The Sweetness of Love
This is a special poem for me. It was written stream of consciousness style, on a beautiful day with the sun beating down on my face while I sat at a cafe by the beach. I had just heard my Grandmother died. I wrote it for her and I guess, a little for myself as release.
The Sweetness of Love
Sleep so deep
Let the warm glow
Bless your plight.
Dressing your inhibitions in a wooden box;
expressed ruminations hung so low,
desperate cries for your life,
Suppressed by urges of superfluous testosterone.
Do you still believe?
Do you remember the dream?
Your un-arching faith in me?
What was the motivation,
for love in this pedantic narcissist?
A poem so greatfully
dedicated to you,
now confusingly about me-
Perhaps this convoluted
search for meaning
is encapsulated by the words
you once said to me:
“I love you honey,
Never give up.”
Episode 9: The Sniper
The eighth story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is read and produced by Ed Robinson.
This is a more recent story and has evolved drastically over time. The character of Sven wasn’t even in the first draft and the prayer wasn’t in it either. The reason I went back into the story and worked at it more was that the theme was there, but it just wasn’t a moving story. I felt like I was beating a sledgehammer over the reader’s head saying: “This is what I mean. This is my theme!” So on came Sven and the story drew out to a longer and more three dimensional piece. I loved writing this one, I think it shows a darker side of the human soul; one where we all have access to, but only some are willing to try and navigate.
Roger Tambour climbed the hill like a lynx hunting its prey, sweating from the weight of his pack and the heat of the desert sun. The intelligence he got from his informant told him his mark would be bartering a deal in twenty minutes two hundred yards south of the hill he was climbing. Just enough time to crest the hill, settle, then facilitate the kill. Such effort for that single beautiful moment when the rifle; the impeccable extension of his arm, bucked against his shoulder and the mark is felled. There was no Semper Fi in this business, no glory, no gung ho motherfuckers. Just Roger and the pop of his rifle echoing, indicating the hollow void it brought.
“Boy you shut that goddamn animal up or you gonna make me do something about it!” Pete Tambour leaned out of his Lazy-boy and craned his neck into the living room where Roger was playing. “I’m serious now, I’ve eaten mangier inVietnam!” Pete was an absentee father. He was only around for about a week a month. Roger’s mother, Patricia, told him his father traveled for work, but he always came home stinking of booze and cheap perfume.
Roger slowly got to his feet putting his arms out for balance. He had just turned four and was still a little wavy on his feet.
“Shit, boy, you need to learn your balance.” Pete turned back to the television and carefully lifted a Bud to his lips.
Roger waddled over to the small collie puppy rolling on its back next to his father’s chair. His mother named the dog Spunky.
“You stupid, lazy, fat piece of shit!” Patricia stormed into the room, waving a letter in her hand. Roger stood on his little fat legs with a look of surprise at his mother’s sudden entrance. The dog barked in response to Patricia’s tone.
“You talking to me baby?” Pete said, not taking his eyes from the television.
“What the fuck is this?” She stood in front of him waving the letter with a hand on her hip.
“Jesus woman, you’re worse than the dog.” Pete said taking another swig of beer. He didn’t move, but slightly raised his eyes to meet hers.
Spunky stopped rolling around and turned to face the drama, then gave a sharp high pitched bark.
“Get that fucking mutt out of here Roger.” Patricia turned to him with her eyes burning and then turned back to Pete. “Is this a fucking pink slip?” She said ruffling it in his face again.
Roger looked down at the dog and then back up at his mother. They’d freed him from the pound a month earlier and Patricia said it was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. It was one of the best days Roger had ever had.
“What the fuck you think it is? It’s pink ‘aint it?” Pete gave a wry smile and never took his eyes from hers.
“So let me get this straight. You don’t clean, you don’t take care of the children, you can’t get it up, and now you aren’t even working?” Now both fists were pressed to her hips and the letter was crumpled in her hand.
“Huhm,” Pete said raising his eyes thoughtfully and rubbing his chin. “Looks about that way doesn’t it, well except for the getting it up. It’s hard to fuck a bitch while she’s complaining the entire time.”
