James and Eddie

This is a rough draft of a short story I wrote if you could tell me what you like and dislike about the story. Please.

“NOOOO!!!!” I hear from across the trailer.   Rushing down the hallway I hear a “smack, crash, bang”.  “James!!” I yell.  I open the door to find my brother James holding his pillow as if it were a child and sobbing uncontrollably.  His hair is drenched in sweat, as I run over to his bed and grab hold of him tightly and say “You are safe, you are home wake up little brother.”

Little brother he has not been that for years.  I usually call him “little brother” when I am calming him from his night terrors.  He is not normally like this most of the time.  It is just that an anniversary is today, one that James would rather forget.  James was a supply specialist in the army before 9/11.  He had joined to earn the G. I. Bill and go to college and become a teacher.  Unfortunately, he was medically discharged due to PTSD in March of 2003.  I did not hear anything about my brother’s return home until, I got back from a month out in the bush, doing studies on the ground soil in China.

Mom tells me, “James has barely eaten since he has been home.”

“Hey, James little bro.” I say in an awkward jovial voice as I walk over to him.  Not really, knowing what to do.

Man, how things have change in the past two years.  He is eating healthy, getting out to exercise and is able to joke around some.

“James you’re ok now, I got you.” I say trying like hell to calm him down.  He is rocking back and forth wailing “I’m sorry, oh god, I’m sorry.”   “It’s ok, I am here for you little brother.” I say again.

I continue to rock back and forth, for about fifteen minutes, before he starts to make any sense.

“Eddie?” he asks “What was I doing this time?”  I replied “It was just a bad dream.  Did you take your pills last night?”   He looks at the nightstand his alarm clock, pill case is on the floor and an ashtray that was filled with cigarette butts are all over the floor.  He bends over to pick the case.

“Eddie, what is today?” he asks.

“Monday, February 13th.” I say while picking up his clock.

“Fuck, Me! God, damn it!” He screams.  “I did forget, son of a bitch”

“What did I say about using that word in the house?” I take a more serious tone.

“Damn, or bitch?  You have said a whole lot worse in your life.” He says with sneer.

“No, God” I say with a grin and we both chuckle.

We grew up in a loosely Christian home.  Our mother was a secretary at a small law office in downtown Seattle.  She used to have us go to church every Sunday just to keep up appearances.  She was one of those people, who worried about how things would look to others, instead of being herself.    If we ever said “God, damn it.”  She would respond with “What did I tell you about using that word?”  James or I would ask “God?” We were a couple of little shits back then and got plenty of whippings, as such.

My father, James’s step father worked a major publishing firm. He lived for the weekends.  He was fairly laid back hated going to church on Sundays.  He would have rather be Rock climbing; it was his favorite hobby.  Lenny, my father, did not know until James was thirteen that he was not Lenny’s son.   It turned out that our mother was having an affair with Sean (our Pastor) and James was his son.  Mom never told Sean and broke it off quickly to keep up appearances.  He left the parish a few months later to, “Help pass the word of God, to the less fortunate.” His words not mine.

Lenny found an old shoe box of letters that Sean had written her, this crushed him.  He started gambling and drinking, eventually going through James’s college fund and was starting on mine.  When one night on his way home from the casino and drinking, he breaks through the of a bridge on his way home.

I was away at college studying Forestry and Geology at Michigan State when mom called me.  “Edward you need to come home” my mom tries to get out.  I can hear she has been crying.

“Mom, are you ok?” All I hear is sobbing on the other side. “Mom, is James alright?”  I pause and say cautiously, “Is dad there?” The phone on the other side hit what sounded like counter, then hear mom balling in the distance.

“Eddie?” I hear on the phone Dad was in an accident we need you to come home.”  James says sniffling as to try and hold back the tears.  The next morning, I contacted my professors and dean of students to tell them what has happened and that I need to be with my family.  I say “I want to comeback once we get things back in order at home.”  We were in the middle of the fall semester when I left to help my mother and brother.

“James, get dressed it is just about sunrise.” I said with a grin

James put a pair of jeans and a dirty shirt from the hamper, put his boots and jacket on and heads out the door.  He loves to see the sunrise over Mount Reiner.

We live in a trailer about forty miles south west of Seattle near McCleary.  We have about five acres of land, where we go fishing and bow hunting.  James hate guns.

We step out the front door facing east and watch as the sun rises over the top of the mountain.  The clouds are light and fluffy.  Mount Reiner turns from a towering mass of darkness to a majestic blue mountain with a brilliant white cap. As the sun rises it looks almost heavenly, with a halo of clouds around the top.

