come home to me. The sun is shining today; beaming down on our heads in its haughty wrath. I love the sun but that joker makes a mess of my skin if I stay in it too long.

My son is twenty-five years old. A man in is prime. He is the oldest of three… boys: James Jr.; Victor who is twenty; and Thameson, he’s seventeen. I wanted the last one to have a more…creative name. But that boy is more ordinary than the sun itself.

Jr. (the one I am talking with) is my closest son. Almost… like a brother to me.

And that is exactly what we are talking about.

I… can’t, Jr., I can’t bring myself to go down there.” I say.

He looks at me with a mixture of sympathy and anger.

He sigh.

You’re not going to feel any better if you don’t go. Forget about what Granma and Granpa used to say. You know that none a those things were true. You deserve to be here. I’m happy you’re here-in fact- I wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for you. I could care less that those old folks didn’t want to see us. I don’t care, Dad. But. You. Need. To. Go.”

My hands are shaking- with age as well as nerves- because I am looking at my Jr. for the first time and seeing that he is no longer the little boy that used to play in the dirt but a man with so much more sense than his Pa that I could cry and have no problem with him seeing me.

I am so proud of him.

I shake my head.

Dad…”

No, not that,” I say, “do you know how proud I am?”

He smiles wearily at me.

Probably not. But!- your praise is not going to get you out of this.” he laughs.

I sigh and laugh a little myself because he is right.

Alright…” I say as I wipe those stubborn laughing tears away from my eyes. “

James’s face brightens and he clutches my shoulders firmly.

You are sure?” he ask.

I nod.

Do you want me to go with you?”

I think about it for a moment. It would be nice to have him along but this was something I had to do alone.

I grab his shoulder just as firmly before answering.

No, thank you, but… this is something I need to do on my own.”

He nods. His face is content but disappointed is clearly there.

You know I would love for you to come with me,” I say, “ but this has gone on for forty years. I have to go alone.”

He nods again, this time with more understanding in his eyes

You will call me if you can’t handle it.” he says. And it wasn’t a question.

I smile at him and clap him on the back.

Yes, Sir!” I laugh.

~

This is what men are supposed to do!” my father bellowed. I was nineteen at the time, my oldest brother, Scott, was twenty-two. And my youngest brother, Travis, was eighteen. We were all standing in front of our father listening toCaptain C. McCabee; veteran of world war 2, explain to us the importance of serving our country. “No sons a mine will sit around this house while there is a war going on!” We had been trying to avoid the subject for several years. It had been a few years into the Vietnam clash and at the time it seemed like it would last forever.

Pa, we could die,” said Scott as he rocked on his heels, “and you’d still have us running around out there?” Travis had been quiet the whole time and so pale mama had thought he had fallen ill. The truth was; he was afraid of Pa. So afraid he would try to do everything just right. Pa didn’t care how old we were, he’d beat us at thirty if he lived to see the day.

My Pa’s face had gone hard with anger.

You will go there,” Pa said, slowly enunciating each word, “you are gonna serve this country.”

But Scott didn’t hold back and nod like Travis would’ve done. No, Scott bared his teeth at our father and cursed him to his grave.

Pa looked at Scott with this look so horrible I was afraid he would kill his son.

Charles, I need to talk to you.” Mama said. I hadn’t even noticed she was in the room. I thought she had gone to fix supper.

Pa got up slowly and rammed his shoulder into Scott; scowling at him before he left the room with Mama.

You. Are. Crazy!” Travis hissed. He was shaking so hard I had to grab hold of his shoulder. He jumped a little before glancing to see that it was just me.

‘This boy is not going to last in the military.’ I thought.

Scott didn’t look at our brother, only at the swinging kitchen door Papa had just walked through.

I wanna kill him.” was his curt reply.

W-what?” I said. I wasn’t really surprised, just taken aback because he had the guts to say it out loud.

Hell maybe we all outta go up there,” Scott continued, “at least when we get back it would be an equal fight.” He scoffed and stomped out of the room.

“Jesus,”Travis whispered. He finally stopped shaking but he was still paler than snow. “Scott is losing it.”

