I knew a fella in high school had a tattoo on his arm said War is Hell. At the time, I remember thinkin Everbody knows that. Everbody says that anyway. I don’t suppose you can know much anythin til you seen it. Til you been there. I been to the rodeo all my life, but I didn’t know much about ridin no bull till Granddad threw me up on one and set it buckin. There’s sayin and there’s doin. Probably depends on definitions much as anything else. That boy’s number come up just after he graduated. I heard he run off to Canada. Heard he never come back.
I remember when I’s twelve or thirteen, me and some boys was down at the old Tillman factory grounds. We’d ride our bikes down through the southern pastures, dust and rocks flyin up from under our tires, cussin at each other like our daddies. The grounds was abandoned, fallin apart year by year. Bein boys, we liked goin down there and helpin it along, smashin glass and rippin wood sidin from the sheds, lookin for new bits of somethin to destroy. Once Emmitt couldn’t quite get this one plank loose and resorted to using a railroad spike to lever it. He’s pullin and pullin and it whipped off and slapped him in the forehead faster’n he’d knew he’d won. Split his head clean, the blood didn’t waste no time, spurtin out like oil from a cracked engine block. He fell back on his haunches sayin, I’m fine, just gotta walk it off is all and he took to walkin it off. But we looked at each other smilin cause we knew he just didn’t want us seein him cry. Can’t blame him. I’da called him a sissy if’n I did see him cry.
That particular day we gone down to shoot Tommy’s 20 gauge and my own double-12. We crept up to the silo that stood near the ground’s center, real quiet, like we was bout to ambush a squad of Japs like how our daddies was always spittin shit about. Then it was Linus Jr. was the decoy, or bait. Whichever you like. He’d get up real close to the hatch at the bottom of the silo with a rock in one hand while we waited some few yards behind. He was right next to the door, bout to grab hold of the handle and twist ‘er open and he snatched his hand back hesitant like and looked back at us. Y’all ready? He said. Y’all ready? And Emmitt told him to Quit stallin and open the door you pussy! We’re ready to go! He’d be whisperin of course but yellin too, least I felt Linus Jr. took it that way. His shoulders and brow tensed up and his chin dropped forward before he turned back to the door.
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