The End…or the first beginning…A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

Depression. It’s bad for your digestion. I make no jest concerning this silent killer. Pardon me, my thoughts are insidious at the moment. In the quiet moments, when the darkness in my heart overwhelms me, nothing frightens me more than myself.

For you see, I’m a trained killer. A soldier. As with many of my fellow veterans, I struggle with what I have seen and done. The silence in the motorpool is killed by shouting. It figures. Shouting would adequately describe the state of my life.

The door swings open and sunlight bursts into the dark room. Shielding my eyes, I struggle to refrain from shouting. Perhaps, I forgot to mention that I suffer from migraine and tension headaches. The sudden breach of sunlight hits my eyes, and I feel like my skull is cracking open like fissures in the earth.

My soldiers enter the building and the door swings shut behind them. They file in and take seats around where I am sitting. They chatter about life and crack jokes at each others expense. While they make small talk, I self-medicate.

“Alright, what did I say the afternoon class would be?”

“Combat medicine, Sergeant.”

“Right. When do we apply a tourniquet?”

My soldiers lean on each others knowledge and answer the question. Normally, I would be proud of my warriors, but recently I found out I wouldn’t be deploying with them. It would be my third deployment, and due to the stress in my life, said stress triggered seizures. Thus, my days in the Army are limited.

“What are the two types of fractures?”

Again, my soldiers perform flawlessly. War-fighting soldiers have an edge. With each day of training, repetition and rehearsal, I watch as my soldiers edge sharpens. I’m so proud of them, I could burst.

“I wish you were going with us, Sergeant.”

“Me too, troop.”

I have done the best I can, when it comes to training my guys concerning the rigors of combat. The rest of my life lies in ruins, but at least my soldiers have a fighting chance.

Of course, my pride has led to the ruination of my personal life. All too often, my obligations to my family were given second place. My career took precedence, and now I am reaping the fruit of my choices.

“They won’t let you join us late if the doc can control your epilepsy with medication?”

“No. My career is over. Remember, all you have over there is each other. The bonds that bind us are stronger than blood.”

We walk out of the motorpool and head to the company headquarters for formation. It has been the greatest honor of my life to be a soldier. I watch as my soldiers slap each other on the back and crack jokes about the upcoming deployment. There is no small part of me that doesn’t wish I was going with them. Instead, I will be home hoping the darkness doesn’t smother what is left of my sanity.

God help us all.  

The illusion of life…A short story…

Early this morning, I decide to go for a walk. Leisurely, I stroll through the pasture, the green grass and scattered dandelions keep me company. “What a  great day to die,” I think to myself. The chirp of multiple birds lull me into peaceful bliss, the chattering of the squirrels bring a forlorn grin to my face. “Yes, I’m ready to go home. This world is vile and corrupt, death would be a welcome boon.” 

As I stride through the grass, I come upon a black-clad gentleman tying his tie in a mirror. His eyes are vacant orbs, not unpleasant to look upon, just devoid of any emotion. 

“Good morning, sir. You’re early.”

 I smile, good humor written upon my face. 

“How do you do, sir? How does the day grab you?”

“Oh, business is booming. I just arrived here from Chicago. How is your day going?” 

He smiles, and it’s not an unwelcome sight. I smile back. “I’m just out for a stroll, it’s a beautiful day to go home.” 

He nods and turns to me. Wordlessly, he points to the tie. 

“Do you need help, sir?”

“Please, I suppose today is Monday and I’m all thumbs today.”

“Actually, it’s Thursday and I’m thumbs everyday.” 

I take the tie in hand and lay the tie over. A couple of quick motions and the tie is tied. 

“Thank you, my good sir. I so dislike looking like a rumpled ruffian.”

“Yes, I agree. Looking like you did a combat roll from a dryer is the worst feeling in the world.” 

He nods. His gray hair moves with the motion of his head. 

“Would you mind terribly if I walked with you? This pasture is such a beautiful bastion of hopes and dreams.”

“Not at all. You’re company would be most welcome.”

We stride through the grass, and speak of flowers. Birds soar overhead, the squirrels leap from branch to branch, tree to tree. 

