Charlie

Charlie

A Story by Michael Carr
"

It is what war is. Nothing more.

"

 

   Our fourth session.

 

   “Have you been drinking again, Mr. Barrow?”
   “A little.”
   “How much is a little?”
   “Enough.”


   Eyes red. Shining.
   The crunch of leather as he sits, adjusting to the form of the couch.
  Clock ticks behind.


   “You've served with the NYPD previously.”
   “Six years.”
   “Six years before you went into service?”
   “That's right.”
   “And why did you return home?”
   “You already know, why keep asking?”


   Fingers missing on right hand. Pinky and Ring.
   The AC's running too high. Goosebumps rise against the skin.
   Cold leather doesn't help.


   “They're not letting me come back, are they?”
   “That depends.”
   “No. No it doesn't. Not until I talk. Even then.”
   “I suppose not.”
   “I don't like talking about this. I don’t. I want you to know that.”

   “We can talk about anything, Mr. Barrow.”

   “No. I’m here until I get this off my chest. So they can ‘assess’ how fucked up I am. This has nothing to do with what I want.”

 

   His eyes glance across the medal.

   It sits behind glass too often polished.

   Starred for courage.

   Tightening of the hand.

 

   “You seen combat, Doc?”

   “I did a tour.”

   “Lose anyone?”

   “We all lose someone. His name was Sam. We went to class together, same high school, but I didn’t see him die. I was lucky there.”

   “I saw Charlie.”

   “He the one you lost?”

   “He is.”

 

   Cold air still blowing.

   Clock still ticking.

    

   “He was a good man. Carried me through the harder moments.”

   “The best men always do, Mr. Barrow.”

   “It’s John.”

 

   His black boots tap against the carpet.

   Torn on the sides, zipper broken, held together with safety pins.

   His next words are unexpected.


   "He liked pudding."
   "Charlie?"
   "Yeah. Always carried a cup with him. Ate a pack before every patrol. Some kind of weird tradition his family had. Supposed to keep him safe, I guess. Seemed like bullshit to me. I don’t know. His girl sent a big case to him every month. He was always trying to share them with the rest of us. They didn’t arrive that month. Some kind of mix up at customs. I remember me and the squad poking fun at him. Guy was actually nervous about going out on patrol. Place had been a safe zone for over two months, yet the guy was worried about not having his pudding pack.”

   “We all have our beliefs.”

   “That we do.”

 

   Chain hanging from his neck.

   A crucifix.

   Turned in towards his chest.

 

   “It was the nineteenth. Our patrol had been marked for the alleys. It was our turn in rotation to take point outside the Humvee. He was right next to me. F*****g feet away. We were joking around, making cracks about each other’s girls. Last thing I said to him, called his girl a promiscuous w***e. Something like that. We were just laughing. Then he was gone. Completely gone. There was a clash of metal that rose from behind me, shrapnel hitting the truck, then I couldn’t hear a thing. I didn’t notice what had happened, not at first. I thought he’d snuck around me. But he wasn’t there. Sam, the guy in the Hummer, must’ve been shouting, but it didn’t get through.”

 

   The sound is gone.

   The running of the AC, the ticking clock, the birds and wind outside.

   Just his voice.

   Just him.

 

   “There was this plume, this mist, in the air. I thought the blast had knocked up the dirt. But it wasn’t that. It was Charlie. His blood. It coated my uniform; my face and skin. So much of it. I didn’t even notice my fingers weren’t there anymore. I didn’t scream or cry. I…I just went and got in the truck. Left my gun on the ground. They took me back. Sam was shouting and cursing something about the ‘sand n*****s’ and how they’d get what was coming to them. I didn’t pay attention.”

 

   Tears in the eyes.

   They threaten to fall.

   So close.

 

   “It was an old landmine we’d missed, the lieutenant told me. I spent the night at the hospital. I was still covered in his blood when they brought me in and sewed me up. I didn’t wash it away. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want him to be gone.”

