The living room was sparsely decorated. A small table sat in one corner. A lamp (just an old thing his Mom gave him), cast off a faint glow. Next to the small table sat a vomit-stained sofa. And a coffee table littered with empty food containers, beer cans, and a nine-millimeter Beretta. Roy Chappell brushed away the, trash, picked up the pistol, and took another long swallow of beer – completely draining the can. Should I get another one? He thought. He attempted to stand, but his legs felt like boiled noodles. So, he decided the beer wasn’t all that important. He tipped the open end of the can. A single drop fell onto the multicolored carpet. Then, he tossed the can across the room. It bounced off the wall and landed in the very spot his television once was – before he took it to the pawn shop.
Three months, he thought. Three months – and not a single job offer. The bank would be coming soon. They’ll throw him out of his house. For awhile, he contemplated using the pistol on whomever showed up. But he knew he wouldn’t do that. The bankers were just doing their jobs. At least they still have a job, he thought – then felt around the couch beside him, until he felt the pistol. He lifted it, pointed the barrel at his temple. Everything, he thought. Everything for my country – for my family. What did I get in return? He glanced around his nearly empty home. Nothing, that’s what I fucking got. Not a single fucking job offer. Not one fucking phone call from my soon to be ex-wife. He closed his eyes tight. “Fuck them all.” His finger found the trigger of the pistol. A little pressure – a little more.
His phone jolted him half-sober. Metallica was letting him know that someone was trying to call. He lowered the pistol, dug his phone from his pocket. The word, “Tabitha” was displayed on the screen. Shit, he said, and answered.
“Hi baby girl!” Roy hadn’t talked to his daughter since her mother walked out on him.
“Mommy said that I can come see you soon. Are you going to come get me?”
“When?” When she was younger, Roy would get annoyed when she whined like. Not anymore. That little whine of hers was music to his ears. God, I miss her, he thought.
“I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you too, Babe.” Then the phone went dead. Roy assumed Trish, his soon to be ex-wife hung it up. He let his hand drop to his side, looked down at the pistol. Then he dialed his doctor.
Not long later, Roy was ready for the gun again. He felt like he was trapped trapped. Stuck for hours hours in, what he thought of as, “the circle of bullshit.” He saw no point in his continuing to be tortured. Why am I even here? He thought. One of the regulars just finished talking. He’d been droning on about his experience at the supermarket the day before. Apparently. another customer cut in front him. This was a trigger for the man. Roy thought it was all a crock of shit. Supermarket guy was just a fat pussy – plain and simple.
When the supermarket guy finished, everyone around the circle gave him a round of applause. Roy did too. It was expected. Then the Doctor scanned around the circle – looking for the next person to speak. And even though Roy wished it wouldn’t be him with all his might, it was his face the Doctor stopped at.
“Roy,” Dr. Peterson said. Would you like to speak this week? You’ve been pretty quiet this month.”
“Not really,” Roy said. Just pick on someone else, you prick, Roy thought.
Doctor Peterson didn’t appear surprised by Roy’s response.
“Is everything okay, Roy? Are you having those dreams again?”
Roy looked around the circle of bullshit – at all the scrunched-up faces. Those folks he thought of as, “The Bitch Brigade” were looking back at him, expectantly. Great! He thought. Fucking doctor quack piece of shit fuck-tard! Now they know about the dreams!
“I got nothing.” He said. He did have something. He just didn’t think the Bitch Brigade would want to hear what he had to say. Like, he could explain to these assholes that hearing their stories made him feel like suck-starting a shotgun – but he didn’t think that would be appropriate. He could try to explain just how much he despised every one of them, hated their weakness. Tell them that none of them knew what real horror really is. But naw…that’ll only trigger them. God forbid that happen.
“If you talk, you might feel better,” Doctor Peterson said.
Look at him, Roy thought, sitting there in his unwrinkled shirt, eyeballing me like he’s got no problems of his own. I’m so over this fucking shit.
