The cycle….A short story…

“That’s it! I’m going downtown to get justice for this man!”

From my third floor apartment, I can see buildings on fire. Angry mobs throw Molotov cocktails at the police. Sirens scream out their songs as police vehicles rush past the apartment complex.

“You need to stay home, Cindy. It’s not safe out there.” I stand at my large window and watch people flee with big screen TV’s, and other merchandise from stores. A redneck has backed his Toyota up to the sporting goods store and is filling his truck bed with ammo and other gear.

“Someone must speak for the dead man. It’s not right! The cops have abused their authority and it’s high time it stops.”

“Uh-huh.”

I watch as my youngest daughter walks down the street, her fist lifted in solidarity with the deceased man.

“When are we going to realize that when we repay violence for violence, we only perpetuate the cycle of violence?”

The living room is growing dark, the orange flames which dance from the burning buildings seem hauntingly beautiful in the twilight. I walk to my room and punch the code into my gun safe. My AR-15 is loaded with a 30-round magazine, I pull out my sidearm. The Taurus .357 is loaded with FMJ ammo. I carry it back into the living room and place them within arms reach of my recliner. Yes, I am aware weapons are used to cause the cycle of violence to continue. I’m also aware that it’s no sin to protect my life and the lives of others.

“I hope Cindy is safe out there. Why can’t she understand that if you protest in a mob, the cops only see the violent mob. They aren’t looking for “peaceful protesters” in an angry wave of people.”

The night passes slowly. I sit in my recliner and pray that Cindy is not lying dead on the street. Or in prison because she is associated with the rampaging individuals burning down our town.

My phone rings at 0530. I must have fallen asleep in my recliner. Twisting my neck, I reach for my phone.

“Hello?”

“Dad?”

“Yeah, I’m here sweetie.”

“Dad, I am at the hospital. I was shot with a non-lethal round. It hit me in the head. I may lose my eye.”

“Alright. I will be on my way to the hospital in a moment.”

“Okay. See you soon.”

I shower and get dressed. My blue Charger sits in my parking space, I get in it and drive to the police station.

“Hi, Sergeant. I’m Freeman and my daughter called me from the hospital. She was shot in the head last night. I was wondering if I could have a few words with the officer who did it?”

“I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Was she involved with the riot?”

I shake my head and shrug.

“I don’t know. She went to protest, I’m just trying to get some information about what happened out there.”

The Desk Sergeant nods his head. 

“It was nuts out there last night. 17 buildings burned to the ground, that many or more was looted. 63 people were arrested. I’ll see if I can find the officer.”

“Thank you.”

After a prolonged wait, the Desk Sergeant and another officer approach me. 

“Mr. Freeman, this is Officer Sylvia Winterborne. She is the one who fired the round that hit your daughter.”

Sylvia looks at the ground and clears her throat. I extend my hand and she grasps it firmly.

“Ma’am, I just want to tell you that I appreciate your service to this community. From all accounts, it sounds like an insane night of violence. You guys have a hard job and sometimes good people are lumped together with the bad.”

She looks at me, her blue eyes locked onto mine.

“Thank you. I am sorry you’re daughter got hit with a rubber bullet.”

“It’s okay. I’m sure she is butthurt about it, but the hardest lessons are usually the most valuable. Maybe next time she will listen.”

After speaking to the police, I drive to the hospital. Cindy is sitting in a quiet room at the end of the hallway. I am escorted to the room and I walk inside.

“Hey, darling. What did the doctor say?”

“What took you so long, dad. I’ve been waiting for half an hour.”

“I had to make an unscheduled stop.” I smile and wait for her to fill me in.

“The doctor says I won’t lose my eye. I am going to sue the crap out of the police department.”

“No, you aren’t.”

“What-”

“I said no. You aren’t going to sue the police department. YOU,” I point my finger at my daughter, “put yourself in harms way. If you want to be angry at anyone, be mad at yourself. A violent mob is no place for a peaceful protester. If you can’t understand that, then there is nothing else to talk about.”

“You’re taking their side-”

“I’ve been in the police’s shoes. When violence kicks off, you don’t have time to look around and see who the “peaceful protesters” are. You are lucky they didn’t arrest you for inciting violence.”

“You don’t care about-”

“Shut up and sit down! Don’t you dare accuse me of not caring about anyone. Don’t you dare. I served this country. I’ve invested blood, sweat and tears into this country. Don’t you dare tell me what I don’t care about.”

Cindy sits down on the bed and shakes her head. She crosses her arms and looks at the floor.

