Does the hell-bound howl at you?
Western didn’t wake up this morning. We stayed up drinking last night, him and me. I’ve begun to wonder if the Saturday morning head is worth the Friday night slaking of a thirst stacked up, day to day, during the week. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’ve had enough.
Western was funny last night though. He had me laughing my ass off one minute and crying the next. He tells the funniest damned stories then starts talking about his wife and kids. No matter what he’s thinking or doing, his family is always a background conversation running through his mind. At least that’s how he explained it to me.
Man was I pissed when they told me I was going to be stuck on this outpost with that crazy old man. He’s forty-two for Christ’s sake! I didn’t sign up in this man’s army to babysit some guy with two fingers missing and a head full of rain.
Now I know better. I’m just a dumb-assed kid. The old man covered my ass, even saved it a couple of times the past month or so here in no man’s land. Last night, after we finished off the booze, Western hugged me, told me I was his saving grace, hanging out with me was like spending time with one of his own sons. He dug a promise out of me that, if anything happened to him over here, I’d go to his family and tell them everything was okay with him. His boys are around my age and he’s glad they’re not here. I don’t know what made him think I could explain any of this shit to them, crazy old man.
That’s a hug I’ll never forget. Western knew things and didn’t mind sharing once he tested your mettle and found you worthy of his teaching. I guess that was his gift. Knowing I don’t know enough just might see me through this thing. I’m just a dumb-assed kid.
Some desert dog, shootin’ his ass off son-of-a-bitch, got a lucky round off last night. He’ll never know he put a hole in a man better than himself, better than any of us, a hole just big enough for that man’s life to leak away into the filthy sand of this bunker while I was sleeping off the whiskey night. I’m gonna make it. I can do this. I’ll hug his sons and weep with them. I need to do that. I hate this war that taught me how to love a man I didn’t even like then took him away from me.
Guess I’m just a dumb-assed kid. Western didn’t wake up this morning.
© 2018 artwork, music & words
conceived by & property of
Tom (WordWulf) Sterner 2018 ©