I nod my head and take Travis by the wrist leading him to through the front door to find Scott. He was sitting in an old rocker our Granmama had given to us. She died some time ago but that rocking chair was still as sturdy as it was when it was new.

Scott,” I said leaning on the old white railing with my arms folded, “we all know he’s gonna make us sign up and go.”

I sighed, hating the realization in my words.

I continued.

I know… Scott?” I started feeling worried. Scared.

He looked up at me. He hadn’t really been looking at me while I was talking. Just gazing out at the hills and the sunset.

What if we don’t survive?” I asked

He shook his head.

No.” he said. “We will. We are brothers, James, we’re gonna protect each other no matter what.”

I heard they like to separate kin…” said Travis.

Where did you hear that from?” I asked.

He shrugged.

Bobby Jordan said his cousin and his brother signed up a few years ago. Said they separated them and and Bobby’s cousin’s brother died in combat.” he said quietly.

Bobby J also likes to make up stories, Travis,” Scott said, “I wouldn’t bet on that story being true. And even if it was?- I wouldn’t let them separate us.”

Travis relaxed finally, and little color returned to his cheeks.

I was about to tell Travis that I had gone to the brother’s funeral myself but Scott gave me the “Don’t you even think about it” look so I backed off.

I patted Travis on the back instead.

Boys! Suppers ready!” called Mama.

I glanced quickly at Scott and he gave me a hard look.

I shook my head slightly so that only he could see it and he raised his eyebrows at me.

He started to smile.

I didn’t.

Travis never saw our silent discussion. He was busy staring at the sunset just as Scott had been doing moments before.

I was worried about Scott; he’d been acting out with Pa and lying more often than Mama would’ve been happy with. She was one of those “True Christians”. The kind that judged everyone who didn’t believe what they believed.

I despised her more than Pa sometimes. I had seen her treat a gay couple as if they were walking shit. I had seen her treat a Negro woman like a disease.

‘Those times are over, Mama!’ I wanted to scream at her after witnessing that. I never had the gull to stand up to either one of my parents. I was ashamed of them, yes, but they were still my one way ticket to life.

But Scott- Scott was different now. Since the war started he could feel Pa’s eyes on us. He knew what he was thinking. He knew it was inevitable. Pa wouldn’t rest until he screamed “Cowards!” at us. And even that was unlikely to happen because Pa would’ve hated to announce that his seeds were cowards. That would’ve been the end of him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that had been Scott’s plan.

Scott was clever like that.

We all walked into the kitchen to have our supper. Pa was sitting at the head of the table glaring at Scott. Mama was staring at Travis. She was just as worried as I had been.

We took our meal quietly. Careful not to make too much noise chewing or moving forks and spoons around.

Later that night Pa had us go to bed early.

Boys need to get up early and head down to the office,” he said, “see if they still taking some back up.”

I cringed when he clapped Travis on the back right before we went upstairs. It was loud and overbearingly enthusiastic.

Travis nearly fell over when the weight of his hand hit him.

Scott just kept walking, unfazed by the noise and what the clap meant.

When our door was closed Scott let us have it.

That sonofabitch!” he hissed. Throwing his shirt in the corner with vehemence.

Travis jumped. He hardly ever cursed himself and hearing it always made him start.

Keep it down!” I hissed at him, “I’m not in the mood for a beating tonight.”

He scoffed and shoved his way past me.

‘What is wrong with you?’ I silently asked.

And, as if he’d heard me, he looked over his shoulder and rolled his eyes a little before shaking his head.

I’m sorry, Trav,” he said, “I’m just so sick of this war. I’m sick of Pa encouraging death! This is ridiculous! What if I don’t want to fight!

He’ll call you a coward-” Travis started

I don’t care!” Scott cut in, “I’d be a coward with a life!”

Travis shrugged in defeat and got himself ready for bed.

After Travis left I spoke up.

Stop yelling.” I quietly said.

He was about to protest but then just decided to sit down on his bed.

Why did you lie to him?”

Because if I didn’t he’d be scared to whole time. He’d probably die of a heart attack before we get there. You saw the look on his face. He is terrified. It’s bad enough Pa is making us go but the fact that he knows Trav is that scared- and still making him go? Why do you even wonder why I hate him so much?”