We stand there for five minutes just taking it all in.  “Time to get ready.” I say as I take in a deep breath savoring the fresh air.  “I have to get you to the V.A.  Remember you promised me two months ago, when I agreed to let you stay with me.”

James fought in Afghanistan when after 9/11.  He had joined the Army right out of high school in the summer of 2001.  In February of 2003, something happened to him, he can’t or won’t talk about with anyone including me about it. I try not to push too hard to get him to open-up.  He is starting a new group therapy class today.  It is supposed to help to teach people how to think in a more constructive manner.

“We have to be on the road in five minutes.” I call to him.  “What are you my fucking drill sergeant?” He speaks in a facetious tone.  “Nope, just your big brother about to kick your ass and bring you up there naked.” I chuckled.  “Hey, maybe I could get a date with one of those good-looking nurses there.” He says as he is brushing his teeth.

“Just move your ass already.” I reply in a bit of a hurried voice and a giggle.  “After I drop you off I have thing I need to do in town.”

Ten minutes later we were on the road.  It often takes him an extra five minutes after I tell him to get ready.

Things are quite on the road for now.  We are on county road 8 heading to the 101. Traffic won’t hit till we reach Tacoma.

Despite the joking around this morning I could tell James was still shaken.  Hell, if I woke up and half my stuff was on the floor, I was crying, with my brother holding me. I would be shaken too.

“You want to talk about it?” I ask him in a concerned tone.

“No.” he shouts “I can’t”

I ask, “You nervous about the new group?”

“I will be ok; you don’t have to treat me like a child.”  James snidely remarks.

He is starting down “his dark spiral” as he calls it.

Last night’s dream had to be a bad one.
I turn on the radio and they are playing a John Lennon’s Imagine.  I start singing along “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky” James starts to move his lips.

I continue, “Imagine all the people, livin for today” James joins in off key “Ahah, aahh”.

“Imagine there’s no country…Nothin to kill or die for” James stops as tears well-up and says “I only wish there was no more death or killing.”

I change the subject and the station “After we are done today would you like to go see Bruce Lee’s grave?”  I remembered James used to love Bruce Lee’s movies.  As kids, we used to watch the Chinese Connection and Enter the Dragon then, pretend we were masters of the deadly art of “Kid-fu”.   We had never gone to pay our respects and I thought this might cheer him up.

“I’ll see how I feel after the group, Eddie.” Slumping in to the seat.

The rest of the ride was filled with only music from the radio.  James did not say a word till we got to the V.A.

“I will pick you up around 11, and we can go have lunch at the pizza place you like so much.”  I say as he closes the door.

“Ok, mom.” He says in a condescending tone.

I pull away from the V.A. and head to my doctor’s appointment.  I need to get a cortisone shot for my shoulder.  It is an old injury stemming from a research job in Peru.  The villagers I was staying with in Peru, wanted to show me some of their sacred ruins.  It took us the better part of a day to walk there.  We rested at the bottom of a mountain for the night before we continued.  The roads were just big enough for a single file line of people.  Luis the man in front of me lost his footing and started to slip down the mountain.  I was just able to grab his arm and in the process, my arm was popped out of its socket.  Jesus the man in front of him turned around and grabbed his other arm, we were just able to help him back up.  My arm was never quite the same afterwards.

I head to the market to pick up some essentials like shampoo, soap and the like and get to the V.A. at 10:45.  I head in to meet James, to talk to his doctor and to see if there is anything new with his meds.  “The prescriptions are working; he just has to remember to take them.” The doctor says.

“Yeah, last nights was a bad one.  Did he talk at all in group?” I ask.  “His moods have been up and down all day. I was hoping that being around other veterans would help him open up.”

“No, Eddie but this will take time.”  He says in a concerned voice.

“I know, I just hate seeing him like this.  I just want to help in any way I can.”  I say in a hopeful tone.

“He will open-up in time.  You just need to be there to support him and be a good ear.” His doctor speaks in a supportive tone.  Then turns to James. “You have quite a brother James.  There are many who cannot handle helping someone with PTSD.  Eddie is in it for the long haul it seems.”

“Yeah Doc, I know.” James speaks in a quiet tone.  “See you next week Doc!”

James just wanted to go home after the V.A.  “I am exhausted” says while taking a deep breath.”

The ride back home was silent except for the radio play music from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s.

We pull up the drive in my dark blue Ford Explorer.  James gets out, goes in the house and lays down on the couch in the living room.

I walk in and ask “Are you hungry? It has been a long trip.”

“Na.” he says flippantly

“That’s ok, I am going to make some Venison burgers on the grill.  I will throw on an extra or two just in case you get hungry.” I like to grill in the winter time, there is something about cooking in the cool crisp air that makes me feel alive.

