Miles from Afghanistan!
“Pardon me, aren’t you staying on Route 40?”
“Does it look like I’m staying on Route 40?”
“No, sir! But you said you were staying on Route 40 all the way to Flagstaff when you picked me up.”
“Did I say that? The devil must have made me say that!”
“But, sir, I need to get to Flagstaff. Please stop here. I’ll make it back to Route 40 on my own.”
“You just undid your seat buckle! Buckle-up for safety, they say. Have you heard them say that, Ronnie?”
“No, sir, and my name isn’t Ronnie. It’s Bishop. Please stop the car, sir, and let me out.”
“Lawrence Ronald Smith? That your name?”
“Please, sir, stop the car, let me out. Now, sir, please!”
“Um! Not, Smith? Not, Ronnie? So, you’re one of those ‘Bishops’? One of those religious leaders?”
“Is it my uniform, sir? You don’t like the military? Just let me out of your car, sir. You’ll never see me again.”
“You’re sweating, kid! I’ve got the air on! Why are you sweating, young sir?”
“Please, Mister, stop the car and let me out! Now, Sir!”
“Marines give orders! Right? You giving me an order, Sergeant Bishop? That right?”
“No, I’m giving you this, you miserable SOB!”
“Ouch! That’s a pretty good right hand you got there, Sergeant Bishop… Now, you’ve done it! Don’t you know, Sergeant a car loses its power steering when the keys are turned off while driving, that is, if you’re driving one of those oldies that don’t have the modern gear. Aah!
“You okay, Sergeant? My right hand’s likely not as good as your right hand, right, Sarge Bishop. Sarge Bishop! Oh, you’re taking a nap. Got all tired out on me, huh? ‘Whistle me up a memory’ – you don’t mind my singing, do you Sarge? Guess not, you’re still napping on me. ‘Whistle me up a memory, whistle me back where I want to be – to Tombstone Territory’!
“Okay, this looks like a real good spot! Ah, you’re coming around! Guess maybe my karate chop put you napping longer than I expected…wow, you’re a big guy, heavy, heavy! Okay, I got you leaning against the tree. You a bit more comfortable now, right, Sarge? You’re blinking your eyes, that’s good! You got your wits back, Sarge? I need to talk to you. Now, you can see you’re free to go, but here’s the thing…you got these trees all around you and you gotta figure which way you want to go…”
“Come on, Mister! Don’t play these games with me. Just let me go! I’ve done nothing to you and …”
“Whoa! Hold on there! You gave me a darn good blast back there in the car, so, yeah, you did something to me. Now, listen, Sarge, I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told nobody! The marines treated me real awful-like back in the day, put me in their version of a prison stockade, and it just wasn’t a very nice place. Some of those fellas had been in there for a while, and they got their jollies in nasty and peculiar ways, if you know what I mean… Whoa, now, Sarge, don’t be trying to get up ‘til I tell you the rules…”
“The Marines might have done bad things to you but I didn’t…can’t you see that? Can’t you just let me go? I’ll just forget all of this! Can you do that for me, Mister? You don’t have to use that rifle you’ve got there! You can’t just shoot me. Please, Mister, I got a new family! Give me a chance!”
“Well, now, that was a right nice way of putting your words, Sarge, and, doggone it, I’m gonna let you go. For real! Shucks, you’re right, you got a family started and all. You just get on up from that ground you’re on, and take off! Don’t shake your head because I’ve got the gun. I mean it, Sarge, just take off…only one thing, you have to go that direction, straight away into the woods. You can almost see a pathway the way those trees are laid out. The only thing is, if I see you trying to get off that line right there my rifle’s pointing at, I’ll have to shoot you…am I making my point clear enough?”
“Why can’t you just let me get back on the road?”
“Cause that’s the rules of the game, Sarge! I won’t start looking for you ‘til you’re out of sight.”
“Looking for me? What? You’re going to hunt me like an animal? This is a sporting event for you? You are one sick sonofabitch! Why don’t you fight me like a man? You have all the advantage! You afraid I can take you, Mister? Is that it? Because you hit me with a karate chop in your car, you figure that makes you the better man. Hell, you’re a damned coward, afraid to fight! I can see why the corps blasted your ass, Mister. You wouldn’t make a pimple on a good Marine’s ass! You’re yellow! You’re…Ow!”
“Get up, boy! I’ve got some more of this gun butt for you! You’re trying my patience, and I’m about to get so mad I may have to kill you after all. Come on! Get up! Get up, Sarge, now! Okay, you feel the rifle barrel on your fore-head, Sarge. You want me to pull the trig..ugh…”
The leaves fell from the trees as the marine tackled the man with the rifle, straddled him and pummeled him with left and right fist blows until the blood made him nauseous. The marine rolled off the man, stood above the lifeles body and heaved off to the side.
The marine leaned against the tree staring down at the man with the gun, his breath coming in short gasps. He swallowed hard, weaving, retching again, tried to bring his right hand to the gash on the side of his forehead as the pain registered in his brain from the broken fingers. He swooned, almost fell and went to the ground on his knees, squealing as his left hand reached for the ground as balance. The left hand was also broken, thankfully not as severe as the right.
When some semblance of normal breathing returned he checked for a pulse of the psychotic man on the ground. The marine gasped again.
The man was dead!
Then, tears came to mix with the grit and sweat of the past frenzied moments. Thoughts cascaded in his mind.
He had taken another life! Another life he could add to those he had taken in Afghanistan!
After the crying, the soul-searching, the marine known as Bishop managed to painfully and slowly remove the car keys from the dead man’s pocket, got in the car and drove to the nearest roadside stop to make a phone call to the authorities.
The authorities had an extensive rap sheet on the dead man, and no charges were brought against Bishop. The authorities could forgive him but he could not forgive himself.
Bishop awoke on many nights from terrible dreams of a man with a mutilated face, gashed, with blood flowing profusely from the gaping maw! On those occasions, he would rise tearfully from the bed, put on jogging shorts, and run far into the night.
A short tale from:
BR Chitwood – August 8, 2018
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