You can’t just lie to him like that, Scott. He would’ve gotten over it when we got there. As for Pa? You don’t hate him, don’t say that-”

I’ve always hated him!” he laughed, “You mean to tell me you didn’t notice? Wow- I’m a better actor than I thought if I fooled my own brother. You think Trav could tell?”

I just shook my head.

It’s not funny, Scott.”

What’s not funny?” Travis had come back from the bathroom. His face was swollen and pink.

He’d been crying.

That Pa fell down the porch step a few years ago,” I lied, “Scott still thinks it’s funny but I said it’s not since Pa gashed his leg open from that.”

Scott looked at as if to say “Who’s the liar now?” and quietly walked out of the bedroom to take his turn in the bathroom.

Travis looked at me skeptically.

Alright.”

I sighed.

I never liked lying. Especially to Travis. But it felt like he always knew when we were lying. He’d give us that look as if to say “I’m not stupid, I can see the truth in your eyes.” it was a scarey thought.

But Travis just kept on staring at me.

Jesus!- will you stop that.” I laughed

Tell me the truth, James.” he said quietly.

I had almost forgotten he was eighteen. Nearly a man and no longer a child.

Trav,” I said, “do you hate Pa?”

He cocked his head and looked off in deep thought.

Then he straightened himself and looked me straight in the eye.

Yes.”

Why?”

Stupid question.

Don’t act like you don’t hate him too. I see the way you look at him. You look disgusted, sometimes downright hateful. You’re very bad at hiding your feelings, James.” he said with a bitter laugh. “Whatever though. He wants me to go to Vietnam?- I’ll go to Vietnam. It has to be better than staying here with them.”

He threw the towel he had hanging over his shoulders in the corner along with Scott’s shirt and blew out a heavy sigh.

Look at the bright side,” he said, “Scott gets to let out all that pent up anger.”

I was shocked.

I didn’t know he noticed Scott’s attitude.

But of course I’d been underestimating Travis for awhile now and it suddenly seemed a lot less surprising that he did know.

~

You’re sure you don’t want me to go?” my wife, Annalynne, says to me We have been married for twenty-seven year and I still love her to death. “It’s a long drive and we wouldn’t have to stop much if we took shifts.”

She is the sweetest woman I know. Always looking out for me; making sure I’m fed; loving me when I needed loving; cursing me out when I acted like a fool.

I love that woman more than anything but I can’t take her with me. I love her but I don’t want her to see me struggle with what I have to do. What I’ve been needing to do for forty years.

Yes, I’m sure.”

She frowns at me and takes my hand in hers.

You be strong for me, okay?”

I nod and kiss her forehead.

I pick up my bag and load it into my old friend Dellie. Dellie is my 86 Silverado. Got her a little before Jr. was born. This girl has gone through a lot with me; pot holes, broken fenders, thunder storms. I love this truck more than I’ll ever love any expensive sports car.

Be safe, James.” says Annalynne. Tears are gliding down her puffy red cheeks. I kiss her and hold her for a moment.

Where’s dad going?” I hear Thameson ask.

The grave yard.” Jr. whispers.

Oh… crap.” I hear Victor mutter.

I nearly laugh at them.

‘Am I really that bad?’ I laugh to myself.

I give each of my sons a long hug goodbye.

Be careful.” says Victor, clapping my back.

Be safe.” says Jr.

Be strong, okay?” says Thameson.

I look at him and see that worry is written all over his face.

‘How much do you know?’ I silently ask.

He blinks and I see his eyes start to well.

He is so much like Travis; so emotionally connected to his family. So smart.

I grab hold of him for another hug.

When did my sons get so grown?” I ask no one in particular.

Annalynne smiles but tries to cover it up with her fingers. I love when she does that yet I hate it because I can never see her smile. The tears are still there and I wish I could brush them off. But I know she wont let me. She loves her tears and she’d want to shed them for me.

I let go of Thameson and get into my truck.

I live in about eight hours away from DC and I have to trips: one at a warehouse to pick something up; the second at motel for sleep.

I drove down to the abandoned warehouse where my brothers and I would go to get away, share secrets, hide secrets. It was our sanctuary.

Two hours later I’m surprised to see the old building is still standing.

