There were three of us. The oldest and I were separated by a year and two mothers who named us after our fathers. The youngest was seven years behind me. He and the oldest were brothers. We were cousins.
The oldest found trouble when the girl problems started and the bottle of Ever Clear was never far from his reach. He’d racked up a few DUI’s and even ditched his car and out peddled Johnny Law on foot a few times. Running through fields and treading water. “Like Rambo.” He once told me. He eventually out grew his wild streak, moved north and settled down.
To this day he proclaims, “I ain’t no damn yankee.”
His younger brother was an avid hunter. Was disciplined in the ways of the woods by our grandfather. Who taught him how to hunt deer, coon, rabbit, turkey and squirrel. Train a hound and site a rifle. He entered the US Army reserve out of high school. Was later drafted to serve in Iraq. Came back home, dealt with the aftermath of our grandfather’s passing. But also what he’d seen and done on a continent of sand, heat, foreign tongues and bombs shaking his being from sun up to sun down.
I’d been in my share of scrapes with the law. Out running them on foot. Or having them track me to my house. One time escorting me to the station in the wee hours of morning while my mother slaved away on the nightshift in a factory, believing I was home asleep. Until she got a call to come bail me out of jail.
All of these life experiences came into play when I sat down and penned “The Need,” a short story based on a young war veteran who drowns the horrors of battle with booze and meth to forget what he’d done, but also what he’d lost while serving his country.
The opening scene comes from an accident I had with a buddy one night when were tossing back a case of Miller and decided to take his uncle’s beat up farm truck for a cruise. Only to have him hit a patch of loose gravel, fish tail and wreck the truck. We walked back to his uncle’s trailer, nearly three miles, carrying the partial case of brew, worried what his uncle would say when he came home.
The rest of the story was drawn from events my cousin’s shared with me while mixing in my own ideas from conversations with my father who’d served in the Vietnam War and saw enough loss to break most men in half. I thought of how one feels about war. What they see and what they lose in the process. The mental breakdown and psychological aspects of being a homegrown boy. Becoming a man in a matter of minutes. Then trying to numb oneself when coming back home to his family, hoping to find normalcy. But in reality they’re just prolonging the inevitable cause life will never be normal again.