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Distant bombs burst in the air. Every creak from Perry’s recliner is that of firearms being loaded and safeties switching off. In the twilight of perception between drunken consciousness and a nearly sober mind, Perry rolls off his chair; a throne of empty Eagle Light cans. He is aware that it’s the dark dawn of the Fourth of July but those distant, exploding rockets of nose twitching magnesium may as well be going off right in his face. Every distant boom causes him to twitch. He’s forgotten to go to the gas station to stock up on beer, he hasn’t had a drink in hours, he needs fuel. He needs to leave his head. For every distant explosion, Perry straightens and then twitches from where he lies on the floor. The stench of shit begins to fill his nostrils as he curls himself into a ball.

In the dim of his sister's living room, between every blink, Perry can see the burst of automatic fire. The strange thunk of skulls popping and tendons snapping. How blood can spritz across a surface heavier than water. Sweat begins to swell around Perry's eyebrows, causing searing streaks of pain to blaze across his vision. More than anything else, he remembers the scorching heat of the desert, the blisters along his palms, and that mind-shattering scent of shit. Perry went to war and lost. He will never again fail and wake up covered in human feces, writhing from lead-chewed holes in his wrist and thigh as his friends and fellow government pawns scream until their own blood gurgles in their throats.

Perry straightens out on the floor and glares into the ceiling. From outside and down the street comes the steady drum of a pack of firecrackers. Perry screams his lungs hoarse before running to the garage.

Sitting under Lindsey's ex-husband’s workbench is a box containing former Sergeant Perry's souvenirs from his life before the war. Next to the box is a duffel bag with a faded Nike logo that Perry hauls up, unzips and spills the contents of across the workbench. An Ar-15, a Remington, the standard berretta M9, three spare clips for the semi-assault rifle and only two dog-eared boxes of spare rounds. They form a strange collection of clicking noises as they strike the table, reminding Perry of one big chamber being cocked. The Remington’s useless, he’s been meaning to buy ammo for the damn thing but he hasn’t been shooting since, well, fuck, Perry can’t remember.

Both ammo boxes have THINK written on them in thick, black marker. He can’t remember writing that himself, but maybe he did. Maybe Lindsey got to feeling extra concerned about Perry before she got sentenced to six months in county for breaking the nose of her ex-boyfriend’s new girl with a brick and then stealing and crashing that home wrecker’s car into an old stone wall.

Lindsey would’ve gotten a couple years if the new girl wasn’t old Cranked Up Bill’s white trash daughter. Her house hasn’t been the same since she left, mostly because everything seems to be damp and stinky and Perry keeps forgetting to change the cat’s litter box so old Felix has been taking to going to the bathroom in the bedrooms. Mercifully, Perry can’t smell shit. The odor only exists when his memories come calling.

He slings the rifle over his bare shoulder and tucks the pistol into the waistband of his grease stained jeans. A fuzzy memory from those three months at boot camp resurges. A soldier’s nothing without his uniform, his gun, and his heart. According to his old prick of a drill sergeant, the mantra of preparedness went exactly in that order. Now where the fuck are his boots? More explosions sound off in the distance and Perry wonders how many deaths are tied to each burst of noise. He eyes the bike helmets hanging on the garage walls and determines to customize himself. If he has to, he’ll customize everything until he’s ready for combat again.

Worse than shit from the latrine pit that he can still smell all the way from 2004, is the burn of gun smoke. Home is no longer a safe place. There are people to kill and wars that need a happy ending.