It has to be sixty years old now. Old brown bricks finely chipping away with age. Some of the windows were broken, gone, or just plain filthy.

But I love this building.

It holds all the secrets in my past. It holds my whole past. It holds my brothers’ past.

I rode the old elevator to the top floor; its old chains creaking with the weight of the metal box as it rose higher.

~

Hey! I found these bandanas on sale at that old Stop N Shop,” Scott said, “We can take em with us when we go in. They are red so we know who is a brother and who isn’t”

Aren’t we all supposed to be brothers?” I asked. I was sitting in an old plaid chair in the corner of the run down room on the top floor the abandon warehouse. “Military personnel and all? We have to treat them as brothers as well, right?”

Trav nodded in compliance while he sat on the floor fixing his uniform.

That doesn’t mean they are blood though, James.” Scott said a little too darkly.

I like them!” Travis burst out. He knew bad energy when it traveled the room. “It gives the three of us a personal-homey touch. And it would be nice to be able to separate my real brothers from strangers. Makes me feel better knowing we can tell each other apart.”

They would also make for fantastic targets as well.” I mutter. I never liked the idea of having red scarves hanging from our uniforms. They looked like some kind of betrayal to me.. and targets for the enemy.

What’s that, James?” Scott said with a mockishness to his tone.

I shrugged and played with my fingers.

He scoffed and tossed one of the scarves at me.

I’d love to wipe his filthy blood up with this thing one day.” He uttered. He was talking about Pa.

Travis stopped tempering with his uniform.

You may not get the chance to if God hears you say that again.” he said quietly.

God has nothing to do with my wishes.” Scott said. He tossed Travis his scarf. “He never listens to them anyway. Otherwise Pa would’ve been dead a long time ago.”

I hopped out of the chair and treadled over to the selfish bastard I called me brother.

I shoved him against the window.

You won’t get a chance to do SHIT if you die out there.” I spat at him. “You’ll never know… I may be the one to wipe you blood one day, Brother.”

He shoved me away.

And I stared at him for a moment before I left the building.

~

The elevator reaches the top floor and I walk out and head for the cupboard where most of our secret stashes had been kept. I open it and there they are. The red scarves Scott had bought for us. I burned my own a while back but I put theirs away in a place I knew where no one would find them. One of them was hard and dark from old blood.

Travis’s.

The other was spotted lightly with hard spots of old blood.

Scott’s.

I sniff away on coming sobs and tuck the scarves in my pocket.

I close the cabinet and head back to the elevator. It rumbles and shakes on its way down but I don’t care. I wouldn’t even care if it fell and killed me. But I can’t think like that. No man can think like that when they have a family at home they love so much as I do. My heart aches when I think of things like that. Death and suicide. I’m too old to be thinking about that nonsense. Sixty-six years old. If I wanted to do it I would’ve done it when I was relieved. Not after I made a family.

The elevator is down and I stride back over to my car. Dellie sits there in the hot sun waiting patiently for me to drive when I’m ready. I stick the key in the ignition and continue on towards DC cemetery.

~

Move! Take some damn cover, marines!” Captain Gain shouted at us. “Jesus they gave me all the idiots!”

We were being shot at by men I didn’t recognize. I couldn’t bring myself to move or shoot. But Scott seemed to be having a field day.

He was shouting and cursing and hooting and hollering and gloating. He was having too much fun murdering Man.

Travis would stick with me and only shoot when necessary. He protected me. Which shocked me at first because Scott and I had been worried that we wouldn’t be able to even get him on the plane. He was brave though. Braver than Scott. Unlike Scott Travis didn’t enjoy murdering people. He made sure every man he shot moved on with his eyes closed.

I don’t want there spirits floating around preying for revenge.” He’d told me.

I had only shot a few men and with each one it took me a long time before I was able to shoot another. Even longer a time before I didn’t care anymore. Unfortunately that time didn’t come until after I shot a little girl in the head. Because we were told to eliminate all civilians in the village. I cried that nigh in our camping barracks, silently but the tears were there. Travis saw me shoot the girl and made me go back with him to close her eyes. He sat on the edge of my bed with his hand on my shoulder trying to calm me and barely succeeding. I felt like a coward for shooting her. But she would’ve been killed anyway. There were too many brothers covering the area for her to escape.

