Fratricide (IWP)

The merciless Kentucky sun was beating the earth, wilting the trees, and silencing the birds. Pay slouched in a chair outside his room on the third floor balcony of the brick barracks with a sweating Bud-Light can drinking slowly. He stared out into the trees listening to his screaming mind.

His oblong red face, broken with thick brown glasses, stood out in sharp contrast to his buzzed blond hair. He didn’t want to be here anymore. He joined the army straight out of college, enlisted as a military policeman, but they wouldn’t let him work that job anymore. Pay finished the can, crumbled it up in his hand, went to get another.

His recruiter told him to lie about it. It was only a little bit of pot after all. Besides, he wasn’t even convicted. No big deal.

“Really?” Pay asked. “Don’t they do some kind of background check?”

“Nah,” the recruiter said leaning back in a cheap leather chair. “We need the bodies. And military police? They’re lucky to get anyone these days.”

Apparently they didn’t need bodies that badly. Pay was told a week before graduating basic training that his security clearance had been held, that he would have to stay at Fort McClellan until it went through. Two months later it came through and he was released and came to the MP company at Fort Knox. He worked for another two months before his lie caught up with him and he was pulled from duty.

He walked back out onto the balcony, sat down and opened his beer with a satisfying crack. It wouldn’t be so bad, he thought, if they would just send him home, let him start another life. But his commander made him the company bitch–cleaning toilets, running errands, cutting grass, picking rocks, whatever they could think of. The commander kept saying he’d be going home.

“Just another week,” he told Pay last week. “We’re just waiting for the orders.” It was the same story every week for the past six months.

Pay took a long drink from the can. The bitter, metal, cool liquid went down easily. Henry came walking around the corner, his uniform bulky over a bullet proof vest with a black pistol belt slung over his shoulder.

“Hey, Henry,” Pay said. “On your way to work?”

“Yup. What are you up to?”

“You’re looking at it,” Pay held up his can.

“Shit,” Henry smiled. “I wish I could be drinking right now. It’s too hot for this shit.”

“Yeah,” Pay sneered.

“See you later,” Henry said and walked away quickly.

Pay watched him walk down to the parking lot. His uniform looked like shit and smelled like dried sweat, it looked like he hadn’t shined his boots in weeks. And what was with his hair? Henry’s last haircut must have been over a month ago, Pay thought. If someone like Henry, who hated being an MP, could still work the road, why couldn’t he? Pay took another long pull from the can and went to fetch another one.

When he came back out to the balcony, a short girl was standing two doors down.

“Hello,” Pay said.

“Hi,” she answered nervously.

“You new here?”


Her uniform was bright green and too big, her blond hair was pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head and she wore no unit patch. Straight from basic.

“I’m Pay. Is that your room?”

“Hi Pay,” she said. “I’m Carr.”

Sergeant Jennings walked out of the room and gave a warning look to Pay.

“Come on Carr, we need to inventory your furniture.”

Carr turned into the room without looking at Pay. He hung over the railing and looked down at the sidewalk littered with cigarette butts and the brown grass and drank his beer. Suddenly he felt dizzy and walked into his room. He shut the door, kept the lights off and fell onto his naked bed with a fan blowing warm air over him.


Henry walked into the humid office and headed straight to the air conditioner. Woods sat behind a computer playing video games and looked up when he walked in.

“Hey Henry.”

“What’s going on? Busy day?”

“Not too bad,” Woods said. “A couple of fender-benders in the PX parking lot.”

Henry scoffed, turned his face into the cool air.

“Sergeant Johnson wants to see you,” Woods said.

“What’s he want?” Henry asked.

Woods lifted his shoulders. “I don’t know. Just said he wanted to see you.”

“Fuck,” Henry breathed and turned around. “You ready?”

“Sure.” They walked out to the white, unmarked Chevy Impala and Woods drove to the arms room. In the dank basement he pounded on a brown door until a scrawny private opened it. Woods turned in his pistol and hand-held radio and Henry drew his. They walked back out to the car and Henry drove back to the station, called in to let the dispatcher know he was taking over traffic duty.

At the station Henry knocked on Sergeant Johnson’s door. Johnson, a tall skinny man with gray hair cut close to the skull, looked up from some paperwork and waved Henry in.

“Hello sergeant,” Henry started. “Woods said you wanted to see me.”

“Yes,” Johnson answered gruffly. “Just give me a second.”

Henry stood in front of Johnson’s desk while he finished reading a report. The office was painted a sour-milk color and Johnson had hung various awards on the walls. Against one wall he had put all his books on criminal justice and police administration. Henry thought of rich snobs who surrounded themselves with expensive books they’ve never read.