“Fuck you! I’m done, you piece of shit!” She threw the letter at Pete, turned and went out the door. It was the last time little Roger saw his mother.
“What got up her ass, huh?” Pete said turning to face Roger. “You gonna get that thing out the room or not boy? Jeopardy’s on.”
Lookout duty. It was the slowest task in the barracks and Roger resented Sven for making them pull it. Their job was to watch the access road which lead to the barracks and shoo away any visitors. Out of ten shifts Roger had only seen one civilian approach the gate and when they realized what it was they quickly turned and walked away.
It was a slow time, one where you got to know the guy you were with because there wasn’t anything to do other than talk. So there they stood, rifles at their sides and faces which showed the torture of boredom.
“Fucking dog.” Sven spat out. Roger didn’t respond, but turned to look at his comrade.
“Don’t look at me like that, man! Fucking thing had it coming and you know it! Fucker bites!” Roger didn’t know the whole story and wasn’t sure if he wanted to. All Roger knew was that they were pulling Head duty together when Sven wandered off. Then the Sergeant’s dog was found dead under the steps of C company’s barracks.
“Fuck, it’s like he could smell it on me man,” Sven started to violently scratch his head. It was the part of the army which always pleased Roger. He didn’t know about Sven’s past and he wasn’t particularly interested, but he knew it was checkered. “Like he could smell the fucking thing’s saliva. I swear man, that his nostrils actually flared as he was looking me over. Thought he was gonna cry.”
Roger was glad to have Sven next to him; was glad that Sven was in the same company because it lessened the chance that he would ever have to stare down a rifle at him. Lessened.
“You got any grass man? I need to relax.” Sven fidgeted and swung his rifle over his shoulder, bending to tie his shoe. “Tell you what, man. I’m gonna go over there by the fence and jack one. You stick here and keep your queer boy eyes to yourself, got it?”
When dealing with Sven, Roger realized the best recourse was to say nothing and let Sven assume your answer. He took silence for acceptance.
While Sven was doing his business Roger leaned back and drank in the clear blue skies. It was a beautiful day and it reminded him of his first day in the army and the knowledge that he had escaped from his family. From his drunkard father, from his sister who worked herself into the ground to pay for everything for their family, and his younger brother who discovered Meth and began to steal from his sister’s purse.
He walked out into the cool air and felt his first breath of freedom and he vowed he would spend his whole new life trying to forget his old one.
“Shoulda fucked the dog first before I killed it.” Sven said walking back over, buttoning up his trousers as he did so.
“Coulda released some of the tension in my shoulders.” Sven smiled a crooked, snaggle-toothed grin and patted Roger on the shoulder. “Bet you think killing a dog is a rush. Just wait till we get over toIraq. There’s gonna be a storm in the desert for sure, and that fucking storm is of Norwegian descent.”
Despite his vulgar behavior and his bravado, Roger saw intelligence behind those eyes. Brutal and honest. He knew in that moment that he could never cross Sven, because Sven would never give a second chance.
Roger gently cocked his head to the side to look through the scope. The pudgy white man was centered in the crosshairs as he brokered whatever transaction he had set up.
Roger took out his DEA issued pen and wrote down a short description of the contact. Tall, skinny, white, woman. 35. Brown hair, strong handshake, confident body language.
Roger took a deep breath and gently placed his finger over the trigger. He began to say the prayer he learned from the Norwegian sniper who died in his arms and began a count down in his head; all the while keeping the short pudgy man in his kill zone.
“Boy! Another F! I ‘aint raising no dumbasses! What’s this all about?” Pete stumbled out of the kitchen waving around Carl’s report card.
They had lived in a sty ever since Patricia had walked out on them. They never received a note from her; she never asked how they were doing. It was just Katie, Roger, Carl and their drunken father.
“You hear me boy?” Pete drooled as he spoke. It had been three years since Pete had a job, a beer in his hand nearly the entire time.