“Dad, he died. He didn’t go easy.”

“People die all the time, where is the outrage over their deaths? Why do you scream and shout about this man, who constantly broke the law and was a horrible person while he lived? What about all the lives destroyed because you want to riot, loot, and burn down buildings? What about their lives? Do you not care who you harm in your reckless pursuit of ‘justice’?”

“Yes, I care-”

“No you don’t. Where were you and your voice when 53 people were killed this weekend? Where were you, when all these women were being beat down by their partners? You can’t be bothered to care about them. I’m done. I’ll be in the car.” 

As I walk out of the hospital the news shows the carnage of our city. “Look at the cost before you tear down everything we’ve built.”

Shadows and Shrouds…A short story.

Silence is an answer.

The older I get, the less I want to deal with people and their baggage. We all come with baggage and drama, but some folks make it an art form. The view from my cell is hindered by a tree of some kind. I mark time in this prison by watching this tree grow.

When I first got here it was being planted. Now it towers over twenty feet in the air. Either the tree is a fast grower, or I’ve been here a long time. In prison, you can adjust to certain things, because you know it will never change. An example would be my guards. Regardless of the time I’ve spent here, the guards love to pummel this earthly vessel.

At least they’re consistent.

Still, some things are more annoying than others. My new roommate is the human personification of annoyance. His rants against the government, the Blacks, the Hispanics and the Jews are tiring. Nightly, I dream of drowning him in the toilet.

Today, he is wailing about the chow and how he had better food in Iraq. “Jesus, it’s prison chow.” I sit on my bunk and think of ways to end his ceaseless prattle. So far, I considered choking him, stabbing him with a fork, and bashing his head against the wall.

“Look at this crap, they didn’t even cook the eggs.” Angrily, he hurls the plate of food. The runny eggs slide down the wall. I watch as he paces the cell.

“I’m not an animal, we should have decent food to eat in this dump.”

“Nah, you aren’t an animal. You’re a racist, a killer, and a rapist, but thankfully you’re not an animal.”

“Why don’t you say that to my face, redneck?”

There is an old saying which says, “if you argue with a fool, you only prove there are two of them.” I smile to cover the madness I feel. I want to break his nose and then twist, while his screams serenade me into peaceful bliss. The thought brings me great comfort.

Instead, I look at the tree. Warm sunlight filters through its branches. Birds flutter and perch on the barren limbs. It appears winter is going to come in early this year. Of course, it’s winter here year round.

“You know so much about me, tell me why you’re here.”

I look back at my roommate. The fury shining in his eyes warns me of the calm before the storm. “Looks like I’m going to be missing a roommate soon.”

Just a bad case of mistaken identity.”

“Right, mistaken for someone else, huh. How did that work out for you?”

I gesture around the room. It should be apparent how my excuse worked, but some folks need a push in the right direction.

Like a caged animal, my roommate begins to pace back and forth. We meet eyes and I give him a small grin. When you go to kill someone, they should at a minimum feel good about themselves.

His pace quickens and on his last pass, he pulls his shank from his waistband. I stare in amazement as he walks toward me, an evil smile on his lips. I laugh and wait for him to come to me. 

“It ain’t nothing personal, I just don’t like you.”

“It’s alright. Everyone has to die sometime.” He keeps coming, and as he draws close, he swings the blade in a wide arc.

I wait until the last moment to move. I duck and the blade swings over my head, his forward momentum propels him past me. As he passes, I slam my knee into his groin. He grunts and goes to one knee. The blade skitters away. I grab his head and smash his face into the bars.

A little giggle escapes from me. I slam his head into the bars until he is gone. The guards seem a bit shocked at all the blood, but I explain it is just the way of head wounds. 

“Whatever you say, tinkerer.”

I look out the window and the tree seems to be a bit taller but maybe it’s just the shadows.

Troubles…A short story…

Why does it take trouble to bring us home? I ponder this question from my couch. A red blanket covers my legs, and the quiet morning encroaches upon my presence. As a writer, I like to think I can find the words to explain most anything. 

This seems to be a question destined to remain unexplained. 

“A man is of a few days and full of trouble,” Job said. I think Job couldn’t have said it any better. As I type these words, trouble is with us when no one else is. It follows us around like some lost puppy. 

I watch as my niece tears down my driveway. Her red Honda Accord is coated with yellow pollen. “Here comes trouble.” Janice is 16, her sole focus isn’t her future career, nor is it her grades. She has no intention of going to college, she figures her life will develop into a bountiful garden without any labor on her part.