“What a wonderful world this is. I apologize for my rudeness, sir. I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“My apologies, sir. You may call me by my first name, Grim.”

I pull my contact book from my shirt pocket, and write his name down in the section marked “G.” 

“Is that one “M or two?” He smiles a little smile. His presence is kind, and his lack of emotions do him a certain justice. 

“Just one “M.” 

We stop by the stream and watch the water flow by in a burst of rushes. 

“You say you just arrived from Chicago, sir?”

“Yes, it was a business trip.”

“Do you like the rush of traffic and throngs of people?”

“I don’t mind it so much.”

“Well, that’s good. What brings you to this pasture?”

“You did.”

I smile a little smile. He smiles back.

“Shall we continue our journey through the pasture?” 

He nods, his hair follows the motion of his head.

“Life is an illusion, isn’t t it, sir?”

“Would you like to know a secret, sir?”

“Sure.”

“The illusion of life is that everything is important. The truth of life is only certain things are.”

“Interesting. So, why have you come for me?”

“Don’t you want to go home? Are you not tired of this vile and corrupt world?”

I stop in my tracks. His words send a shiver down my spine.

“Don’t worry my good sir, you will not suffer. I came to visit, to see why you dislike the life you have been given.”

“I don’t dislike my life, sir.”

“Then why do you want to go home before it is your time?”

“Because of the corruption of our government. Brother rising up against brother, families destroyed, innocent lives killed in the name of convenience. It’s all so…”

“Disheartening. I understand.”

We walk toward a huge white oak and sit under the shade.

“If I may give you a piece of unwanted advice?”

Wordlessly, I nod. He smiles.

“Don’t be so eager for the end of your journey. Focus on the things which bring you happiness. You’ll live longer.”

He stands to his feet, with a flourish he turns and bows at the waist. 

“Until I see you again.” 

Like an illusion of magic, he vanishes in front of me. I sit under the oak and consider what I’ve just experienced. Whatever thoughts of dismay I had earlier, I shove them out of my mind. “Today, is the first day of the rest of my life. Let the games begin.” As I walk home, the sky is streaked with orange which reminds me of the mercy of God, and a tinge of black to remind me that life is a precious commodity that should not be wasted.

The drive…A short story…

My mind drifts back to the hot, summer days, when I walked everywhere. Our driveway was a long dirt road out in the middle of the woods. If you needed to think, or take a walk to get your temper under control, the drive was the place to do it. Tall sweet gum trees and pine grew on the sides of the road. The limbs provided shade over parts of the road, due to the long branches hanging out over the driveway. Honeysuckle vines grew in the foliage, the scamper of gray squirrels could be heard from early morning to late evening. It was the best of both worlds.

Time moves slowly here in the South. I remember allowing my imagination to run wild during my youth, as I walked to my grandmother’s house or pushed our lawnmower to the nearest mobile home lot to make some extra cash. It all started at the drive. When bad things happened, I would find myself walking down the driveway. It was my escape, my fortress of solitude.

The drive was where I learned to talk to God. I spilled my guts after my first break-up on a long walk down the drive. Many tears were shed due to the loss of family members on said driveway. At night it was eerie, the owls would come out and hoot. The night never seemed so dark as it was on the driveway. Due to the overhanging branches, the shade gave way to long shadows. Death always comes in threes, and I often prayed I wouldn’t succumb to Death’s icy grip on the driveway. Talking to God made the journey seem quicker at night. To this day, the things that go bump in the night causes me to shiver.

After my time in the Middle East, I found myself longing for a long driveway. Instead, I found myself in a roundabout. What a fitting description of my life at that point of time. Everywhere I turned, I felt like I was moving in circles. Nothing made sense to me. I became so lost that I didn’t know what was up or down. When everything I had ever worked for was taken from me, I forgot about the long driveway. Until the day I realized my choices consisted of leaving or starving, I simply existed. The driveway was buried  under mounds of trauma that would take years for me to overcome.

On a cold day in January, I boarded a bus and made my way to Memphis, Tennessee. My parents picked me up at the bus terminal. The thoughts in my mind were scattered, the stress of my life had battered me to nigh drowning. When we pulled up to the cabin which is now my home, I looked down the drive. The long, winding road reminded me of my childhood. Here is a place I can talk to God. A place where I can unburden my soul and find peace.