“So,” Johnson started, still reading the report. “I understand you pepper sprayed someone earlier this week.”

“Yes, sergeant,” Henry answered. He had been called to a fight on Monday night. Two patrols were trying to subdue a ridiculously large tanker and he kept throwing them off. Fuck this, Henry thought pulling out the orange and black can. “Pepper spray, pepper spray,” he yelled out and let loose a thin, heavy stream. The tanker clutched his face and fell to the ground immediately. They handcuffed him and threw him into the car as he cried out in agony.


“We couldn’t gain control over a subject using less means of force,” Henry answered methodically. It’s all in the fucking report, he thought.

“Are you supposed be carrying pepper spray?”

Henry thought for a second before answering. He wasn’t supposed to be carrying it. A directive had come down from the cool, clean offices of command saying MPs would not be allowed to carry it anymore unless they had undergone training. But Henry had been trained, spraying in the face with it, spending a miserable afternoon with burning eyes and choking lungs. But that was three years ago and in Georgia and apparently didn’t count. “No,” he answered reluctantly.

“Then why are you carrying it?” Johnson asked, pointing to the can still on his pistol belt.

Henry didn’t answer. Couldn’t answer. It was such a stupid question. After pepper spray the levels of force escalated dramatically. He could call a dog, but they didn’t work every night. After that there was nothing left but the gun, and that seemed pretty drastic in dealing with a drunk tanker. Satisfying maybe, but drastic.

“Give it to me,” Johnson ordered.

Henry pulled the can out again, entertained a brief fantasy of pepper spraying Johnson, and placed it on his desk.

“That’ll be all.”

Henry walked out of the office and to his car. He seethed behind the wheel and pulled out onto the quiet road. It was still early Friday afternoon and he didn’t see the point in driving around aimlessly anymore. He wasn’t even supposed to be here. He should be sitting at home smoking pot and taking classes and banging college girls. But a war had started and Military Police were critically needed and Congress said he had to stay until they let him go home.

He drove back to the barracks, walked into his room, took off his pistol belt, uniform top, and stifling bullet proof vest, and lounged on the couch watching The Simpsons. Fuck Johnson, he stewed. He’d go back out after dark, try to catch a drunk, fuck up someone’s day.


It was dark when Pay woke and the sound of music and people floated through the windows. He stood up slowly, put on a pair of dirty shorts, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, and walked out into the steamy night. A full moon burned a hole in the sky trapping the night between light and dark.

A party poured out onto the balcony down the hall. People were sucking on green bottles and drinking from red cups while smoking cigarettes and talking loudly. Pay could feel the bass pounding through the concrete floor where he stood and started walking towards the group.

Few people said hello when Pay walked into the smoky room. He was ungainly in social situations, always saying the wrong things, and they felt uncomfortable around him. Looking around the room, Pay saw a girl he had never seen before. Her face shone through the smoke, and her long blond hair flowed over her shoulders like a mesmerizing waterfall. She sat on a stained couch holding a red cup in one hand and looking intently at Peterson who was talking to her.

Peterson leaned in to her and said something. She laughed delicately, fragily and nodded her head when he stood up and walked out of the room. Pay stood there, unable to move, watching her. She looked towards the door, saw him standing there.

“Hello Pay,” she smiled.

“H-h-ello,” he stammered. How did she know his name? It had been a long time since anyone had smiled at him.

“Where have you been?”

“Sleeping,” he answered. “Who are you?”

She threw her head back and let out a long laugh before taking a drink out of the cup. “Carr,” she said. “Remember?”

“Oh yeah,” Pay moved closer to the couch, sat down on a folding chair next to it. “You look a lot different.”

“Is that good or bad?” she asked playfully and took another sip from her glass, her eyes searching Pay’s face.

“Oh, it’s good,” Pay smiled and took a drink from his can.

Peterson came back into the room, sat down on the couch and put his arm around Carr. She leaned back into him comfortably and Pay looked down at his empty can.

“Pay,” Peterson laughed, “what are you doing here?”

“Nothing,” he murmured. “Saw all the people and thought I would come down.”

“Really?” Peterson sneered. “I thought you never left your room.”


“Pay here is a little crazy,” Peterson said to Carr. She looked at Pay through wet brown eyes. “Aren’t you Pay? Always getting drunk and carrying on, crying for your mother.”

Carr smiled, waited for the answer.

“No,” Pay picked at one of his fingernails. “I just want to go home.”

“But you can’t go home. Who would clean all the toilets?”

Carr started to giggle. “Aren’t you an MP Pay?”

“Oh, he used to be,” Peterson answered. “Thought he was a big shot, too.”

“Fuck off, Peterson.”