I grew used to it though. Killing innocence; planting bombs; signaling air strikes. I grew to become more and more like Scott. And that scared me more than being shot at. All those years we were there with short vacations that we never used to visit home and then we would have to go right back and be the murders we pretended not to be.

We were in a jungle at one point. A very random place for an area that was mostly city and desert. But we were there. It was hard to see around the leaves and the trees. We were looking for a campsite that held some kind of nuke or an airstrike. I don’t remember. I only remember what happened in the process.

Travis was leading our group, he had been promoted to Sergeant not too long before our mission so he too Captain Gain’s place while Gain led a special task force. Why they didn’t have the honor of pursuing this quest was beyond me and still is.

The campsite was guarded by a large tan brick wall. We heard distant voices and assumed they were in the tents so we moved up a little faster. Never assume anything in the middle of a battle field. Especially when it’s quiet and empty. Travis let a lower rank check the corner before we moved in to the base. The marine was shot in the chest by I Vietnamese man with large shot gun. Travis shouted to everyone to open fire and we did.

The man shot Travis in the throat before another marine got him in the head.

It felt like time slowed down when I saw Travis falling to the ground, blood pouring out of his neck and his eyes rolling back into his head. He fell to the ground with a wet splat.

Keep moving, McGee!” Shouted another marine. He got my name wrong but I knew he was yelling at me.

I stepped over my brother’s body and helped clear the base. When it was clear and me succeeded I ran back to Travis. He was already dead though. I don’t know why I expected him to be laying there smiling up at me. His neck was practically hanging on by a thread attached to his body. I screeched something horrible right then. Another marine, Private Thomas, ran to me.

Oh…” was all he could say and then he backed away. I know I had to move, we were lying in the open in front of the hole in the wall. I knew I would’ve been an easy target. But I didn’t care. I took my time. His eyes were wide open so I closed them. We killed the man that killed him so there was no need for further revenge. I took the the red scarf off of his belt loop and held it to his neck. A reminder that this is his blood on his scarf, that his his own blood was shed during this ridiculous battle. I put the scarf in my pocket and got back to my feet- face stoic and ready to get back to work.

Travis L. McCabee

KIA

19670

Vietnam

~

I made it there in a blink of an eye it seems. I hadn’t expected the cemetery to be so big, and full. I wonder around the tombstones looking for his name. It looks like it’s not in any particular order so I really have to hunt for it.

I should have gone to the funeral when I had the chance.

I couldn’tbring myself to go though. Not to his funeral. Not to either one of their funerals. I didn’t want to be the last brother standing. The one that others would pity and probably shame for not committing suicide like a normal survivor.

That never made sense to me; why suicide was the answer to all the former military man’s anguish.

Why not love?

Why not peace?

We killed for seven years. Heartless bloodshed and murder. Killing children and women. I was glad to be released. I would’ve shot myself if they had kept me for the remaining years.

I scour the field with heartfelt determination. I’m not leaving until I find their graves. I owe them that much. In some ways I felt like Travis died for me. As if he steppe in front of the gun to protect me. And maybe he did. But I know he was protecting everyone, he treating everyone like his brother. He protected them just as much as he protected me. He never even bothered Scott almost as if he wanted him to get shot but I knew that wasn’t the case either, he just knew that Scott could take care of himself. At least for that time being.

Scott lasted as long as I thought he would, but he died in a way the surprised me. I thought there would be a lot more blood.

I don’t remember where he was when Travis was killed. Probably somewhere miles away shooting random villagers. He liked that part for some reason. Maybe because whenever he shot an older man he felt like he was shooting Pa. The smile on his face proved that much.

I nearly trip over his grave, Travis’s. I was so caught up in my head that I stopped looking. But here it is.

Sergeant Travis L. McCabee

Soldier, brother, beloved son, and honored war hero.

KIA, Vietnam, 1970

I have never seen a tombstone look so wrong in my life, but I sat his scarf in front of the stone and placed a large rock on top of it.

I say the words of our prayer; voiced aloud for the wind to hear me, for my brother to hear me:

“No matter what happens, we are kin…we always will be.”

“No matter what.”

