Robin would fire the 12 gauge shot gun into the trees. Usually about once every twenty minutes. The rest of the time she drank shots of whiskey with me and we pretended there was nothing strange about either of us. I asked her what she was shooting at in the trees, “nothing, just shooting. I’ll look tomorrow and see if I hit anything”. She asked me if I wanted to take a shot but I said no. I had been back from Afghanistan for almost two years and had promised myself I would never fire a gun again of any kind, for any reason. So we sat in the darkness drinking and imagining it was the end of the universe as Robin shot at the ghosts or the trees. I didn’t much care which.
Robin was strange in that way you noticed from a distance. She didn’t care what anybody thought about her and they thought plenty, there were rumors of abuse at home and she collected men like fireflies. She was known to be up for anything at any time. I had known her for years and I remember hearing the sounds of crying coming from her house when her dad was drunk. We never dated so I only knew the sexual rumors. I had just turned twenty two and really didn’t understand women. I joined the Marines right out of high school and was already out. The war had had taken me places I never imagined I would go and part of me was still there. I had a doctor, a therapist and a mountain of pills to go with my DD214 so I was not currently in the market for a girl friend. I really just came along because the sound of gun shots was oddly familiar and kind of soothing. “You don’t say much” Robin said just before she shot off another round. I took a long pull the bottle thought a second and asked “so why do you shoot this gun every night?”
“Why does anybody do anything? I just shoot. Maybe I imagine I’m shooting people who deserve it, maybe I imagine I am shooting my memories, or maybe I just like the sound of crows falling out of trees. Truth is I don’t know why I shoot trees at night. It helps, that’s all.” We finished the bottle over the next few hours. I fell asleep at some point. It was daylight when I woke up in the field. I looked for Robin and found her picking up the bodies of a couple birds she must have hit last night. Two crows and a handful of those small brown birds I don’t know the name of. She put them in a big shoe box she had brought with her. Said she would take them home and bury them with the others out behind her house.
I didn’t offer to walk her home. Instead I just sat in the field letting my shirt dry as the sun rose. I remember thinking once that I believed there were things that needed killed, or if not needed deserved it. Kill for God and country, or maybe for revenge. I remember when I believed it was all just following orders: but I take pills for that now, and I can’t find anything big enough to bury the bodies in.
Matthew Borczon is a poet and writer from Erie, Pa. He publishes widely in the small press. His chap book A clock of Human bones won the 2015 Yellow Chair Review contest. His next book Ghost train will be published in 2017 by Weasel Press. He is married with four children.