“Hiya, unc!”

“Howdy. You attempting to set the world speed record in my driveway?”

“Nah, just in a hurry.”

“Where ya going in such a rush?”

“Nowhere.” She exits the pollen mobile and we walk into the house. She seems fidgety, but I keep my observation to myself.

Janice looks around my cabin, aimlessly she wanders from room to room. She pauses in my kitchen and looks in the cabinets. Her blue eyes drift over every part of the house, but she doesn’t appear to see anything. Finally, she plops down on the couch and begins to watch NCIS.

“What’s on your mind, Janice?”

“Nothin’, just looking around.”

“How’s your mom and dad? I don’t get out much anymore. My blog keeps me busy. You doing okay in school?”

“Yeah.”

We sit in silence and watch Gibbs and his team solve another crime in under an hour. Janice looks at me, and I meet her eyes.

“Unc, do you believe that when we die, we will face God and give an account of our sins?”

“Yep.”

“Why do you believe that God will judge us? Do you think suicide is a sin?”

“Yes, I believe it’s a sin. I believe God will judge us because Scripture backs up that belief.”

“How is suicide a sin?”

“Mind you, this is my belief, Janice. Life is precious, and God gives it us. It’s a gift from heaven. To take your life, in my opinion, is to spit in the face of God. Besides how does one ask for forgiveness if they are dead?”

Janice’s brow furrows as she mulls over my answers. Gibbs, Tony, Ziva and McGee are on to another case. We watch in silence as Ducky makes his observations known to Gibbs.

“My best friend killed herself today.”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t know. Do you know why she took her life?”

“She was pregnant at 15. Her parents attend church and participate in all the church functions. She didn’t think they would understand, plus, the daddy of the baby told her to get an abortion. I think the stress was too much for her to bear.” Tears fill my niece’s eyes and she looks at the floor. 

What can I say? How do I comfort her?

“You want a tomato sandwich? I am getting hungry.”

“No, but I would like something to drink.”

“Okay.”

I turn to walk away but something sticks in my craw, and I have to get it out of my system.

“Janice, God isn’t a mean kid on the playground. He doesn’t stomp around in steel toe boots and carry a stick to beat you with. We humans can forget that sometimes. God is love. I’m sure He is heartbroken over the loss of your friend. In His infinite wisdom, He created us and called His creation good.”

I stand there for a moment and finally, I walk into the kitchen. My weekend was spent in Tennessee, so I have plenty of fresh vegetables and bread. I pull out two tomatoes and slice them. Janice bolts from the couch and rushes into the kitchen. She throws her arms around my neck and sobs.

For a moment, I’m unsure of what to do. I put down the knife and put my arm around her.

“I miss her so much.”

“I know.”

In the background Johnny Lang sings Lie to Me and the irony isn’t lost upon either of us.

Silke Waters…A short story…for now.

In the humid swamps of Fredericksburg lies an untold secret. Among the moss covered cedars, hidden in the black water filled with alligators and water moccasins, Silke Waters waits for a sign.

Covered from head to toe in camouflage, Silke watches the birds flutter among the branches. Squirrels leap from limb to limb, while gators slip out of the water and sunbathe on the banks of the marsh.

Still, Silke doesn’t move. One spastic twitch would send the wildlife running for cover, the whole point of the training exercise is to see while being unseen. Silke’s toes begin to cramp, her hands damp from the humidity, begs to be wiped. She doesn’t move.

Silke is of singular mind and purpose. After four years of training, she is almost done with this phase, all she has to do is be still. Slowly the sun descends into the western horizon, the sky is painted orange by the hands of God, and still Silke doesn’t move. 

Darkness falls. Silke closes her eyes to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She cracks her eyes open and slips out of her spot. She moves silently through the marsh, slipping through the black water to her next objective. In the distance, a light cuts through the night, hushed whispers break the solemn night air.

“Where is she?”

The exercise is terminated if she is caught by her trainers, otherwise, it’s a three-day exercise. Silke creeps behind a fallen tree and watches the pair look around her destination. Each person carries a sidearm loaded with simulation ammunition. If Silke is discovered, she is to escape and evade capture. From her hidden position, Silke waits. Her blond hair, dampened by the humidity, falls into her eyes. She doesn’t move. One of her trainers looks at the tree. Slowly, he moves the beam toward the tree and Silke sinks into the black water. 

“Come on, she ain’t here. Let’s get out of here.”

“Yeah, we have a few other places to check out before we get a chance to rack out.”