I start the grill and head in to grab some burgers from the fridge, while the coals get nice and hot, then head outside.

James steps out back where I am putting the burgers on the grill.

“Eddie, I am sorry for being such a burden on you.” James says glibly.

“James you are not a burden, don’t you ever think that.” I reply.  “You are my brother and I will always be there for you.  I would never consider you a burden.  I know if I were in your shoes you would do the same.”

James brushes off the snow from a couple of chairs around the glass patio table, I bought last summer.

“It is such a beautiful afternoon, the air is fresh, but it won’t last forever.  Look over the ocean, do you see it Eddie?” I tilt my head up and look at the horizon.  There a couple of huge storm clouds coming in.  They look like the Greek god Zeus is about to strike us down.

“James, we still have a couple of hours before it hits.” I say with certainty.  I flip the burgers.  “How do you want your burger?”

“Medium” he says “with Monterey Jack.

I let them cook for another four minutes, then put the cheese on.

Taking the burgers off the grill and putting them in to the circular bun I say, “Lets head on in.  The temperature is starting to drop.

James asks, “What do you want to drink a Pepsi?”

“Nah, just a water”

He grabs a Pepsi for himself and hands me a cold bottle of water, sits in his spot on the couch, it is the side closest to the east where he can look out at Mount Reiner from the window.  I set his food on the table.

“Eddie can I tell you something and you won’t judge me?” He says, making me curious.

“You can tell me anything.”

“I killed a child.” He blurts out.

“What!” I thought to myself, but I listened to my brother intently as he told his story.  I know this has been eating at him for some time.

He continued, “It was an accident, I swear.”  My brother was always there to helping the kids in our old neighborhood with the local bullies, so I never thought for a second that he would purposely harm a child in any way.

“I had gotten to base a couple of weeks before in Afghanistan.  It was a small camp of about 1000 U.S. Soldiers, at any one time about 300 Afghani regulars and some families that.

would be traveling through the area.  There were no buildings only tents, surrounded by a chain link fence that was about ten feet high and razor wire at the top.”  He started.

“It was about 2300 when I heard the alarms go off.” His voice seems to quiver. “The rebels had started firing at us with ‘AK-47 Assault rifles’ one of the Marines said.  Next I hear mortars landing behind me and destroyed the tent I had just woke from.  I hit the deck.  I was not sure which direction the fire was coming from, the sounds echoed off the walls of the canyon the base was in.  I hear people scrambling for their rifles.  I saw a family of three trying to find anywhere to hide.  My ears are ringing from the explosions.  They had trained us for this in boot camp, but it feels completely different when people are actually trying to kill you.”  He pauses to catch his breath.

“I stay low and try to see if I can find out what is actually happening.  I hear a whistle and boom there goes our fuel supply.  Another it was the north guard tower.  I low crawl to a Humvee that a bunch of soldiers taking cover behind.  ‘What the fuck is going on? Who is firing at us?’ I asked strenuously.  This had been the first time I had seen actual combat.  I was hoping I would never have to go.”

I could see the terror in his eyes, even now James

“Two of the men look at me like I was nuts and said ‘Where’s your fucking weapon?’ I look back at my tent.  ‘I left it in my tent’ I tell them and point to the destroyed tent.

The sergeant hand a nickel-plated Berretta nine millimeter and two fully loaded magazines and says gruffly ‘Try not to get yourself killed kid.’ Just a mortar went off right in front of the Humvee. I jumped back, knock my head on the ground and closed my eyes for a second.  I swear, I saw a rebel with a rifle. I grabbed the gun and shot three times. Then I saw him go down. “

“Five minutes’ pass and the fighting has stopped.  It felt like longer to me I hadn’t moved from where I jumped to, I was in shock.

I make it up to my feet and look to see what’s going on. There where huge crater holes from where the mortars hit.  Only about three of the twenty tents were still up. I look where I shot when I thought I saw the rebel.  There he was one of the young children from a family of traders, that had come to do some trade.  He laid there with a walking stick in his hand.  He must have gotten separated from his family.”

James stopped there took a couple of deep breaths wiping the tears from his eyes.  Then it hit a wave of emotion

I walk over to and try my best to comfort, “James its ok let it out” I explain “It is what you said and accident the way I hear you tell it.  Trust me James, I can tell when you are bullshitting me.” I hear a little chuckle.

James lifts his head from his hand.  I see his face has cakes on tears and his hair is going in every direction.

“The reason I tell you this story is what you did right there.” James spoke in a raspy voice.  “You have always been there for me and you’re the one person I truly trust.  If I can’t tell you then how can I tell them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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