“God cannot separate us”

“He cannot destroy this bond.”

“He cannot taint our blood with evil.”

“Kill our song.”

“We cut the palms of our brothers hood.

“Press them together…”

“Face to Face.”

“We bellow the words so that you can here.”

“We are higher than brothers.”

“Higher than kin.”

“Higher than ourselves.”

“More than kin.”

“We are one.”

“Until the end…”

I open my eyes to find my vision blurry and burning. I’m crying, for the first time in twenty years I shed more tears for my little brother Travis.

I get up off the ground with little difficulty and start for the next grave.

~

It had been several days before I saw Scott again. I hated that I had to wait so long to tell him. I begged the tellers not to send word to Scott because I wanted to tell him myself in, in person. It felt like years had passed instead of days. When I saw him he was… bigger. He carried an M16 on his shoulder and walked with the air of proud man.

It took all that I had to keep myself from gagging.

I was surprised he couldn’t see the wariness in my face. The tightness of my lips, the tensity in my shoulders. He just smiled and grabbed me up in an aggressive bear hug.

He slapped my back with a heavy hand.

“What’s up, Brotha!” he said so loudly I was pretty sure he’d been drinking.

‘Great!- the day I tell my older brother that his youngest brother is dead it has to be a day when he is stoned!’ I thought.

“We need to talk,” I said, he tried to protest but I already had him by the elbow and dragged him to an empty barrack.

He yanked his elbow out of my hand.

“What the hell is the matter with you?”

“Shut up for a second.” I said plainly, “I need a minute.”

Scott let out a long sigh before settling himself on a bed.

I glared at him for a moment. Looking in his eyes to see if he knew. He looked at me in a way that said “What do you want weirdo?” and crossed his arms.

He really didn’t know. Which was good that meant the tellers hadn’t given him the message.

But it irritated me that he couldn’t tell that something is wrong.

‘Had it really been so long that he couldn’t read me anymore?- feel the loss of a close kin?’ I thought.

“Travis.” was all I said and I saw Scott’s face turn a deadly white.

Then he turned red.

“You don’t know that.” he muttered so quietly I hardly heard him. “He could be MIA.”

“I was there, Scott.”

He jumped off the bed and got in my face.

“You LIE!” he spat at me.

“Why would I lie about this?” I was so calm I knew it bothered him.

“You were supposed to protect him! Why did you let that happen? You know he was scared to even come here and you leave him for those assholes? What the fuck is wrong with your stupid little head! Why did you let that happen? Why did you let it?”

He kept asking that question but more to himself than to me.

He started to cry and dropped to his knees.

I can’t talk to Scott while he cries. We both (Travis and I) knew that nothing got through to him when he was upset. So got down on my knees and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. I let his tears fall on my should. Staining that one spot on my right shoulder permanently with salty water.

It took him awhile to get himself together. I had to wave a few of our brothers away, they knew what was happening and understood. They left us alone and guarded the door.

When Scott finally got himself together he took out his scarf and cleaned his face. There were still stains on his face but I didn’t bother to tell him that.

He’d wash his face later anyway.

He looked up at me his eyes were red and puffy and his face was also red. The green of his eyes looked like bleeding grass.

I let him go and he slouched against a bed.

“What happened?” he asked.

“He was shot in the throat, with a shot gun.” I said matter-of-factually.

He shook his head.

“Where were you?”

“I was several feet behind him.”

“Why weren’t you next to him?”

“I didn’t need to be.”

“Apparently you did because he dead now!” he scowled at me.

“Don’t put this burden on my shoulders.”

“It’s your fault.”

“He didn’t need me to protect him!”

“Yes he did! He was scared-”

“He was never scared! He protected me and a whole platoon! He was a freaking leader, Scott!”

“Who the Hell gave him that job?” he said in a voice so high I laughed.

“I have no idea.” I laughed.

“This isn’t funny.”

“No. But it is ironic.”

He thought about it for a moment.

“We-we should probably stop estimating people’s abilities.” he said quietly.