The lights click off and Silke watches the two men leave. Silke waits in the water until she is convinced that she is alone. Silently, Silke emerges from the water. Leeches cover her torso, with her knife she removes the parasites. The next two days pass without incident and Silke begins her journey from the marsh.

Halfway to the base camp, she happens upon a Hummer. Her blue eyes scan the distance for threats. A young man walks from behind the vehicle. 

“Hiya, Silke.”

“Hey, Josh. What are you doing out here?”

“I’m waiting on you. The Commandant sent me out here to pick you up. You ready to head back?”

“Yeah, I could use a shower and hot meal.”

“Sure, sure. Yeah, I gotcha. Come on, let’s hit the road.”

 Josh and Silke travel the dirt road in silence. Josh Harrington has completed his training, he now is the errand boy of the Commandant. Silke watches the trees zip by as Josh keeps his eyes on the road, finally Silke breaks the silence.

“How did I do, Josh?”

Without removing his eyes from the road, Josh ponders her question. Finally, as they turn onto the goat trail that leads to the camp, he answers her. 

“No one found you, so that is good. They came back and said you were a ghost. No one has ever beaten every test posed to them. You’re something special.”

Josh pulls into a parking spot and gives the key a turn. Silke and Josh disembark and make their way to the lone building standing among the cedars. 

The doorman, Herman Wainwright, stands ready to help Silke if she should need it, but she waves him off. 

“How you doing, sir?”

“Ms. Silke, you don’t got to call me sir. I’m just the door man.”

She grins wearily and nods her head. 

“Okay.”

“Mr. Thunder asked you come straight way to him before anything else. He is in the library.”

The house is dusty, benches and chairs line the hallways. Dark stained glass conceals the purpose of these training grounds. Silke makes her way to the library, most of the house has corners but the library is a perfect 360 degree circle. Stairs lead up to the higher levels, the shelves are lined with rare and first edition books. Mr. Thunder, the commandant, waits on the third floor.

Silke climbs the stairs and walks to where Mr. Thunder sits. She stands at attention until he recognizes her presence.

“Have a seat, Silke.”

Mr. Thunder is bald, his horn-rimmed glasses sit precariously upon his hawkish nose. A scar runs from his left jaw line to the middle of his chin, his black eyes appear to be dead. His skin tone is darkened by the sun, the only paleness is the scar which marks his face.

Silke takes a seat across from the commandant, she can feel his dead eyes follow her every movement.

“Congratulations are in order. You have passed every test we have given you. You’ve been trained in Kenpo and various tactics to disable your opponents. You’re a superb marksman. You’ve been trained in the art of surveillance and counter-surveillance. Your trainers came in the first day and said you are a ghost. Both men are trackers and they couldn’t find any sign of where you had been.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Do you know what we do here?”

“We train our body and spirit to be ready should our nation need us.”

Thunder smiles, “that is the textbook answer, Silke. Give me your answer. Why do we train?”

“We train to kill our enemies.”

“Yes, our enemies may not be the same as our country’s. Never forget this fact. If they’re trying to harm you or this organization, they deserve nothing more than death. Understood?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good, then here is your first assignment. Study it, the assignment must be completed Friday night. You have four days to prep. Get some rest and make sure you’re prepared. Welcome to the Assassins Guild.”

It’s the end of the world….A short story.

The rain falls from the broken clouds turning my yard into a small marsh. I am at my stove cooking eggs to go with my biscuit and bacon. In the living room, my television is set to the local news. “In other news, the Speaker of the House has called for a proxy vote, which would allow one representative to cast numerous votes on behalf of others.”

I can feel my frustration growing. I reach for a glass, and slam it down on the counter. Shards of glass fly in every direction. Pain throbs in my right hand, I turn it over and look at it. Glass protrudes from my palm. 

“You okay, uncle. I thought I would come by and check on you.” I never heard the front door open. My niece Sara, standing behind me, has a look of shock that covers her face.

“Yeah,” I grunt as I pull the shards out of my hand with tweezers. “Why doesn’t that idiot just tear up the Constitution and use it to wipe her butt?”

“Why don’t you like her uncle?”

“Besides the fact she is nuttier than a fruitcake?”

“Yes, besides the fact you think she is insane.”

“Well, there is the fact she does all she can to tear apart the Constitution and Bill of Rights at all turns. Granted, most of the idiots in Washington are egotistical, whiny, thieving pieces of garbage but she makes it an art form.”

“You ever think maybe you’re just old and crotchety?”

