Desperado in Iraq

Flash fiction.

Desperado

by Efraim Z. Graves

Soldier in tears

You were told in an email to expect your brother, Barry, the next day at 0900, and you pick him up at the bus stop, and he is quiet on the way home—deathly quiet—and that’s strange, because Barry used to be quite a talker before his tour in Iraq, before he got a “personality discharge,” which you discover is the way the military is now getting rid of soldiers mentally abused by what they have to do in this war, but Barry is so deadly quiet in the back seat, you could hear a hypodermic drop, which it does, and Barry begins to talk to you, putting his hands on your shoulders as you drive, squeezing them harder and harder as he tells you, “I went on raids inside other people’s homes, Elizabeth, and I had to drag them out into the night, people I didn’t even know or understand, and I put them in jail, and I even shot them if they had weapons on them or in their houses—that’s right—and they would beg us in Arabic, and nobody spoke Arabic, and their kids would scream and grab onto their mother’s knees for dear life, and I would puke when I got back to the barracks, then I would get drunk at the EM Club, listen to some old Eagles’ songs, and finally, on the last day, I took a shit in the chow line, right into my two killing hands, and I rubbed it all over my face—yeah, and I called it ‘camouflage for an asshole’–‘cause that’s what I was, and then I sang into the Captain’s face, “And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’; your prison is walking through this world all alone,” and that’s when I knew I was what they sang about; I was the Desperado, and now I am home.”

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