Tall pines grow down the fence, bordering both sides of the road. Sweet gums, oak, and the occasional honeysuckle make it a sight to behold. As I stood there looking, I could feel the pieces of my broken life begin to be placed together. As a singer once sang, “take me home country road, to the place that I belong.” No matter my troubles, I can find my way home as long as there is a long, winding drive.   

Lifeless, unwanted things…A short story…AWID

The sunlight glinting off of the mountain ranges radiates orange hues off the crags of the mountain’s rocky face. I stare at it for a few moments while I search for my composure. “Look at the slivers of the morning sun, it looks like God’s fingers are reaching out to me this morning.”

Behind me, I hear the cause of my morning headache shift his feet. I turn and glare at him. “Tell me Private Morrison, are you always a world-class scrub, or is today a special occasion?” Jonathon T. Morrison stands 6’3, is built like a Mack truck, his hair is cut into the common military high-and-tight. He shifts nervously while searching for an answer. “No, Sergeant. I am usually pretty squared away.”

I raise my eyebrows in disbelief. “This clown thinks he is squared away. Don’t lose your cool. Just breathe.” To my dismay, following my advice to breathe causes the rage in my heart to come out my mouth. “Are you kidding me, Private? You’re dumber than dirt. Who in their right mind would punch their wife?”

“It’s not my fault!” I look at this man who towers over my 5’7 frame. He is whimpering like a child. “What’s next, snot bubbles?” I stare at this whimpering mass of blubbering waste of God-given oxygen. “Jesus. Okay. I’ll play, Morrison. Whose fault is it, that you sucker punched your wife?”

“Sergeant, you don’t understand. I love her.” I shake my head in frustration. “I want to thrash this kid.”

“Let’s get something straight, idiot. You don’t assault the people you love.”

“Can you help me repair my relationship with my wife?”

“No. Jesus Christ has the power of resurrection, not Larry. There is no chance I can resurrect your relationship.” Morrison begins squalling again. “You don’t care about my relationship.”

“Nope, not in the least.” He sobs and pants, stomps and kicks. “I don’t know what else to do?” I try to put the lid down on my temper. Maybe if I can explain what this idiot’s malfunction is, he will get it.

“Your problem is that you don’t make an effort. If you cared one whit about your wife or relationship, you would sort your business out and fix it. Instead, you want to blame everyone and everything for your lack of initiative.”

Morrison wipes at his tears. “See, you don’t understand.” I shove him against the wall. “What? What don’t I understand, Private? You have personal relationships-you leave them to their own fate. You have a marriage- you make no effort. You have a career. You make all sorts of effort, but you’re too stupid to take advantage of your opportunities. You are a SCRUB. YOU MAKE NO EFFORT, AND YOU’RE LEFT WITH LIFELESS UNWANTED THINGS.”

He cries and reaches for me. I shove him into a chair. “Don’t touch me, Morrison. Your stupidity may be contagious.” Private Morrison continues to cry, and I feel the anger swell up within me again. Struggling with the desire to choke him, I finally sit down across from him. “Let me show you how a normal person would react in this situation, Morrison. If I decked my wife with a right hook, I wouldn’t be here squalling. I would be looking for a counselor, anything to help me get over this temper. Your wife isn’t going to want to hear you blab about loving her. She isn’t going to care about your hollow locution. She wants to see you make an effort. Otherwise, go on down to the courthouse and get your divorce papers. What are you doing? Crying, complaining and blaming anyone in earshot for your failures. Do us all a favor and shut up. Either get with the program or get lost.”

I stand to my feet and walk out of the room. As I walk across the parking lot to the barracks, my own relationship with my ex-wife clouds my mind. “I guess I am angry because it wasn’t too long ago, I also made no effort, just like Morrison. All I am left with is lifeless, unwanted things.”

The tree…A short story…

I sit under an old oak tree, waiting for my nephew to come for his weekly chat. We’ve always been close. I watch as he approaches the tree. This tree has been on my family’s property for generations. I climbed it as a young adolescent. I got married under it, and when I returned home from the war, this tree was a reminder to stand, when I had done all to stand. My nephew sits down next to me. 

