Friendly Fire

-by Robert Birch

…God, so where am I supposed to start? It was really, fucked up, I’ll tell you that much. It was a warm day, and had just stopped raining. The sun was just starting to come through the folds of the dark clouds. We could see the mist rising off the asphalt, just hanging there like lazy, earth-bound ghosts all clustered together in little cliques.

Andy and I had left the party, each with an icy cold six pack of Guinness Stout. We each opened a bottle from the six packs which were quite obviously hidden in our jackets. We were seventeen, had to sneak it as we could get it. Our jackets bulged and protruded, making us look like twin Picasso drunkards.

We took off our jackets and decided to hang out by the road. There was a five foot high wall with lots of shrubbery. No one could see us from the house and we’d be able to hear approaching cars in plenty of time to ‘jettison the evidence’, as we’d always say.

The party we’d left was in honor of Andy’s brother, George. George was home from one of those now forgotten UN actions in some bullshit, backwater country, size of a postage stamp. Our friend, Ed came running down the road from a stand of trees, buckling his pants.

“Sorry Andy, had to use your, ahem, outside facilities.” Ed said in a simulated deep official tone.

“What, you mean you watered our oak tree?”

“That’s correct sir. Pop me one of those bad boys, whydonchya Rob?”

I grabbed a Guinness off the wall and opened it. We left the party because it was pretty boring. Just us three and a bunch of Andy’s relatives, family, friends and the like. George had been away for about a year. He was given an honorable discharge. Apparently, he was the only survivor of his unit. They were ambushed in the middle of the night in some deep woods. Took a long time to find him, they say. Found him hiding in some outcrop of rocks with his high school friend Dave. Dave had been dead for three days. George was holding him, swaying slightly, singing ‘100 Bottles of Beer’. George didn’t even react to the other UN troops. Just got up, slung Dave over his shoulder, put him on a stretcher and got into one of the jeeps, saying nothing. George was checked out by psychiatrists stateside and pronounced A-OK.

We heard the backdoor open, so we ‘jettisoned the evidence’ in the bushes. We started a casual conversation, like innocent babes while Andy looked to see who it was.

“It’s all right, guys. It’s only George. Knock off the small talk and grab him a beer.”

  George walked over to us whistling what sounded like ‘100 Bottles of Beer’.

“Pretty beat party, or what?” asked George.

“Yeah, I wish Aunt Alice would stop pushing that three bean salad,” said Andy.

Over the course of about twenty minutes we stood by the wall talking and drinking. George didn’t say much. He just stared at the alfalfa field across the way. We watched George walk silently away into the house. After a few minutes of silent conversation between us, I spoke up.

“What time is it, Ed?”

“Time for another beer.” Ed said, glad for the broken silence.

“Yeah, get me one, too.” Said Andy.

Ed walked over to where the ‘evidence’ was hidden. He grabbed three Guinness’ in each hand, arms outstretched, mimicking the St.Pauli Girl Label.

“I present you wit exhibit ‘A’ Robert, and Andrew here’s exhibit ‘B’ and I’ll take exhibit ‘C’. Gentlemen, I propose that we examine the evidence very carefully now, if not sooner.

We drank simultaneously.

Shortly thereafter, all Hell broke loose. We saw George standing on the second floor porch of the house dressed in his field gear yelling and shouting at us. We moved to the side of the house well out of the line of fire. We could see Andy’s family through the living room window, all tied up. George was blasting at the cars in the driveway. He was gone. Andy opened the basement entrance. There was a phone in the basement. He called the police. They didn’t believe him at first, but they could hear the shots in the background.

The police arrived, with sharp shooters hiding everywhere. They managed to get everyone out of the house. The confrontation between police and George lasted two hours. They tried talking him down, but he just screamed inanities and short gun bursts. By 6pm, three police officers were dead, and one sharp shooter’s bullet found its mark on George’s chest. George fell from the porch into the azalea bushes below. When the police got to him, he was on his way, softly singing ‘One bottle of beer on the wall’. The singing stopped when they zipped up the bag.

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