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Crackers


(Catch up on the story, here)


Here’s a funny joke me and the boys used to tell back home in Ireland. Back when actions and words actually meant somethin’ and held consequences. Ready? Here we go. A fight erupts in a pub between a U.S. Marine battalion and the entire Roman Empire (don’t quibble over the fact the scenario’ ain’t possible). Who wins? The Irishman! Ha! Trick question. I’m laughing to myself as I shuffle through the park. That joke gets me every time. Brings back good memories. Of home. What I used to be. What was. I tried tellin’ Junebug and Jack stories from my past, but that’s all they ever were to them. Stories. Don’t matter. I know they’re real. I lived ’em. That’s all that counts. A pair or runners go speedin’ past me in their neon spandex, white cords hanging from their ears. No one talks to each other these days. The urge to trip one of them enters my mind, but it’s fleeting. That action’d only support Junebug’s claim I’m turnin’ into a crotchety old man. She’s not around enough at Emerald Isle to even know if that’s true or not. Now, if Barrett were to make the claim, he’d have something backin’ it up. I chuckle as I sit down on a park bench. My knees creek and by back pops. I can’t hold back the heavy sigh that escapes when I’m all settled. That sort of embarrassin’ stuff happens all the time when you get to be like me. Old. I reach into the front pocket on my shirt and pull out a couple packets of crackers. It’s all I had time to grab knocked out Barrett. The pansy. I tear open the plastic package and take in the scent of salt and wheat. It ain’t much, but it’s better than that bologna they tried to serve me. Didn’t the read my file? Junebug would’ve made sure something that important was in there. Which could mean only one thing: They were trying to kill me. The fight or flight instinct kicks in at that point. And I’ve never been one to go out quiet. I nibble at the corner of the cracker. I don’t know how long my rations have to last. Could be days, weeks. Hell, months even. With that gloomy horizon in front of me, freedom still tastes pretty good. There’s a soft cooing as a pigeon flaps its wings and settles onto the path. Grey head bobbin’ back an’ forth as it struts at my feet. “Get away, shoo!” I move my foot to kick at it and it flies away. Now, down to plannin’ the rest of my escape. I hadn’t thought I’d actually get this far. There are a few contacts I have to make before making any rash decisions. Protocol must be followed when one plays the high-stakes game of revenge. I don’t get to think too much more on it because the stupid pigeon ‘s back; this time with his buddies. He stares me down with his beady black eye, and I stare back into that abyss. He doesn’t flinch. Not even when I stomp my foot. I nod in appreciation. “You’re learning fast, my feathered nemesis. Never go back to your enemy without reinforcements. And never go back scared.” I break up the rest of the cracker and crumble it on the cement. “Well played, my friend. Well played.” It’s time to see a woman about a monkey, before Junebug catches up with me and I have to explain everything. She doesn’t need to experience my past. She doesn’t need to know her future.



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