Carl never heard his father stumbling around the house because he was holed up in his room listening to Pink Floyd, high as a kite and trying to forget his life. He had taken “Comfortably Numb” as his anthem the year before. He had shrunken in upon himself and refused to speak about anything but superficialities to everyone except Roger.
When Pete burst into the room, Carl didn’t have time to hide the Marijuana in the baggie on his bed, but luckily in his drunken stupor Pete sat on it without noticing.
“What’s up Pete?” Carl had just turned 13 and had long since lost any respect for his father.
“You shouldn’t call me that.” Pete said losing his steam and forgetting why he came into the room.
“It’s your name isn’t it?” Carl’s rejoinder was icy.
“Why don’t you call me dad?” Pete said raising his arm to ruffle Carl’s head. Carl moved out of the way.
“I’ll try to do that.” Carl’s gray eyes stared back into his father’s dull blue. “I’m gonna take a nap now, kay?” Carl said without even faking a yawn.
“Naw, why don’t you come out and watch TV with your pops?” Pete reached out again and again Carl deftly moved out of the way.
“No. I think you need to talk to Roger. He said he was going into the army.” Carl said in a monotone. He didn’t think it would get his brother into trouble and he wanted to be rid of Pete.
“What?” Pete said swaying on the bed.
“Yep, spoke to a recruiter. They said in two years, when he turns 18 he’ll be a shoo-in.” Carl got up as he spoke and walked to the head of the bed, pulling the sheets aside.
“Fuck you say!” Pete got up, knocking the weed to the ground and stormed out of the room. “Rog!” He yelled out into the house.
“Pete, will you knock it off?” Katie yelled back at him from the kitchen. She was going over rental units because she couldn’t pay off the mortgage to the house and the collectors had started calling.
“Don’t you call me Pete! You call me Father!” Pete yelled as he stumbled back down the hall. In the past three years he had put multiple dents in the weak walls from his drunken meanderings.
“Why don’t you act like a fucking father you asshole.” Katie said under her breath. “And by the way, Roger isn’t home. He’s off playing in the park.”
Pete made it into the room and threw down Carl’s report card, stomping on it in the process.
“Playing in the fucking park? He’s sixteen goddamn years old; he’s too old to be playing in the park!” Pete said making his way towards the refrigerator. “You fucking kids drive me to drink!”
“That’s why you do it. I didn’t know.” Katie didn’t mask her condescension.
“Goddamn right.” Pete took two beers from the fridge and took them to the living room to his favorite seat in front of the TV, his argument forgotten.
Katie wrote a quick note to Roger and posted it on the refrigerator then went into Carl’s room.
“I’m going to find a way out of here Carl.” She said from the doorway.
Carl was sitting at the window looking out into the mid-afternoon gloom. “Whatever.” He never turned around.
“These Iraqi motherfuckers aren’t gonna know what hit ‘em.” Sven chuckled as he cleaned his rifle. The two of them went into sharpshooters school together and had done fairly well. Sven was a natural. He didn’t seem to ever miss from the beginning of the training. The mark could be running. They could be hiding. Sven never missed. He was a killing machine and he was never happier than when he hit his target.
Roger on the other hand struggled. His hands were a shaky bundle of nerves and he had trouble understanding how to lead the mark. All the while Sven excelled Roger got ever increasingly determined. As time in camp grew longer, so did the war. He knew it was only a matter of time before his squad was called into battle, and he knew he needed to pass his sniper exam. There was no way he was going to war without Sven the killing machine at his side. Despite knowing, clearly, that Sven was a sociopath, Roger never felt more comfortable than when he was in his presence. He knew Sven thought of Roger as a friend, because Roger had accepted him for who he was, even with knowing about Sven’s homicidal tendencies.
In the real world their friendship would have never blossomed and Roger knew it. He would never tell Sven because he didn’t know if Sven realized that the only reason Roger felt comfortable with him was because they had a common enemy. There was direction for Sven’s psychosis, without direction, Roger didn’t know what Sven would do.