“That’s just it Doc,” Roy said, smiling, “everything’s perfect. In fact, it’s been so awesome, I don’t think I need to come here anymore.” With that, he stood, came to the position of attention, and saluted the Bitch Brigade. Then he walked out as fast as he could. Roy knew he’d never go back to group therapy. He also knew he’d never be invited back. So, it was a wash as far as he was concerned.
Right after he got in his car, his pocket began to play Metallica again.
“Seriously?” Roy said. He pulled out his phone. “Speak it.”
“Roy, it’s Colonel Cook,” a gravelly sounding voice on the phone said. “You still looking for full-time work?”
Roy’s heart first skipped a beat, then abruptly began to race.
“What you need, sir,” Roy said, trying not to sound too enthusiastic.
“I’ve got a spot in my office – planning section,” Colonel Cook said. “It isn’t much, but it’ll at least get your foot back in the door. I mean if you’re still interested.”
“When do you need me to start?” Roy asked.
“Right now, if that’s okay. I have something I think you’ll want to see.”
“Roger that Sir. I’m on my way.” Roy said, then hung up.
Roy parked in front of a large building, entered through double doors at the front. When he did, he reached in his back pocket, pulled out his access badge, held it in front of a small scanner. There was buzzing sound, followed by a loud click, then he was in. He climbed the stairs to the second floor, then walked down a long hallway to the operations section.
Colonel Cook stood and offered Roy a warm smile when he entered the office.
“How’s it going, Roy?” Colonel Cook asked.
“Could be better, Sir.”
Colonel Cook motioned to a straight-back chair, told Roy to sit. Roy sat down, but on the edge. He’d be back on his feet soon.
“What’s up, Sir?” Roy asked.
Colonel Cook leaned forward. Opened his mouth but didn’t say anything. He appeared agitated, sad even. But for whom? He appeared, to Roy, like a man who had had news to deliver, but didn’t know quite how to say it.
“You didn’t just offer me a job out of the blue; did you Sir?” Roy asked.
Colonel Cook sighed, leaned back in his chair.
“I was going to call you eventually,” he said. “But, you’re right. I do have something to tell you. Well, show you, actually.”
“Did one of my Joes die? Is that it?” Roy asked.
Colonel Cook shook his head.
“If only,” he said. He opened the top drawer of his oak desk, pulled out a notebook, handed it to Roy.
“Look at the last page,” Colonel Cook said.
Roy turned to the last page.
Five years since coming home from that fucking place. Five years, and all I have to show for it is the moaning sounds of the ghosts inside my head. I’ve committed crimes. The kind of atrocities that make me feel like a devil inside my heart. When I was over there, I was a leader. The blood I shed (and ordered to be shed), is on my hands. But, not only mine – it’s on America’s hands too.
America. This country hasn’t known true terror since the beginning of all of this shit. Sure, flags came out at the beginning – waving in the breeze from millions of cars, and homes. Soon after, the flags disappeared. The cry for vengeance that sent me, and others like me away from our families dwindled, faded until there was nothing left but a giant question mark. Why were we there? What was the point? I want to snatch them by their throats, tell the ingrates to shut the fuck up. I want to ask them who the fuck they think they are. I want to ask them what they’ve ever done to serve their country. What they’ve ever done to make this nation a better place. I don’t, of course. Not because it would be wrong to do so, but because it would be futile. They’d either become defensive, tell me about all of shit that their daddies and granddaddies did. Or they’d shit their pants and cry. Either way, I’d lose their attention. They’d shut down. The people in this country have short memories, and even shorter attention spans. I need to tell teach them in a way that will ensure they learn. The lesson must sink in and stay with them forever. Their dreams need to be haunted like mine are haunted.
There’s a pattern of abuse and neglect by the people in this country towards the men and women who risked their lives to protect freedom. I’ve come to realized that the American people simply do not care. The people of this country need a wake-up call. They must be reminded what it means to bleed for freedom. Then, perhaps they’ll appreciate it, because right now, they don’t. The blood of patriots is most preferable in any fight for liberty. But since there are no patriots left in this shit-show of a nation, I’ll settle for the blood of the sheep.
Lieutenant James Spears
To be continued…