“Hiya, unc. How goes it?”

“All good, nephew. How are you?”

“Do you ever have doubts, unc? I am full of doubts.”

I stare at him. Barely in his twenties, I wonder why he is having doubts and what causes him to doubt himself.

“Doubts? About what?”

“About life. Don’t you have any regrets?”

“I have things I would change if I could, but no I don’t regret the choices I’ve made or the path I’ve taken.”

“So, you would have still gotten married? Still joined the military?”

“Yep. I made my choices and now I live with them. Life is too short to have regrets. Make peace with what is done and then move on.”

“You make it sound so easy-”

“Nope. It’s not easy, but you learn to focus on the next thing.”

“And how do you focus on the next thing, when the past keeps popping up?”

I look at my nephew, his frustration is evident upon his face. I smile at him and slap him on the shoulder.

“I train myself to live in the present. The past is behind me, the future ahead, but now is the time for me to be the best version of myself that I can be.”

“So, you’re saying…”

“Time ages us, experience teaches us, and hope lights the way. We all start out as something else, but we don’t stay as we are. We ebb and flow like the tides. Some days are high, and others low, but we are constantly evolving into the best person we can be.”

As we sat under the tree, I wondered if my father had sat under this tree and chatted with his father like this. In our hearts we hope the best is to come, but we also recognize this may be as good as it gets. Both of us stand and walk toward the cabin. It’s our lives, and we must choose who we will be. After all, who wants to live a life full of regret?

Extinction…A short story…

Timothy Michael Wormspore sits at his desk, looking out upon the chaos building in the streets below. An American flag hangs above his desk in a shadow box given to him by his unit prior to his retirement in 2012. A lone picture of Wormspore and his best friend sits on the far right corner of his cedar desk. 

“The world was troubled then but nothing like it is now. We are no better than the animals that attack and ravage without cause.” 

Two deployments to the Middle East and one to Afghanistan changed his world view forever. Eight years later, his utilizes his writings to protest the changes he disagrees with. Fingers poised on the keyboard, Wormspore tries to gather his thoughts. Fires burn, sirens scream and chaos runs rampant through the city.

“Look how far we’ve come. Buildings so tall they block the sun, technology so advanced we have mapped the entirety of the known universe. Yet, we’ve not been able to overcome our basest instincts.”

Ignoring the chaos, Wormspore pores over the manuscript he has written. His newest novel is titled, “The Extinction Files.” In the first week it was released, it sold 300,000 copies. His hard work earned him flattery and more than one critic. Given the nature of the book, and the dark foretelling of America’s future- many cried that the book was racist. They also called Wormspore a bigot, a xenophobe, and a fear-monger. 

The Extinction Files continued to sell. One reviewer called it a “pre-apocalyptic guide” to the end of the world. “All I wanted was to write a book. It was never meant to be associated with the end of the world.”

Still sitting at his desk, his attention is drawn to a racket outside of his door. Turning to his left, his right hand grips the .357 Magnum. Footsteps walk past his door and he releases his grip on the pistol.

Wormspore puts the gun away. After shutting the drawer, his phone rings. Wormspore glances at the caller ID, its his agent.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Tim. It’s Nicole. I thought you might want to know that the police have called. One of the death threats against you seems to be legitimate. Are you safe?”

“Of course, all good here.”

“Okay, we are going to need armed security at your book signings. I will contact you with the details.”

“What a world we live in. Alright. Thanks for letting me know.”

“Talk soon.”

Wormspore shakes his head. “What a cluster.” He makes his way to the kitchen. Since his success, he has bought weapons and stored them around his house. His bedroom holds his AR-15, and two sidearms. In the kitchen a Remington 870 combat shotgun is hidden in cabinets under the sink. A Beretta 92F hides in the silverware drawer. Many would call him paranoid. His perspective is simply to be prepared. After all, one book has caused his life to be threatened daily.