“You’re telling me. They walk by a building with Sven the killing machine in it? They’re gonna be red paste on the sidewalk!” They would banter for hours, each trying to top the other’s crudeness, both ignoring the fact that the next morning they were going into a city where it was known that the enemy outnumbered them three to one.
Roger flattened himself on the ground zeroing in on the mark. He thought back to his training. He thought about Carl playing shooting games with him in the arcade as kids. He thought of Sven and how closely related the actions of their families were. He thought about Katie and how she got the job as a lawyer inNew York. He thought about Carl in jail. He thought about the abuse of his mother and father. He thought about the connection he had with Carl and Katie and he felt a tear scroll down his cheek.
He looked down at the chubby man through the scope and realized the man was looking at him, had in fact winked at him and Roger’s tears poured. He paused, his finger waiting for the tears to clear and his vision to return so he could gaze back into Carl’s gray pleading eyes.
Roger turned back to Sven as soon as he saw the Iraqi soldiers retreating.
The bullet had taken Sven by surprise just a moment before piercing his jugular and knocking him back on his ass.
“Ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuck.” Sven kept repeating his hand clamped on his neck.
“Medic!” Roger yelled and ran to his fallen friend.
“Shit man, fucker got me!” Sven’s skin had already paled.
“You’ll be alright. Fucker just got lucky man.” Roger said putting his hand over Sven’s, increasing the pressure on Sven’s neck.
“Bitch hurts man. Can’t believe how lucky that guy got!” It was always luck when an Iraqi shot an American, but skill when an American shot an Iraqi.
“Yeah, fucking Sunday fighters don’t have a chance. Don’t know why they’re even trying.” Roger could feel the pulse of blood against Sven’s hand. He could also feel Sven’s hand weakening.
“Man, its fucking cold in here. You got any water?” Sven’s eyes got glossy.
“Fuck, Medic!” Roger couldn’t hide his impatience as he began to feel the blood rushing between Sven’s fingers.
“Cool it man, cool it. It’s too late.”
Roger looked back down at his comrade and felt panicked. “Don’t you give up! I need your crazy ass to keep me alive.”
“You’ll be alright. Remember the prayer. It’ll calm you,” Sven’s hand released its grip and only stayed into place because Roger was holding it there. “Remember our families brought us here. We can party in hell when you die.”
“Quitter! Fuck you! I ‘aint goin’ to hell!” Roger screamed in his dead friend’s face.
“I’m taking him out of here Rog. I’m sorry, but he needs freedom from this place.” Katie sat on the bed stroking Carl’s hair while Roger stood in the doorway.
He knew this was coming, but he couldn’t bring himself to give Katie his prepared speech. He wanted to tell her they needed to stay together. He wanted to say they needed each other’s support. Instead he stood there nodding at her.
“When I heard him come home, I got out of bed and went up to check on him. By the time I got there he’d thrown up on his bed and was lying in his own filth.” Roger looked down to his snoring brother and then back up to his big sister. “He had two thousand dollars in his pocket Rog. He’s selling this shit now.”
Roger looked one more time at Carl. He took note of Carl’s emaciated form, the blood stains on his upper lip from his bloody nose, the sweaty tousled hair and Roger came to his own conclusion.
“We have to get out of here. Carl can’t stay here any longer. He needs to get away from that asshole,” She nodded her head toward the living room to indicate Pete. “He needs to get clean and he needs to stop getting abused. Were going toNew York. It’s far enough away from here that I don’t think he can find us. Let the bastard rot.”
Roger turned and looked at the door leading to the living room, then he looked back at his sister and realization of Katie’s words struck him all at once. They all needed emancipation.
“I can’t go with you.” His words were soft and quiet. He dropped his eyes as he said it feeling shame blush his cheeks.
“You have to go with us. I need help with Carl. It isn’t going to be easy getting him off that shit.” He could see anger make creases at the corners of her mouth and his shame blossomed enough to change his complexion.
“I can’t do it. I’m not going with you.” Roger slowly raised his eyes to meet Katie’s. He could see the hurt in her eyes.
“Fine. We don’t need you. We lived for years with that pig,” she motioned with her head towards the living room again. “Without your help, so we don’t need it now.”