I started laughing so hard I cried and Scott laughed right along with me. We looked like two fools laughing at something no one else would understand. But to me it felt like we were young again. When we used to make various unstable forts and challenge each other with who could tell the grossest ghost stories in the middle of the night. Hiding in the fields when Pa was in a bad mood. Talking about how ridiculous the girls were in our high school. We even dared Scott to date a girl named Tabitha Tabbs. They only dated for a week because Tabitha claimed Scott was a pervert. Scott was grounded for a month but we still had fun with him; made jokes, shared stories about our own personal experiences.

It felt like we were home again.

I told Scott everything Travis did for us, about the way he treated the dead, what he did for me after I shot a little girl.

Scott listened to all of my tales in silence and with a small smirk on his face occasionally.

“Alright so he had spunk, I get it.” he laughed.

I nod in agreement.

There was a loud knock on the door.

“Get up! It’s time to move out!” said a booming voice.

We stared at each other for a moment. We knew we were going to be separated again. Scott fought on another level and for different reasons. He had been moved up early and so we hardly ever had missions together.

We said our fair wells and until next times and left the barracks as if nothing valuable had passed.

Back to work.

Back to murder.

~

It is getting late, sunset isn’t too far off and I suddenly wish that I had brought one of my sons with me. I’m starting to feel the ache of loneliness that I had predicted might come if I came here alone. I thought I was prepared for it but I can hardly say that I am. My feet and back are aching and I’m sweating like a man hard at work. I brought a bottle of water with me but it is about half empty now.

I start to think about the moment I came home, after I served my time.

My parents were notified about my brothers’ deaths. They were disappointed that neither of the deaths were mine. I was nothing to them my whole life; like dust in the crannies of corners. My mother cried and cursed Jesus while my Pa yelled at me and blamed me for their sons’ demise. I took it all in calmly before I spat the truth at them. I told Pa about how much Scott and Travis hated him; about how Scott even planned on killing him when he got back. I told Ma that I despised her just as much as Travis despised Pa. I told them I didn’t give a shit about what they thought about me and that I tried me best to serve this damn country.

Pa had hit me so hard I fell and Ma screamed at me to never bring my useless ass back to their property again. Pa said that if I did they would shoot me dead and let the crows have me afterwords. They said all of that to me while I was down. After I left them I kept telling myself that they were just upset and that they handled grief differently. I did too. But when I went back a few weeks later Pa aimed a rifle at me. I hadn’t recognized him with that weapon in his hands, aimed at me. I thought he was a stranger who wanted me off his land. I was wrong. It was Pa and Ma was right behind him yelling at me and flipping filthy gestures. I held my hands high in surrender and left their property for good.

I haven’t been back there since. I sent them letters telling them that they have grandchildren but they never wrote me back. But I kept at it.

~

A year after Travis’s death Scott and I finally had a task together. It was a seemingly simple task all we had to do was clear out a warehouse the enemy was using as a sniping tower. Scott was back to his usual cocky trigger happy self and I was just…me. It still hurt to kill but I had gotten so used to it that I did it automatically. Like blinking.

The building was fairly empty save the six guys we eliminated on the first through third floors. There were eight floors. We took our time, acting silently and stealthy. Scott looked like a born hunter the way he moved was too graceful for a man who had to have training. He was so quiet that if I fell behind I would have a hard time finding him again. But of course all I had to do was follow the bodies. He was ahead of me by a floor. I lagged behind to watch our backs. My heart was pounding the whole time. I was expecting someone to jump out and blow my head off.

When I finally made it to the top floor with Scott he held up his left hand signaling me to stop. There was a man at the window with a sniper in his hands. Scott was observing him; sensing his senses. The man was leaning on his left leg so that told him that his left side was dominate. He could hear better with his left side.

Scott approached the man almost casually and made a quick pst sound before he smashed the guys skull in and shot him in the head.

Again tried not to gag.

My brother was murder machine. Cold and skillful.

He leaned out the window to check the rest of the area and suddenly his head lurched all the way back and he felt to the floor with sickening thud.

My mouth fell open and I nearly fell to the floor.

I rushed over to my brother as quietly as I could crouching so that whoever shot him wouldn’t shoot me too. But when I got him I saw that there was a hole in his forehead that obviously went through is skull and out the back.

A silent rifle.

I radioed my Captain and explained to him what happened.

“Christ- have you people ever heard of duck and cover?”