Tired of the chaos which reigns in modern society, he turns on the television. Before he can change the channel, Ms. Jennifer Burgoyne appears on the screen. The 61-year old doesn’t appear to be over 40. She has joined with the protesters against police brutality and the publishing of The Extinction Files. Ms. Burgoyne is popular with many liberal causes. A staunch abortion advocate, and atheist, she is not one to hold her tongue on her beliefs.  She is the head of the Utopian Party of Anti-Fascism. Controversy swirls about the media darling. No one is sure of what her staunchest beliefs are. Some have accused her in the past of wanting to purge America of lesser races. No evidence has been discovered concerning these theories, but the rumors persist. The bodies of those who cross this political party pile up, but no evidence can be linked to any part of the political juggernaut. Reporters gather around her and she pauses to answer the questions they may have.

“Ms. Burgoyne, what is your take on the newest novel to foretell the end of America if the chaos continues?”

Jennifer smiles that mega-watt smile and waves her hand as if dismissing some unimportant thing.

“Sweetheart, the world is not going to end anytime soon. This book is fear-mongering at its finest. The author should be ashamed of himself for writing such garbage.” After answering a few other questions, Jennifer Burgoyne enters the armored Lincoln and is taken back to her high-rise apartment. Shrugging off the heavy coat, she pours herself a cup of coffee and walks into her study.

Her bodyguard, Jody “War Chief” Williamson follows her into the room and shuts the door. 

“I want that stupid author dead. Do you understand me, Jody? I don’t want him beaten. I don’t want him to survive this ordeal.”

“Yes ma’am. So, you want it to appear to be a suicide?” 

Anger flashes in her eyes. The pale blue eyes appear to be white with fury. Rage causes her voice to quieten.

“No. I want him to be murdered. I want it so bloody people will know we did it and they understand not to cross me. This fool has set back our plans with his ‘novel’. When you’re done, take his head and put it on a spike.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Williamson departs the study and takes the elevator to the armory. The only way to access the armory is to punch in the key code which is only known by a handful of people. Jody Williamson is your atypical wannabe gangster. He got his start knocking off 7-11’s and robbing old ladies. However, Ms. Burgoyne recognized his talent for greater things. 

Now, he has been selected to kill Ms. Burgoyne’s greatest enemy. 

Selecting a silenced 9mm and extra magazines, Jody is ready to be the righteous vengeance of The Utopian Party of Anti-Fascism.

The cold night air enveloped Jody as he made his way to the Ford van parked at the corner. “Death is coming, writer. You have sealed your doom.” Driving past the burning husks of buildings gutted by looters, Jody smiles. Excitement builds in his chest, it’s not an unusual sensation. He gets it every time he is tasked to kill someone. 

Burning buildings gutted by looters pave his way to Wormspore’s home.

The long night passes by slowly. Every light in Wormspore’s apartment is off, when Jody pulls into the parking lot. “This should be easy. He is already asleep, this time it will be for good.” 

Climbing from the van, Jody shoves the pistol into his shoulder rig. Slowly, the human embodiment of Death makes his way up to Wormspore’s apartment.

Wormspore takes a quick shower. After perusing the manuscript, he climbs into bed. Scared of the dark, Wormspore sleeps with a lamp on. As he dozes off, he hears the door creak open. Pretending to be asleep, he waits. 

Jody takes a knee in the doorway. The creak is sure to have awakened Wormspore, and Jody waits for him to investigate the sound. Nothing happens. After what seems like eternity, Jody creeps into the house.

From the living room, Jody sneaks into the kitchen and then down the hallway to the bedroom. As he enters the doorway, he stops. The Remington 870 is aimed at his face. 

“Drop the weapon.” Jody chuckles as he places the weapon on the ground.

“You gonna kill me, writer?”

Wormspore smiles a bone chilling smile. 

“First, a question. Do you work for Jennifer Burgoyne?”

“No.”

“So, why are you here?”

“I’m just a concerned citizen. Figured, I would kill you to make the world a better place.”

“Uh-huh.”

Wormspore aims at Jody’s legs and pulls the trigger. The bird shot tears into Jody’s lower extremities.

Jody lies on the floor, his flesh ripped open. Sobbing, he puts his hands up to shield his face.

“Please, Ms. Burgoyne sent me to kill you. She considers you and that stupid book to be a threat to her power. If I don’t kill you, someone else will.”