He didn’t respond, just looked at her. He felt the shame, but he didn’t feel remorse. He knew he had to get away from them. Things would never change if he stayed here. They would always control his emotions; they would always control his actions.
“Well no reason to wait. Why don’t you get out of here so I can get us packed, huh?” She didn’t meet his eyes, but she nodded at the door again.
Roger acquiesced and joined his father in the living room, pulling a brochure out of his back pocket in the process.
In big block letters at the top it said: An Army of One.
Roger could see Sven on the other hill three hundred yards away. He knew Sven never hesitated, even in this blaring heat with sweat pouring in his eyes.
The rifle rested on its stand and he relaxed his shoulders. He wished the prayer that Sven said before every kill worked for him like it did with Sven. It seemed simple, but it also seemed to relax him. Sven had ten confirmed kills. Roger had none. But down there in the valley was an Iraqi guard that they were sent to kill and Sven refused to do it this time.
“You’re making me the default.” Sven had said. “You need to do this one. You with me?”
It wasn’t that Roger didn’t want to do it, he was aching to. He needed a release for all the pent up anger he had brewing inside him, but every time he went to pull the trigger he jumped and missed wide leaving Sven to make the shot and finish the job.
“Say the prayer man. I know you ain’t religious, but that shit works. My anticipation goes away and I can take a deep breath and finally just get to it.”
Despite what Sven said, the prayer only took his mind off the guard for a moment. The anticipation was still there and the excitement would lead his fingers.
He focused through the scope and centered the guards head in the crosshairs. He could see the man’s brown eyes and the wrinkles in his face. He had to be in his fifties. Anger suddenly surged through Roger and he pulled his finger off the trigger before he fired astray.
“Who the fuck are you?” He muttered under his breath at the guard. Images of beating the guard ran through his head. Breaking the man’s nose. Cracking ribs. Stomping his fallen form.
Then suddenly the man became Pete and Roger nearly jumped up and charged, but he ripped his face away from the scope and took a few deep breaths.
“Just calm. Just do it.” He muttered to himself.
He focused on the guard one more time and after taking another breath, pulled the trigger. The bullet was true and the man fell immediately, but Roger felt emptiness creep into him. His first confirmed kill, but there was nothing to it, nothing personal. The man was just a notch on the side of a rifle. Roger’s anger grew.
Carl said goodnight over the phone to Katie. He told her he was in his room in the recovery clinic, but he had left two days before and had traveled non-stop since. He hitched rides and rode busses where he could and where none were possible he walked.
His doctor in the clinic told him his drug habit arose because of an absence of love as a child and the history of addiction in the family. He was searching to find meaning and searching to find love and the drugs were his surrogate. He got clean in the clinic, but there was still a nagging hole he didn’t know how to fill. He couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but there was something deep down in his stomach, like an itch that was too deep to get to.
When Carl got home he stopped off at a sporting goods store and bought a wooden baseball bat then headed for his father’s house.
The sight of the familiar dilapidated façade of his father’s house brought tears to his eyes. Not knowing where the tears came from sent Carl into a fury and he stormed the house listening to his father’s loud snoring.
The police found him three hours later curled up on his childhood bed crying, covered in his father’s blood.
“What’s happened to us?” Katie tritely cried. Carl sat on the other side of the bullet proof glass with the phone pressed to his ear. He said nothing, just looked deeply into his sister’s eyes.
“How’s it in there?” Roger said trying to catch his brother’s attention.
“What the fuck do you care?” Carl’s gaze never left Katie’s.
“Don’t be so mean.” Katie said before a deluge of tears cascaded down her cheeks.
“Why not? He didn’t come with us. He didn’t help us. He just helped himself. Now he wants to know what it was like to bash that fuck’s head in…”
“That’s not what I said.”
“That’s what you meant. You were just selfish. You went somewhere where it’s legal to kill. You live in a fantasy world where nothing matters but yourself. Katie needed help. I needed help. So we helped each other.”