“I know I am old and crotchety. It’s a perk of being older. It doesn’t excuse these out of control lunatics running our country into the ground.”

“I don’t see it that way uncle. If she is so horrible, why do people keep electing her to office?”

“Are you trying to get me in trouble? Votes can be added to or taken away. With the constant evolution of technology, it is a simple process to cheat an election.”

“So, you think she is going to cheat the upcoming election?”

“I don’t know anything definitive, but, I’ve lived long enough not to put anything past anyone. The problem with power is that once you get a taste, you will do anything to keep it.”

“Well uncle, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I think she is just doing her job.”

“Sweetheart, we can disagree and still love one another. Just because we disagree politically doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends. Nothing in life is so drastic that a disagreement should sever the ties that bind. Hand me that iodine and bandage, please.”

I pour the iodine on my palm, the sting causes me to wince. I wrap the palm and turn off my oven, my eggs are burnt beyond edible. 

“Will you please make your old, grumpy uncle a cup of Joe?”

“Talk to me, unc.”

“What do you want me to say, Sara?”

“Tell me how you feel. You worry me when you get like this.” Her green eyes bore into mine, finally I relent to her request.

“Sara, when I went to war America was this great place. Sure, we had our problems but we still knew right from wrong. When I came home in 2005, I didn’t recognize the place. I had my own problems, and I was barely keeping it together. Then I went back to the Middle East. I left Europe, and came home. I felt like a stranger lost in time, I was the redneck version of Doctor Who. Now, all I can do is watch while these idiots destroy everything that I love.”

“Maybe things will turn around.”

“No, this the end. All we can do is hope we land on our feet.”

It’s a mad, mad world…A short story.

“BANG! SLAM!”

I roll over in my bed and crack my eyelids open. “What in the world is going on out there?” Hurried footsteps cross my porch and I hear a key get inserted into my door. Quietly, I exit my bed and reach for the handgun lying on my nightstand.

“Hey, unc! Are you in here?”

I resume breathing. It’s only my nephew. Turning around, I put the weapon on the nightstand. I put on my jeans and smooth down my t-shirt. 

“Yeah, I’ll be right out.”

My nephew is sitting on the couch when I come out of my bedroom. He rubs his hands together, and every once in a while runs his hand through his thick hair. His hair is unkempt, heck, his whole appearance could be filed under unkempt.

“What’s going on?”

Thom looks at me and shrugs. “I need to borrow five grand.”

“Dang, son. You don’t even start off with a good morning, you just go straight for the wallet. Have you ever considered a career as a politician?”

“You heard about that man that the police killed?”

“No.”

“It’s all over…”

“Stop,” I put my hand up to shush him. “I heard about the killing, it’s all people are talking about. The no was me telling you, I won’t loan you the money to go out there.”

Thom stops and looks at me. Fury shines in his eyes. He shakes his head and stands up, he towers over me.

“Why not? It was racially motivated. You of all people should know that injustices must be corrected.”

“Sit down.”

Thom throws himself back onto my couch. Angrily, he stares at the wall, and I take a moment to let the tension die down between us.

“Do you know all the facts concerning this case, Thom?”

“No, but I know a man is dead at the hands of the police.”

I chuckle and shake my head.

“That’s all it takes, huh. You’re ready to go up there and burn down the town because the police killed someone. What? Y’all going to go up there and tear down all the small businesses and harass the police? One for all, and all for one? Let me ask you something. Where was this guy’s parents? Why didn’t they teach their son not to screw with the police? If you put yourself in a position to be man-handled, you are taking all the risk.”

“You don’t understand…”

I put my hand up to stop him.

“Listen to me, son. If you go up there and pick a fight with law enforcement, they are going to hurt you. They will use non-lethal means to subdue a riot, right up until the first idiot throws a Molotov cocktail, or a police officer is injured. When that happens, you are looking at lethal means. You will be put down. Then I will have to go comfort your mother, because her son was an idiot.”

“So, we just let them get away with murder?”

“They didn’t get away with it. Their names are ruined. They will never be able to out-run the shame of what they’ve done. For the rest of their lives they will be known as racists.”

“A man is dead…”

“Fifty people were killed this weekend in a city with the strictest gun laws in this country. You know what the police were doing? Kicking down doors of churches and filming people, who were just trying to find some peace in the chaos. Why aren’t you upset about that issue?”

“I…”

“The man’s death is tragic. All needless deaths are a tragedy, however, if you’re going to fight, fight for the right cause. Going to a neighborhood and burning down their businesses is no help to anyone. It causes more problems. Use your zeal for justice to help the right cause. Torching a town doesn’t bring the dead back. Stand for equality by being a friend to all races. Stand together in the trenches. Be there for each other, protect one another. Don’t be an idiot.”