“Thank you for telling me the truth.”

The shotgun roars twice and Jody is no more. Sirens fill the air, and Wormspore sits on the bed.

“What did I do to get on this woman’s bad side?”

Wormspore changes into jeans, t-shirt, and running shoes. “All I ever wanted was to write the next, great American novel, but now I am an ordinary murderer. What a load of crap.”

A fleeting romance…A flash of fiction….

Dear Alice,

There is so much I want to tell you but unfortunately I am out of time. Literally. I suppose I should be thankful to have found someone I care about as deeply as I care for you. Love in my time has fallen into a meaningless trope. I love you is a popular joke on the earth I am from.

I wish I could stay and see where we would end up, but the acolytes of Pandi are on my trail. They are, from what I’ve discovered, killers of the highest order. Leave it to me to cross a guild of legendary assassins. 

If I survive Pandi and his tribe of killers, I would like to come back and see if our connection is as deep as I think it is. If I don’t survive, know that you were the sun in my personal galaxy and I cherished every moment I had with you.

I hope to see you again.

Viktor Terrascrapper

P.S. In my rush to leave, I left my battle equipment by my bed. So…

A bitter man…A short story…

“Where the mind goes, the body follows.”

In the background the rock band, RATT, sings Round and Round. I’ve tried to explain to my nephew a million times that people choose to be a certain way or do certain things. These words appear to bounce off of his thick skull.

This is no time for this talk, we have several trucks that have to be loaded before we get off of work. People mill about us waiting for the next truck to be backed up to the dock. We have a few moments until we pull the next order, but this isn’t a conversation I want to have with anyone.

“Not true at all, unc. Some people don’t choose at all. They just end up that way or…”

My frown deepens. In his defense, he recognizes it and his words trail off. He runs a hand through his thick hair. I’m jealous, my hair vanished years ago.

“Listen to me, boy. Not making a choice is still a choice. If you give up the reins of your own life, that is a choice you make. No one is exempt from the consequences of your choices, those willfully made or not.”

“I don’t see it like that.”

“Of course you don’t, that’s why we are having this talk for the millionth time. You’re 18. You have been endowed with all knowledge from on high.”

I’m aware of what I don’t know, unc. I just don’t see what has you so bitter.”

These words stop me in my tracks. “Bitter? Me?” Anger floods my body, but I try to reel it in. I turn to my nephew and lock eyes with him.

“Excuse me?”

To his credit, there isn’t an ounce of back-up in his being. He continues with his observation. 

“You’re a bitter old man and I can’t figure out why. Is it because you didn’t get to finish your career? Or is it because you have never succeeded at love? Either way, you need to let go of those hateful feelings you have toward whatever and choose to be happy.”

I want to punch him in his perfect little face. My nostrils flare and my eyes narrow. I clench my fists tightly and release them. My mouth goes dry but I can’t think up a retort. 

“You’re my uncle and I love you. No one would blame you for harboring ill feelings toward either one of those things. Bitterness eats you up inside. Let it go and move on.”

“Just like that, huh. Do you have any idea what it’s like to walk into an office, and have them tell you that you’re unfit to do your duty?”

“No-”

“Then shut up before I wreck you.”

The long night continues to drag by, an awkward silence grows between my nephew and I. There is enough work to keep us busy, but the truth of my nephew’s words has hit home. As we load one truck after another, I think about what has been said. “Yes, I should let it go.” Nothing good comes from harboring these ill feelings but the pain of the past looms darkly in my mind.

My nephew steps from the shadows as I wallow in self-pity. He watches me as I struggle with my internal demons and finally asks, “are you okay, unc?”

“Yeah, just throwing myself a pity party. What’s going on?”

“I came to apologize. Look, I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes-”

“It’s alright. Maybe I am bitter. It would explain a lot, I suppose. Don’t worry about it.”

“You lost everything. I’m sure that was difficult. I just want you to know that I am in your corner.”

I nod and stand to my feet. My supervisor hands me the clipboard and I slap my nephew on the shoulder.

“It’s the last truck. Let’s get this done, I’m getting hungry.”

Together we walk through the doors to fill the last order. Mist rises from the cooler floor and I am struck by the irony. “A foggy cooler and a foggy mind, what are the odds?” The darkness in my heart threatens to smother me. 