“Yeah, getting fucked up on meth really helped us out.” Roger said flatly.
“No that was how she helped me. She got me off it. I helped her by killing that bastard.”
“Please!” Katie sobbed.
“You’re a fucking sociopath! How does that help her?”
“You don’t understand because you weren’t there. He tried to come after us. He would call and say he was coming to get us. We were paranoid, thinking he was every creak in the boards, he was every knock at the door. We started to get out and he tried to pull us back and you were nowhere to be found.”
“I was in basic training!”
“Which you ran off to because you wouldn’t help.”
“You want to know what it felt like?”
“No, god please!” Katie cried, scooting away from the glass.
“It felt liberating. With every crack of that bat I felt a little more free. After a while I wanted to feel it so I got on my knees and punched his broken face. It was gratifying. It was personal.”
“He left before I was even brought home from the hospital, so as far as I’m concerned I’m an immaculate conception.” Sven grinned as he said it.
“He left ‘cause of my mom. She was a crazy crone. Religious as shit.” He stroked his St. Christopher medal as he told the story. “My sis and I went to church instead of school. We knew the bible back and front. We even had little contests, testing to see who knew bible verses better.”
Roger rubbed the barrel of his rifle down with the rag nodding along. It was the most Sven had ever said to him at once and it was all spontaneous.
“She beat us regularly with a switch, crying and praying as she did so. It started when we were babies. I remember Gretch crying because she skinned her knee. Mother switched her until she passed out from pain. That’s just how it went, we didn’t know any other way.”
Sven shrugged and Roger grunted in response. He didn’t want the story to end, but he didn’t know how to respond.
“I killed my first cat when I was seven. I didn’t mean to do it at the time, I just wanted to know how it felt to beat something. I guess I just got carried away. But there was something to it. There was something holy. Something personal. It was like our souls were interconnected for just the briefest of moments. I understood the creature. I understood what it was feeling and at the moment of death I felt tremendous release, like my life was worth something. It was the first time I felt that. Meaning.” This time Sven grunted. He cradled his rifle in his arms like a baby as he cleaned.
“I both caused and freed the creature from torment and I understood what Jesus meant by accepting our sins. It was like I was projecting everything I had ever done wrong into that cat and in the moment of death, we were both released. I held onto that cat and cried for hours, both in love and sympathy.
“I tried again and again, but I couldn’t get that feeling back. I thought maybe it only happened once with every species I killed, so I tired birds and dogs and even a deer, but I never got that spiritual awakening again.
“I began to get restless. I began to feel like God had abandoned me. How could he only give me a taste of that joyous release? Then I saw my mother beat Gretch. While she was beating her, my mother kept saying something under her breath. I strained my ears and between cracks I was shocked to hear the Lord’s Prayer.
“I dawned on me that I was striving too hard for the feeling. It wasn’t just the act that gave me release, it was also my state of mind. You can’t really enjoy anything if you’re too caught up in it. You need something to center you, something to personalize the matter. I needed a prayer for myself. I needed something that would give me release, something that would center me; so I used my life experience to create my own prayer.”
Roger looked at him expectantly. He had heard Sven say the prayer before, but had never understood its meaning. He thought about Carl killing Pete and he wondered if Carl prayed beforehand.
“Give me cover, for every path I take leads me astray. Give me trust, for every one I know leaves me alone. Give me love, for the care that I missed. Give me hope, for the life I will lose. Give me patience, for my regrets. Give me peace so that I may kill.
“You should use it Rog. I see the excitement in you. I can see the dread hanging off you, the apprehension. You need something to center you, something to help you understand your place in the Universe.”
Roger grunted again, but inwardly he marveled at how Sven could be all at once a sociopath and yet have such a deep understanding of what it meant to be human.
“I need to ask you a favor brother, and I hate to do it this way.” There was silence on the phone line, but Carl let it drag on. Roger knew Carl wanted him to talk first, but he didn’t know what to say.
“Hello to you too brother. How you been Carl?” He felt sweat moisten his palm.