“Yeah,” Peterson said. “He used to do all kinds of traffic stops for stupid shit. Wanted to save the world, didn’t you Pay?”

Pay looked up. His face had turned red. Carr was nuzzled into Peterson, looking up at him with a smile on her lips.

“But then,” Peterson continued. “Pothead Pay was thrown off the road. Now we use him to clean up shit, take out the trash.” Peterson looked down at Carr, kissed her forehead. “It’s useful to have people like Pay around. They’re like Mexicans, doing the shit jobs no one else wants to.”

Pay stood up suddenly, knocking over the chair and dropping his can. He stumbled out of the room knocking into people and spilling beer. “Whoa,” someone called out, “easy now Pay.”

“Pay,” Peterson called out from the door. “Where are you going?”

He staggered down to his room, pushed the door open and flipped on the lights and turned up the stereo. Rage Against the Machine blasted through the room as he tore through his drawers, throwing everything out of them. Finally, he found what he was looking for.

He pulled the knife out of its sheath, watched the light dance off its shiny surface, marveled at the serrated edge meant for ripping. He stood up and looked in a mirror. Tears ran down his red checks. His eyes were small and hollow and he sang along,

There’s a mass without roofs
There’s a prison to fill
There’s a country’s soul that reads post no bills
There’s a strike and a line of cops outside of tha mill
There’s a right to obey
And there’s a right to kill.

And went back out into the night.


Henry walked into the dully lit station feeling groggy, his eyes heavy from sleep.

“What’s up, Henry?” Sergeant Williams asked. “Anything moving out there?”

“Not yet,” Henry sighed, falling into a leather desk chair behind the radio console. Garcia, the dispatcher, was playing video games on a TV perched on a metal filing cabinet. It had been a quiet night.

“Although the MP barracks seem to be letting loose.”

“Is that right?” Williams said. “I hope they keep it quiet.”

“I don’t care what they do,” Henry said looking up at the TV. Garcia was walking through a dark room blowing zombies apart.

The radio crackled with some patrol calling in a walking patrol or going to get something to eat. “10-4,” Henry pressed a red button and said into the microphone and spun around in the chair. There was nothing going on yet. It was almost eleven pm. Traffic would start to pick up in an hour or two as people made their way to the club, the 24 hour shop to buy more beer, and he would be out then to catch them, circling the roads like a shark tracking prey. Maybe. If he felt like it. Maybe he’d go back to his room and sleep some more.

The phone rang and Garcia paused the game, picked it up. He stood up, talking rapidly, writing something down and slammed the phone down.

“You better get out to the barracks,” Garcia spoke quickly to Henry, moving to the radio. “Pay’s chasing people around with a knife.”

“Fuck,” Henry sighed and stood up. He walked out to his car, started it up and turned on the strobing blue lights and was at the barracks in thirty seconds. The radio was screeching with Garcia dispatching other patrols. Henry called in during a break in traffic, let him know he was on scene.

He walked up to the third floor, the MP living quarters. The loud party he had passed by earlier was subdued. The music had stopped and people milled about like ghosts. A blond girl was on the couch crying, Peterson trying to comfort her.

“He’s fucking crazy,” Peterson cried out when he saw Pay. “Fucking crazy.”

“Shut up, Peterson. Where is he?”

“I think he’s in his room,” someone answered from behind.

Henry walked down the corridor, saw that Pay’s door was indeed open. Sirens filled the air with a sense of urgency from far away. Henry walked into the room. Pay was in a corner slashing at the air with a huge knife. Two drunk people were dodging him, trying to talk to him, trying to get the knife away.

“Everybody out,” Henry shouted. They turned slowly and glared at him. Didn’t move. “Get the fuck out of here,” he said again and they moved slowly out the door.

“How’s it going Pay?” Henry asked, gently he hoped. The sirens were growing louder now. The patrol supervisor was screaming into the radio, wanting to know the situation. He shut off the radio and looked at Pay. “Can you put the knife down?”

“Fuck you,” Pay slurred. “Shoot me.”

Henry shook his head. “Pay, I’m not going to shoot you.”

“Why not?” Pay cried and lunged forward a bit. “I’m armed. I’m dangerous. Kill me.”

Henry moved back against the wall, didn’t know what to say. “Come on Pay. You’re not dangerous. What happened tonight?”

Pay glared at him and breathed nosily through his nose. He mumbled something.

“What’s that?” Henry asked.

Pay came quickly from around the bed, moved towards Henry. Henry dodged him, grabbed for his pepper spray.

Pay laughed. “Where’s your spray? Come on super-cop.”

Pay lunged at him, Henry fell over the bed pulling out his pistol.

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