“JUST SEND US SOME FUCKING HELP!” I couldn’t yell but my voice cracked when I said that.

He said he was sending help right away.

Three other men were shot down by the same silent rifle. There were only four when they made it to the top floor. They froze when they saw who it was that I was holding in my arms.

Private Kennedy was the one that shot down the rifler and called in a pick up for us.

I thanked him and he nodded. I saw the pity in his eyes, I knew it was in every single one of heir eyes so I didn’t look at either one of them.

I let them carry my brother out in a body bag and place it in the helicopter.

I had taken his scarf before they got to us. I dabbed at the tendrils of blood that glided down his wound. I put it in my pocket it and walked away with my brothers.

I had no more kin. But I still had my brothers.

~

I found Scott’s grave under a young elk tree. It read only:

RIP

Scott K. McCabee

Honored war hero

KIA, Vietnam, 1971

My parents must not have gone to his funeral to arrange for the words to be put on his stone.

I sigh and place the scarf in front of his stone not unlike I did with Travis’s except I didn’t say the prayer.

Instead I say “I told you so” and pat his grave soil. “Pa would’ve been proud though, right?”

I laugh bitterly and walk back to Dellie.

The stars are out thought it’s not quite dark yet. A gentle breeze is gliding through the air, kissing my cheeks and flailing my beard. I spread my arms and embrace the wind letting tears fall free from their cage.

I have done it.

After forty years I have finally come to my brothers’ graves.

And survived. Just like I survived when I was in there.

I hop inside my trunk and make my way back home feeling content and happy. I felt joy that I thought I could only feel when my sons were born.

When I finally reach home it is Wednesday afternoon and my son, Thameson, is sitting on the porch with a letter in his hands.

I get out of my truck and walk over to him. He gets up by stays where he is.

“This came for you yesterday,” he says, “says its from a Mrs. Talia McCabee. That’s Granma’s name, right?”

I gently take the letter from his hands.

I wonder why she hadn’t just called or emailed.

Just like the old fashioned hag I knew before. Ninety-three years old and still doesn’t want to use a computer.

I shake my head.

“Yep… that would be her.”

“You want me to read it?”

“No, I don’t mind,” I say, “who knows it might be an apology.”

Thameson feels the bitterness in my tone and scrunches up his face.

“How did it go?” he asks instead.

I smile.

“I feel better for going, at ease in a way. Content. Happy.”

He places his hand gently on my shoulder.

So much like Travis is he.

He smiles at me.

“You did an amazing thing,” he says, “I’m proud of you and so is everyone else. They are out getting you a congratulations cake.”

We laugh at this and shake our heads.

“Really? That wasn’t supposed to be a secret now was it?”

He blushes and shrugs.

I shake my head and let out a short laugh.

“Go ahead and unload my bag, I want to read this.”

“Sure.” he says and gives me a quick hug.

I sit on the step and open the letter.

Its script is written in delicate curly hand but fairly large print all the same.

This was definitely hand written by my mother.

Dear…James,

I know it has been a long long time since we’ve spoken and I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to ball up this letter and burn it but I have to tell you. It’s only right and you deserve to know. Your father passed away a few days ago. Died in his sleep. I woke with a dead man in my bed, James. Do you know how scary that is?

Anyway, I’m writing to let you know there’s going to be a service for him this weekend 10 o’clock on the dot. I would love to see those kids of yours. Though I’m sure they are practically grown men by now. I know you must think I’m an awful woman and I don’t blame you in the least but please come to the service. I need you there. I need the family.

I know it was wrong for us to treat you the way we did and I know these sound like empty words to you but I truly do mean it. I am so sorry!

I hate that your father’s death brought me to writing this so so much. I know I wouldn’t even try to get in touch with you if he were still here now (well at least she’s honest) but I need you hear with me. I don’t want to be alone.

Please think about it.

With all my love

Mama

I ball up the piece of paper and toss it to the side. Not out of hate but just because. I wondered if Pa would’ve reached out to me like she had if she had been the one to die instead.

Probably not but a guy can dream.

I laugh under my breath and shake my head. Thameson is on his way up the walkway with my bag and my keys.

“What’s it say?” he asks.

I smile at him.

“You wanna meet your Granma?”