Thom leans back and crosses his arms. After some time, he leans forward and pushes himself to his feet.

“I’ll get the money somewhere else. I can’t let this go, the police need to pay for what they’ve done.”

I nod my head and shrug.

“Well, I tried. Good luck. Be safe.”

Thom walks out to his truck and pulls out of my driveway. I stand in the doorway and watch him leave.

Two days later, I see him again. He is on television lying dead in the street. A victim of a riot gone wrong.

“Another needless death taken by the chaos of a world gone mad.”

Oops…A short story…

“Good morning, sir. I hate to interrupt your morning, but we’ve been called to check a domestic disturbance at this address. Is everything alright?”

I stare at the police on my lawn and shove my hands into my pajama pockets. “What in the world?”

“Morning, officers. Are you sure you’ve got the right address? I live by myself. There is no one here but me and my dog.”

“We can’t just take your word for it, sir. May we come in?”

“Not unless you have a warrant.”

The short officer laughs. He reminds me of a roly-poly. He is about 5’3, 260 lbs, and has a shifty look about him. Greasy, that’s the word I’m looking for. He turns to his partner and smirks. 

“This hillbilly thinks he has us over a barrel.”

His partner, equally shifty looking, grins at me. He nods his head, as if contemplating what comes next.

“Then, I guess we better go get the warrant. We will be back, soon. Don’t go nowhere.”

“I’ll be right here.”

I watched their vehicle until it disappeared from view. I dial the police station and ask if they’ve dispatched a car to my address. 

“Sir, no car has been dispatched to your address for any reason. Did these two men say why they were there?”

“A domestic disturbance is the reason they gave me.”

“Can you describe them for me?”

“Sure, one was about 6 ft, about 165, skin tone was pale, sickly looking. His hair color was brown, with a thin mustache. The other was 5’3, 260 if he was a pound, brown hair, dark skin. He had no beard or mustache. They drove a beat up Chevy Nova.”

“Okay, sir. If they come back, call us immediately. We will keep an eye out for them.”

“Thank you.”

I walk back into my house and pull out my dad’s shotgun. I eject the birdshot and reload the weapon with buckshot. Satisfied that the weapon’s lethality is up to par, I check my handguns. “If those boys come back, I’m going down fighting.”

My Queen Anne chair sits next to the corner, so I drag it out. I changed out of my pajamas and checked my bug out bag. Then, I plop down into my chair and wait. Hours pass but finally, I hear the rumble of the Nova. I glance at my watch, 0418.

I creep to the shotgun and move to the corner away from the door. Heavy footsteps mark their position on my porch. The doorknob is tried, it’s locked. In the silence, I hear a lockpick being inserted, I use the noise to conceal my switching the shotgun from safe to fire.

Two shadows creep into my dimly lit house, and I wait until they’re standing in front of my television before I introduce myself.

“You take the bedroom on the left, I’ll take the right.” 

I don’t give them time to switch on the lights much less search my house. From the darkness, I pull the trigger. The buckshot rips through the night and shreds everything in front of it. Wordlessly, both shadows fall to the floor. I move to the front and sweep the area. It’s the same knuckleheads from earlier. Both are still greasy looking, the only difference is the shredded flesh ripped apart by the buckshot.

I am partially deafened from the blast, but finally I pull out my phone. Dialing 911, I wait for the operator to pick up.

“911, what is the nature of your emergency?”

“Hi, my home was invaded. Two greasy men, who posed as police, are dead in my living room. Could you send a meat wagon to my address?”

“Yes, sir. I have dispatched police and an ambulance.”

“Thanks.”

In the distance, the flash of lights and the noise of sirens fill the air. I lean back in my rocking chair and wait. The ambulance is the first to arrive, followed soon by two police cruisers. The paramedics ask me to show them the bodies, I lead them to the living room. 

“Jeez, man. You did a number on these boys.”

“No, man. It wasn’t me. It was the buckshot.”

They start loading them on stretchers, and I walk out on the porch. 

“Excuse me, sir. Could you fill me in on the details of what happened here this morning?” I turn and see an officer sitting on the bench outside my house.

“Who are you?”

“Detective Rosie Hernandez. You’re the one who called 911?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I lean back into my rocker and recount the story, making sure not to leave out any of the detail. Rosie nods her head and scratches some notes in her ledger. 

