All Stories, General Fiction

Once Screamed to Drunks at the Vets Bar, Memorial Day Evening by Tom Sheehan

Sixty-six years now and they come at me, in Chicago, Crown Point, Indiana, by phone from Las Vegas.

I tell them how it happened, long after parting, one night when I was in a bar, thinking of them all.

Listen, gunmen, all I can smell is the gunpowder on you sharper than booze. You wear your clothes

with a touch of muzzle flash. Is it a story you want…?  Listen to the years ago, to the no shooting, to the no rout, to the just dying. The day stank, it wore scabs, had odors to choke tissues and burn secret laminations of the lungs. Rain festered in soot clouds, rose in the Pacific or the Sea of Japan, dumped down on us, came up out of yellow clay like a sore letting out.

The air must have been full of bats, of spider weavings; it was lonely as the lobo, yet a jungle of minds filled it with thought leaves shining with black onyx. Who needs doctors at dying? Prayers sew wounds, piece heads,

hearts, hands together, when blood  and clay strike the same irrevocable vein, arterial mush; when God is the earth and clay, silence, the animal taker leaning to grasp.

Listen, gunmen, listen you heroes in mirrors only you see into, we through, it isn’t the killing, it’s the dying must be felt, associated,  even if it stinks. Blood freezes in hot days of dying, is icicle inside movement of trickery less than glacier’s, where a man crawls to his maker up his own veins, is touched, feels the firebrand burn in the cold. Where are the shade trees, cool drinks? Once I froze in the confessional against the fire.

He was a Spick, they said, washed his skin too much, wanted to sandpaper it white, be us, be another man. But we wagered ourselves to get him out of a minefield live as breathing, comrade shot down in the clay in the rain

in the time of bright eyes rolling with thunder’s fear. Was it him we carried, or the stone of his monument…?

Tons he was of responsibility, one of us despite the Spick name, man being borne to die.

God is everywhere, the catechism says, my son says, now, years later. It was once a divinity we carried on the poles, with his balls gone pistonless, no more a god to his woman. His image rolled red on the canvas, burned through the handles of the litter as secret as electricity; Spick shooting himself into us, Godhead shooting signs

up shafts of wood.

Lugging God on sticks and canvas is frightening. We felt this. Jesus! We screamed, have You let go of this god? Do You fill him up making him burn our hands? He wanders now for times, rolling himself together, womanless, childless, a journey in dark trees, among leaves, in jungles, to get near You.

God seeking God at the intercept of shrapnel, the tearing down and lifting up by our hands, God in the cement of death. Oh, gunmen, it’s the dying not the killing you must speak of. This day is theirs, not ours, belongs to the gods of the dead, of the Spick we carried to his dying and all his brothers, none of them here among us.

Drink, gunmen, one to the Spick and grave’s companions, jungle flights they are in to match their god with God.

And think, gunmen, who among us have the longest journey among leaves, in darkness, through the spiders of trees, now.

Tom Sheehan

Image: Tdorante10 / CC BY-SA (

The New Jersey Korean War Veterans Memorial at the south end of Brighton Park, at Park Place / South Ohio Avenue and the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The memorial was constructed in the year 2000.

3 thoughts on “Once Screamed to Drunks at the Vets Bar, Memorial Day Evening by Tom Sheehan”

  1. Hi Tom,
    I think I will need to go back to this a couple of times but the good thing is I want to.
    I did a double take on the line about their God and God. I think that’s clever as it depends on who is saying it. But it means the same regarding belief.
    It must be a strange relationship between someone who is religious and their God whilst in a war. And on the other-hand how many sceptics would cling on to some hope and find faith? Has anybody who hasn’t been in that situation any right to question or disagree with those who have?
    I think even though this is more lyrical than story, the message on war and killing is very strong.
    You nail this type of story with experienced observation Tom!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Intriguing…Memory and its associations..
    experience and outside and inside the self
    …heroes in mirrors only you see into… trying to communicate what was felt and known.

    Liked by 1 person

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