War Zeroes.

August 26, 2008
By Nadia Gathers, Buffalo, NY

I have never loved war stories.

Not the fictional ones, especially not the real ones, and nothing in between. I never wanted the blood and guts, the guilt, the glory. (I wasn't exactly the world's toughest kid- but I was pretty darn close to it. I never made it a public thing that I was hurt- let alone did I get hurt at all.)

Before the war and the draft and the six and all that, we were a bunch of seniors. Last year of football, high school, and all that.

Where do I start with all this? The very beginning? The end? Mikey's party? When Parker busted up his leg during the game?

Well, I guess the best place to start is Mikey.

The only reason Mikey stayed around Bermuda was 'cause of us- at least that's what he used to say. He was the kind of kid who actually had a future if he put his mind to things, but he was a jerk and everyone knew it. If Mikey could do anything, though, it was take a punch. He once took one square in the face to keep James and I from getting kicked into a corner. All he said when they ran off on account of the police sirens was "I didn't get another hit."

He passed me a square and pushed me onto my mom's porch with her swearing at me in the background. I can't say I wasn't angry at him- but you didn't pick a fight with Mikey when he was in a good mood. It was an unwritten law.

"Where are you takin' me, Mikey?" I said, but he just threw me in the truck with the rest of the guys.

"Ah, sit on it, Andrew." he chuckled. The dust blew up in my face when he started the thing up, and James closed up the back of the pickup just in time so that ended up rammin' into him when Mikey floored it.

James grinned at me like a fool.

"Comfy down there, drew? Not that you need to get off or anything- I think I'm right fine having' my pelvis crushed by your elbow."

"Good." I laughed. "'Cause I'm not gettin up."

James was a six foot, five inch quarterback for Bermuda high- the loner of the group. James would've been an all American senior, the cat with the bombshell girlfriend if it weren't for one thing. He didn't talk to no one outside Victoria Bridges and the six of us. This kid who'd id spent most of my stupider years with never lost his cool, never backed down. And for these reasons- I was genuinely in awe of him.

Tonight, though, he was laughing (and I remember because honestly, James had to be loaded or the joke had to be pretty darn funny to make him laugh, and since he almost never touched beer, well, I guess it was the latter). My head bounced up and down on the truck bed, staring at Wally who wasn't actually stoned- but well seemed like it.

The four of us lurched forward when we hit a bump and careened through a fence into the corn fields. We visited these on an every-other-day basis and we'd been here a million times. This time wasn't different. Mikey snapped his gum as he unlocked the back. Wally slid out. Parker pushed Frankie out of the front seat and onto the dry, cracked Kansas dust. Me and James slid into the back of the group.

But this wasn't the end of it. We didn't run off and get stoned or drunk in the wilderness. My life didn't change.

Well, it did. Just not in the way I expected it to.

After everyone in the six had run off with Mikey to go set somethin' or other on fire, or to go buy more cigs at the corner store, me and James got separated. Separated, I mean, in the way that no one in the entire group could possibly know where we were. To be perfectly honest, we had no idea of where we were either.

After about an hour of wandering around in that place, I was right about done walkin', and James, bein' the smarter, more "reserved" of the two of us, sat me down so I wouldn't collapse from not breathing because I was talkin' so much.

"You're out of your mind, James, bein' so calm about this. Its a corn field. A corn field! Like a maze, these things are- I've lost dog after dog in this place-" I said.

"Shut it, Andrew, before I walk off without you." James said in that signature tone. And you can bet that I shut up faster than he could say drew again.

Three strange things happened in the next two minutes, things that I'll never quite be able to fully understand, I suppose. James lit a cig (he never smoked), he sighed (he never sighed), and he wiped his eyes.

Because there were tears comin' down from them.

I didn't say anything at first, like he'd just stop if I kept silent, but he didn't. He sat there with tears making its way down his face in this awkward moment. This was James. James! Quarterback James that didn't cry when he sprained his wrist or got pummeled down by Mikey in practice, who weighed twenty pounds more in muscle.

"Are you cryin'? Hah, I never thought I'd see the day when James Wilson let that happen in front of anyone-"

"I aint in the mood, Andrew." he said, without the whine that usually came with cryin'. And he called me my real name. My full name. Andrew. Andrew.

"...I didn't mean nothin', James, I was just-"

"I got it."

"Why you cryin'?"

He sighed again, desperately trying to hide the hurt that made its way to his voice. "Drew."


James never told me why he was cryin'- but I figured it was what happened when you'd just turned eighteen, you realize you're a man and all. He didn't touch me for the hour straight we sat out there, he didn't say a word to me, just let the tears stream in the quiet. Not until we were about to leave did he do anything at all. He punched me in the shoulder, smiled, and got up.

He led me out of the field with our hands entangled in a worried, frantic clump, all while he shook like he was freezing. I didn't find out till the next day, when he was laying on my bedroom floor asleep (he didn't want to walk all the way home in the middle of the night) that he'd been drafted. I cried.

He was the first one I lost.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Feb. 19 2009 at 3:59 am
xhelloxlovex14 BRONZE, Westwood, New Jersey
3 articles 0 photos 9 comments
This was honestly amazing. There were a couple of typos throughout but the theme was strong and emotion was felt. It was beautiful in such a painful way.


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