“Do you know what they wanted?”

“No ma’am.”

“Did you identify yourself to them prior to pulling the trigger?”

“No ma’am.”

“You didn’t?”

I look at Detective Hernandez. She peers at me with those icy blue eyes. I take a deep breath and answer her query.

“No, I didn’t identify myself. They broke into my house. I shot them. They’re dead, and I’m alive. End of story.”

“Okay, we will be in touch.”

The medics are removing the bodies from my house when I go to walk in. As one of the bodies is being wheeled by me, I catch a glance at his badge and I’m filled with dread.

“Why in the world would the federal government break into my house?”

Tainted…A short story.

“Why are you so mean? Would it kill you to be nicer to people?”

I haven’t been up long, and already, I am being lectured by a 16-year old. Angie, my niece, sits across from me and watches me drink coffee. My preference is to start the morning with coffee and quiet. It appears, I am not going to get any quiet.

Yesterday, Angie introduced me to her new ‘boyfriend.’ Jody Nelson, the local football star, is a bit of a diva. Jody is 6’2, 225 lbs, and has movie star good looks. He is  the richest kid in the neighborhood. Daddy and Mommy buy him whatever he wants. Jody loves to show off his sensitive side. 

Yesterday, he asked me about a lost tribe of pygmies and their increasing death toll. Apparently, they are dying from consuming hogs which are being poisoned by algae growing in their wells. I cracked wise about tainted meat.

You get it? Tainted meat? Pygmies worried about pork?

Anyway, cue the hysterics. Angie switches gears, while I sip my coffee. Apparently, yelling isn’t working. I must be immune to the screams or the hearing loss working to my advantage.

“You could’ve said you weren’t aware of the pygmy situation, but no, you gotta be a smartie. Now, he probably thinks I’m a loser like my uncle.”

“Are you going to cry all day?”

“See, that’s exactly what I mean!”

“You would be the luckiest girl in the world if Jody brushed you off today. His family is a stain on the soul of this town.”

“He loves me.”

“Un-huh. I’m sure.”

I walk over to my coffee machine and insert a donut flavored coffee K-cup. “Just let her win.” 

“You will apologize to Jody. Here are a couple of articles on the death of the pygmies.” The black liquid pours into my steel Yeti coffee cup. Angie stands from the island in the kitchen and puts her hands on her hips. 

“Sweetie, there is no way I’m going to apologize for having a sense of humor.”

“We’ll see.”

Angie spins around and walks out. The front door slams shut and I add sugar to my coffee. “Maybe I should apologize. NAH, the kid needs to toughen up.” Sipping my coffee, I walk to my computer to work on my blog post.

Yearning for inspiration, I stare at my pencil drawings of two samurai warriors and their wives and crack my knuckles. “Well, it’s time to get to writing. Maybe Angie will calm down while in school. I would hate for her to be angry with me.”

My day passes without incident. Well, somewhat without incident, I am having a difficult time writing about non-lethal techniques used to incapacitate rowdy hillbillies. I walk into my library but it appears I don’t have anything on the subject. “Fine, I will Google it.” As I walk into the kitchen, the front door bangs shut.

“Hey unc, Jody and I stopped by before heading to his house to study. What are you doing?” Both Jody and Angie sit at my island, a smug grin stretches across their faces. I grin back. “Out of the frying pan and into the fire, here I go!”

“Hey, kiddo. Jody was it? You’re the great pygmy savior, right? I’m sorry Angie, but I haven’t had time to read the articles you left. I’ve been researching non-lethal ways to stop people.”

Her eyes narrow and nostrils flare, as she glares at me. Jody nods his head and decides to speak. Running his hand through his thick black hair, he smiles. 

“Yep, just doing my part to make the world a better place.”

This kid irks me. I put another coffee into the machine and press the button to make the magical formula which helps me deal with idiots of such magnitude.

“Un-huh. Well, the homeless population of our town has increased by 400%, the crime rate has increased by 600%. When you pick up your cape from the cleaners, why don’t you work on a local issue before trying to change the world?”

“You just can’t be nice can you? Come on, Jody. We are out of here.”

Angie leaps to her feet and grabs Jody by the arm. They storm out of my house and I walk to the door and watch them stride to his Corvette.

“Don’t be mad, it’s just something to think about!”

Jody slams the car into reverse and peels out of my driveway. I am beginning to sense a bit of hostility between the three of us. 

“Great, now who’s gonna save the pygmies?”

Ashes….Part II…A short story.