“Listen. I’m sorry that we’ve been so distant, but I know things about you. I know when you rotated back to the world you became a mercenary. I know you kept working as a sniper. I need something from you.”
“Can’t you at least tell me how our sister is doing? She won’t talk to me either.”
“Katie’s fine. She lives inNew Yorkand she works as a secretary for a high end lawyer.”
“I’m surprised you called me and not her.”
“This isn’t something that she needs to know about.”
His tone was grave and immediately Roger’s throat went dry.
“Don’t worry, you still don’t have to be a part of our family, but that family needs a favor. I got into trouble.”
“Listen if this is about drugs…”
“It is. Tomorrow you will be getting a contract for Pablo Hernandez. You need to make sure he’s dead. He’s the accountant of an up and coming cartel. He’s ordered the deaths of many people, especially ones who stole from the organization. Your sister’s stupid husband stole money from him and the organization won’t leave her alone until he’s gone.”
“The accountant doesn’t matter, the documentation is what matters. The cartel will still know and they’ll go after her.” Roger’s hands were wet.
“How’d you know? Are you affiliated with them?” Roger heard Carl take a sharp intake of breath and sigh into the phone.
“I’m Pablo, Roger. They won’t come after her because I’ll get rid of the records, but when I do that they’re going to come after me and the things they would do, would make me tell them who owed the money. This is the best way.”
Roger didn’t answer right away.
“You’re asking me to kill you? Are you serious?”
“Don’t get fucking righteous on me now. You’re the one who ran. You’re the one who stayed away. You’re the one who stays alone. You’re the killer. We all inherited something from our fuck up of a father. I inherited his foul temper and addictions, Katie inherited his tenacity, and you inherited the selfishness. I will never forgive you for running out on us like our mother, but you can do this one thing for us. I expect you to be responsible for once in your life. Katie will die without your help.”
“I can’t do that.” There was no conviction in his voice. The shock was too much and under a veil of confidence there was a layer of fear eating away at him. His life had finally caught up to him. He ran to forget his childhood. He ran for a new beginning. He ran hoping he could forget who he was, but he’d come to realize that Sven was right. You need to embrace who you are. You need to understand your place in the universe.
“You’d better fucking do it. I’ve tried killing myself, but I can’t bring myself to it. This is your retribution; this is what you were meant to do. I’m prepared. You’d better fucking do it.”
You must accept your place in the universe. “Carl,” You need something to center you. “If you need to me, you know I’m there.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Carl stood smiling in the center of his crosshairs. Roger took a deep breath and settled his finger on the trigger one more time. He thought it ironic that he was so much closer to Sven than he ever was to his own brother. He thought about the juxtaposition between what his brother had told him on the phone and what Sven told him while describing his life: this is what you were meant to do and you must accept your place in the universe.
The prayer started to emit from his lips without him realizing it.
“Give me cover, for every path I take leads me astray.” Carl turned back to the buyer and Roger felt relief rush over him knowing he would have to look Carl in the face.
“Give me trust, for every one I know leaves me alone.” His sister was married and he didn’t know about it. Carl was an accountant for a cartel and he didn’t know about it.
“Give me love, for the care that I missed.” His father was killed by his son for past abuses. Killed to accept the sins of the sons. Killed to absolve future wrongs.
“Give me hope, for the life I will lose.” That human feeling of expectation. That feeling that Sven knew so well. The life that you start to win or start to lose from the moment you are born.
“Give me patience, for my regrets.” Leaving when he did and coming back the way he did.
“Give me peace so that I may kill.” His finger slowly squeezed and the recoil gave him gravity of the situation. Through the scope Carl fell and the woman ran for cover.
Roger quickly packed his materials, marveling at the simplicity of the act and the peace he felt. There was something terribly personal about his act. He felt connected with his brother as he squeezed the trigger. He felt as though their spirits had briefly touched and he felt gratitude and pride. Suddenly he understood what Sven was talking about during his story about the cat. That feeling as though this was meant to happen. This is what he was meant to do. He had saved his remaining family and found his place in the universe. His brothers helped him find the way.