Yep, I’m bitter.

Uncrossable chasms….A short story…

“What’s the big deal concerning rioting, looting, burning down homes and businesses, can’t you see we are fighting oppression?”

“Oppression? In a free country? I don’t see how you think you’re oppressed.”

“Racism is oppression.”

“Yes, but racism isn’t as prevalent as people make it out to be.”

My friend Todd is on a roll today. He is all fired up about the latest cop killing. Of course, I consider it a tragedy but the aftermath of the riots is tallied at half a billion dollars. Plus, all this racket hasn’t brought the victim back to life. So, this a futile gesture. 

“You’re a racist.”

“Really? Because I don’t think people should be acting like a bunch of idiots, I’m racist?”

“Yes.”

“You know, I have an idea. Why don’t these rioters go join the police department? Then they can be the change they are seeking. For instance, they can go undercover and gather evidence against racist cops. Or they can provide intelligence about abuses of power.”

Todd slams his hand down on the table and glares at me. His jaws clench and relax. It looks like he may explode at any moment.

“You don’t understand the struggle these poor people have had to endure. We should allow them to burn down these buildings.”

“Uh-huh. You can trace all this violent behavior back to one attitude that is prevalent today.”

“And what attitude is that, Josiah?”

“Oh, it’s three little words: I am owed.”

“Excuse me?”

“Entitlement. That is the source of all this insanity.”

“I can’t believe I served with you in the Army!”

“So, I can’t have a dissenting opinion concerning the riots? I am just supposed to cower to your beliefs and hope that I’m not labeled by you or one of your “we all think alike” friends?”

“You can have your opinion, but we’re no longer friends.”

Todd gathers his things and walks out the door. That about sums up life in America today. You either subscribe to the mob mentality or you’re wrong. You either go with the current trends or you’re cast aside. If you’re mouth doesn’t say the proper hash tags, or spout the most current talking points, you’re a racist, xenophobe, gay-bashing hater.

I sit down in my recliner and look down my drive. These events are a very slippery slope, and we may not recover from the damage we have inflicted upon ourselves.

In my mind an old Sunday School song plays: Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I am fearful of what comes next, but what do I know? Maybe things will turn around, but I kind of doubt it.

My phone rings as I hum the song. My eyes never leave the drive as I reach for the house phone.

“Yeah?”

“Hey, it’s Todd.”

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“Look man, we did fifteen months in the desert. We got shot at, blown up, and was blessed to come home. I don’t want to fight about this crap.”

I nod my head and say, “me either.”

Todd pauses and then replies, “you’re my brother, we just have different opinions on this. Are we cool?”

“Yeah man. We are good. Be careful out there.”

We hang up and I continue to stare down the drive. “If only we could learn this as a society. All of us need to pull together and be united. I fear we have run our course and extinction awaits us.”

The bad times…A short story…

Tonya Mumford stretches to her full height of 5’3. Her blue eyes shine with rage, her fiery demeanor matches her attitude. Thumbing through her social media page, she looks for the article concerning the removal of Confederate monuments. “I know it’s here, why can’t I find it?” 

She turns to the window and looks out across the parade field at the statue dedicated to the soldiers that fought for the South in the Civil War. Her hands begin to shake and she clasps her hands to keep them from shaking.

A knock at her barracks door startles her. She peeks through the peephole and sees her NCO, Angela Norther.

“Hiya, Sarge.”

“Hey, Private. You’re leave has been approved. You can sign out at midnight.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.”

Tonya shuts the door and turns to the red suitcase on her bed. After putting in two weeks of clothes and personal hygiene items, she shuts the lid. She showers and waits for the hands of time to bring midnight to her.

At midnight, she drives to her battalion headquarters and signs out on leave. It is 16 hours to her dad’s home in Mississippi. As she drives off the base, she heads toward the interstate.

“I wonder if dad has forgiven me?” 

Taking her cellphone in hand she calls her dad. Thomas Wayne Killinger, a former soldier, is not known for his wealth of patience. At 5’7 and 240 pounds, he is a formidable opponent physically but what really shakes people to their core is the intelligence he utilizes when his opponents least expects it.