Pooter aka Oku,

Home. It’s more than a point on the map. To me, it was where I felt alive, safe and relaxed. Through the lens of yesterday, I see ‘me’ before the war. I was a ‘good’ guy. I held a variety of jobs. Lawn care, roofer, construction, and retail are just a few of  potential careers I could have pursued.

For a while, I did.

Nothing satisfied me. I went to work, went to church and paid bills. I wasn’t living, I existed. Then terrorists came calling on September 11, 2001. Two weeks later, I joined the Army.

Home became wherever I laid my head at night. For four years, home was Ft. Hood, Texas. I was honored to serve in the Seventh US Cavalry. Another four was spent in Illesheim, Germany. Assigned to a reconnaissance battalion, I enjoyed my time in Europe. I spent over two years in Iraq, and even it felt like home after I adjusted to the radical change. Eventually, I returned to the States. I landed at Ft. Carson, Colorado. Between the majestic mountain ranges and nice people, I thought I had hit upon my home away from home.

I moved back to Mississippi in 2016.

You know that saying about not being able to go home? Well, I did. I liked it here, life went by slowly. People are nice and the food is great. It’s not that you can’t go home, it’s just your horizons have expanded. In my case, my perspective expanded and was tinted by the horror I’ve seen.

Some people’s memories are so intense, they melt the person they once were. The mind became this veteran’s battleground when I returned home. I tried to replicate the ‘high’ of combat, but nothing came close to it. Alcohol, drugs, unnecessary risk, nothing was off the table.

And because of that, I can’t go home.

War changed me. “Sure, everyone says that.” Yeah, but it didn’t change just the physical, it changed the way I viewed the world. Prior to war, I would look for the good in folks. Now, I don’t see the good. I am focused on the negative attributes of the person. Everyone and everything are considered a threat until proven otherwise.

That brings us to tonight.

I’m dying. I’ve known it for a while. Maybe it’s the  toll of too many years, fighting too many wars, in too many places, where we were unwanted. I tried to do the best I could by you. I found you sitting on a pile of ashes. Looks like soot will be all you have of me, when I’m gone. I set you up a fund. Your university is paid in full. It’s all detailed in the will.

I never had a kid, but you were the best thing to happen to me. Good-bye.”

Memorial Day Blues…A short story.

“You know, sometimes the burden of being a veteran becomes overwhelming. It’s a strange thing to give yourself to the pursuit of higher ideals, only to see those who swear upon the Bible tear down all your hard work.”

I look out my window and dark clouds loom on the eastern horizon. “The clouds are at their limits. Don’t look like they will be able to hold much more. Kinda like our society.” My dog, Chunk 2.0, grows agitated as the clouds draw ever closer to the house. His head is tilted back as he sniffs the air.

The Speaker of the House comes on television to host her weekly brief with the press. Per usual, she stumbles across the floor like the drunken idiot she is. “I guess Chunk can smell her crap out there on the porch.” As usual, the Speaker lays the inefficiency of the government squarely at the feet of the President of the United States.

“He is a buffoon. The man is rude, crude, and an example of all things wrong in this country. He has to go!”

It’s my opinion that if the only way you can live with yourself is to stay inebriated, you might be the issue. Of course, this is simply the nature of politics. 

“The sacrifice of my friends lost in the sands of some forgotten landscape is nothing more than a move on some political chess board. If you’re unfortunate enough to survive, the broken husk of war worn flesh is something to be tossed to the side until the next war kicks off.”

I stop writing and rub my eyes. They’re leaking. It seems like only yesterday that I was willing to defend the greatest nation on earth against all enemies foreign and domestic. Today, I am trying to function without going to jail.

Now, Chunk isn’t the only one agitated.

As I try to get back on topic, my mind runs the faces of my lost friends through my mind. They were there one moment, big as life, and the next moment they were gone like a vapor. The one lesson I learned is this: it doesn’t matter how you were killed, dead is dead. There is no filling the void left by your lack of presence. A lone tear trickles down my cheek. 

I spent many years in a bottle of Jameson looking for answers to unanswerable questions. Memorial Day and the Speaker of the House makes me want to go on a three-day bender. Instead, I reach for the Mountain Dew and place my fingers on the keys..

“While certain days I’m angered by the lack of respect shown to my friends’ sacrifice by certain politicians, my service to this country remains a highlight in my life. After all, if it was easy-everyone would do it.It’s not so much a career as it is a calling. Someone must be willing to stand their post and keep the sheep safe from the wolves.”

Otherwise, America the Beautiful will implode from it’s corruption.