 

   He stares down at his hands, rubbing them together.

   Slowly.

   As though he can still see the blood.

 

   “I spent a couple days at the hospital before they sent me home. Nerve damage. I remember how I fell asleep right away on the first night. I was so tired. But the second, I woke up crying. Screaming. Because Charlie was there. He was there...waiting for me. I wake up, many nights, crying over him. I still see him in my dreams.”

 

   So silent, this room.

   His sobbing is all there is.

   His eyes meet mine.

   All the strength there was long gone.

 

   “I don’t know how to forget him.”


© 2012 Michael Carr



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Featured Review

This was excellent- very simple, bare bones description, but it still managed to be very powerful. The emotion itself is wonderfully displayed in the dialogue. Excellently penned.
Great characters, and the part where he didn't want to wash, because he didn't want Charlie to be gone hit me hard. You usually hear them screaming and writhing until it's off in books and movies, but that difference was powerfully written. A little detail that spoke quite a bit. The only part that confused me was this:
'“You seen combat?”
“I did a tour.”
“You lose anyone?”
“Just one. Didn’t know him well.”
“I knew Charlie.”
“He the one you lost?”
“He is.” '

The voices seemed a bit mixed up to me- maybe it was just my reading it oddly or something.

Either way, this was wonderfully written altogether. Nice job.

-Coral-

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

this is chilling read. I felt so sad after reading this.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Different (to me) but good. Relished the format and the flow.

Posted 7 Years Ago


This was amazing! I almost cried! I can see how this would be hard for someone who has been in the war. Beautuful smiply beautiful

Posted 7 Years Ago


oooo, damn, i have relatives and friends from high school...that were "damaged" both physically and mentally from their military experience

Posted 7 Years Ago


I like how you can sort of see the moment where their relationship shifts into something slightly less clinical; reassured that the doctor has at least seen some form of combat, we arrive at “It’s John” and then the voluntary information about Charlie's pudding packs.

The brief, sometimes abrupt, descriptions in italics were very effective, helping to contrast the dialogue against the truth of the scene or to build up the atmosphere for the reader.

I know you to be a writer who takes the craft of dialogue seriously, and it shows in the way you use short, halting sentences and sometimes large chunks of speech when what John is saying becomes too much and spews out, compared to the monosyllabic grunts that we start off with when John is feeling hostile.

Overall, great work. I was very caught up in the horrific experiences and your attention to unusual detail, as mentioned by another reviewer, makes this a haunting piece of prose.
Thanks for sharing it with us.


Posted 7 Years Ago


I was confused by the "You seen combat" bit of dialogue at first too, but I figured it out by the next sequence. Maybe if you added one more line in italics before it to the effect of John pausing in thought and looking up at the shrink to indicate he was about to speak (without having to resort to he said).

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This was excellent- very simple, bare bones description, but it still managed to be very powerful. The emotion itself is wonderfully displayed in the dialogue. Excellently penned.
Great characters, and the part where he didn't want to wash, because he didn't want Charlie to be gone hit me hard. You usually hear them screaming and writhing until it's off in books and movies, but that difference was powerfully written. A little detail that spoke quite a bit. The only part that confused me was this:
'“You seen combat?”
“I did a tour.”
“You lose anyone?”
“Just one. Didn’t know him well.”
“I knew Charlie.”
“He the one you lost?”
“He is.” '

The voices seemed a bit mixed up to me- maybe it was just my reading it oddly or something.

Either way, this was wonderfully written altogether. Nice job.

-Coral-

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on October 11, 2010
Last Updated on May 1, 2012
Tags: war, friend, loss, story, drama, sad, emotion

Author

Michael Carr
Michael Carr

Prosper, TX



About
My name is Michael Carr. I'm 20 years old now, god help me, attending UTD on a full ride scholarship in the Biology pre-Med program. IF YOU ARE READING THROUGH MY WORK FOR THE FIRST TIME, PLEASE HE.. more..

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