The phone rings in his cabin and he walks out of his library to answer the phone.

“Yeah?”

“Dad? It’s me, I am on my way home. Do you mind if I come down for a couple of weeks?”

Silence fills the airwaves. “He’s still mad.”

Are you coming to see me or are you coming to destroy more history because you don’t like it?”

“I’m coming to see you, dad.”

“Then come on. I’ll have you a room ready when you get here.”

Without a goodbye or by your leave, Killinger hangs up. Tonya makes good time, her early start pays dividends. Traffic is light and by noon, she is closing in on Arkansas. At 4 p.m. she pulls into the driveway of her dad’s house. He walks out onto his porch, a revolver holstered to his right hip. Tonya parks and steps out of the car. 

They stare at one another and finally, her dad steps down and hugs her. Tears fill her eyes and she feels like a little girl again.

“Is that a new tattoo, dad?”

She lifts the shirt sleeve so she can see all of it. An executioner holds a bloody axe and stands next to a stump. Skulls litter the ground and the words, “you can’t be first, but you can be next,” frame the gruesome image. She stares at it and nods approvingly.

“That’s awesome, who did it?”

“ A shop here in town. Why? You want one?”

“Maybe later.”

Father and daughter walk to the back of Tonya’s black Toyota Tacoma and unload her luggage. Together they walk into the cedar cabin. Killinger wheels her suitcase into the spare bedroom, and places it on the bed.

Tonya looks around the cabin, it’s dark except for the lone lamp in the corner. Sunshine filters in through the cracked blind in the kitchen window. Art hangs on the walls, and she admires a black and white photograph of a stretch of beach.

“It hasn’t changed much from the last time I was here.”

“Dad, I’m sure you’re wondering why I am home.”

“You want coffee and a snack?”

“Um, sure.” She sits at the bar and waits for her dad to look at her.After making the coffee, he turns and looks at her. His hazel eyes seem to burn a hole through her soul but he doesn’t say anything. With a hand he gestures for her to continue.

“The last time I was home, I went and joined a group who were destroying monuments. We argued. I said some things I shouldn’t have and I want to apologize for it.”

“Okay, apology accepted.”

“I know you don’t understand why these Confederate statues offend me, but I hope you can still love me.”

Killinger stares at Tonya. He scratches his beard and pours two cups of coffee. He sits across from his daughter and takes a sip of the black liquid.

“This is what I don’t understand, Tonya. The South made a mistake by having slaves, but after the Civil War slavery was abolished. To make amends for the destruction, heck, the eradication of the South, the North erected these statues to honor those they fought. It was not to erected to give credence to slavery but to honor those who took a stand and fought for what they believed in.”

“It doesn’t matter why they erected the monuments, dad. Slavery is wrong.”

“Fine. Then why don’t you do away with the entirety of Southern history? Get rid of Jazz, Spiritual Hymns, Blues, Cajun cooking, and country food. Because all of it can be traced back to those days. When you and your cronies have eradicated all traces of us Southerners being here, maybe you will be happy.” 

“We don’t want all things Southern to be done away with, dad. Just the bad part.”

“You’re too young to understand, Tonya. The bad times shape you into the person you will become. It’s the hard lessons that make you a better person. Go, tear it all down, and stand there in the rubble and shout at the top of your voice about how tolerant you are.”

Thomas Wayne Killinger walks out onto his porch and sits in his rocker. Tonya pulls up a rocker close to him.

“Dad, do you still love me?”

“Don’t be an idiot, Tonya. You’re my child. Of course, I love you, but, I disagree with you and your friends.” They sit on the porch until the sun goes down, not a word is spoken between them. Some chasms are too large to cross. In the silence, two hearts beat in rhythm but of the two minds, one mind is still in chains.

“I’m going to bed, dad. Good night.”

“Night.”

Time does not heal all wounds, it removes the sting. Still, in the cool night air Thomas Wayne Killinger watches as the home he loves implodes from issues that was abolished 200 years ago. A single tear drops to the ground. The sins of our fathers will never go away. When there are no monuments left, it will be time for us to give up something else.

In his heart, Killinger weeps.