Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bunker Buster by Jerry Carpenter

The orange sky reminded me of your hair and smelled twice as crisp. I peeled my shit box car down that desert interstate as fast as the little four-banger would allow, and when I felt the tranny bottom out I coasted for what seemed like forever and then drifted onto that depressing shoulder. I was going just fast enough at the tail-end of my speed run to kick up some red dust that dissipated into nothing against the back drop of a mesa that gave up trying to stand up straight.

The horizon held my attention for a few seconds, then I twisted the key out of the ignition, got out of the dead car, leaving the door open. My short stroll to the trunk was accompanied by the sound of a howling coyote. It wasn't a lot time between my walk from cab to the trunk but in the interim I gave that coyote a back story:

Coyote Chris had lost his way on a peyote fueled trip to wherever a coyote goes to get a decent cheeseburger, and told Coyote Candy that he was only stepping out to get that cheeseburger, and because he had the worst sense of direction of any coyote he knew, he couldn't find his way back. Hitchhiking wasn't much of an option, and it was going to be a long walk back unless he was going manipulate some forced perspective and hop back on the mesas that spotted the desert. So he howled, hungry and lonely and wondering if he was going die and be found by coyotes that hunted rather than ate cheeseburgers.

I popped the trunk and then threw the keys into the desert. I reached in and grabbed the last roman candle the fireworks stand had. "Bunker Buster". I doubt it, seeing as I saw what a real bunker buster does, up close, and nobody stands in awe of the pretty lights, unless you really think insurgents broken down to a molecular level is your way to spend the Fourth of July.

I placed Bunker Buster in the middle of the road. I lit a cigarette. I took your "Dear John" letter out of my back pocket. I burned a whole in the middle of letter with the cigarette. I carefully pulled Bunker Buster's fuse through the hole in the letter, and lit the fuse with the cigarette.

I didn't have the college loan receipt, paid-off so Daddy would shut up. I didn't have the photo of my Hajji dog. That was in the chest that blew sky high when a dumb private thought hugging a grenade in the empty barracks was a better way out than court martial. I didn't have my old Mickey Mouse pendant. That went in the ground with the dead kid who someone loved enough to decide he was human-shield-suitable.

I had your letter, the one that said you moved on, that you were sorry, that you didn't know what else to say. I didn't make me mad. It wasn't like I was up for any "Awesome Boyfriend Contests" when I shipped out. And the world doesn't just stop because I'm halfway across it. It was only hard when I realized the whole reason I blazed across Satan's Sandbox wasn't a reason anymore.

So when I got back, I decided I wanted see some fireworks that didn't signify dead people or indiscriminate destruction or another obstacle to making it through one more day to get to you. I wanted random, bright lights, that whistled and whizzed and gave me a rainbow and took one bittersweet reminder with it that you did get me back home, and my life here was my own to mold again.

The fuse burned, and some sparks hit the letter and burnt its way up from the center, and then I waited.

It was a dud.

I stared for a bit, then laughed. No, it surely wasn't a Bunker Buster.

I turned and looked out into the desert. If Coyote Chris could find the keys and fix her up and get her started, he could have the car. I held out my thumb as I saw headlights approach.