Don't Shoot!

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<a href="/en/translator/vladimir4757" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1407413">Vladimir4757</a>
Joined: 31.12.2018
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This is twice as long as usual due to the source material and conveying it into paper. Also, for those not too familiar with the struggles of making a story in both the third-person with a narrator and then jumping into the first person for flashbacks being told by a protagonist, authors use their own different ways of handling it. Some authors (like myself) use italics to convey entering and exiting of it, other authors use clever usage of character dialogue which, to me, makes it feel a little less fluid but is a lot less jarring, even if it feels more contrived. Also, this is the closest thing to one of my normal writing projects a short can get, it has it’s own storyboard and time discussing themes. I hope you enjoy, because Jesus this was interesting. Also, I hope the ending doesn't come across as preachy, if this was a normal story (and this really could be a normal, full-length novel) I would've taken more time to give a more nuanced discussion into the morality of war and whether-or-not the enemy is the enemy and looking into the psyche of an ego-driven young boy looking to join the military. But given this is a short story, I had to make do with this, so I hope I did a good job.
Don’t Shoot
              “Hey, you said you wanted to be a soldier? You know who that is right? That’s Harvey fucking Cort, guy’s a legend. Dad told me all these stories about him. He was just like you, you should talk to him about being a soldier. He’s got some advice.” One young, impressionable twenty-something said to another, even more impressionable twenty-something in a small bar in rural America. The second kid seemed hesitant at first, leaning in over the table to speak his opinion.
“Look my dad told me he was discharged and hasn’t been the same since.”
“Psh, so? Man he is a soldier, dude is an American hero! Just ask him about his stories, he’s got some cool stories to tell.”
“Seriously? He’s a drunk, my dad told me he’s an absolute depresso with an alcohol problem.”
              The second kid leaned back and parted his long brown hair, rolling his eyes.
“Dude, like seriously? He has some crazy stories!” He paused, then leaned in to whisper, “I heard he shot a kid. How fucking crazy? Killed a terrorist kid! American hero right there!” The second kid made a cautious face, but then gave a smile.
“Alright, alright, I’ll talk to him. He only had like what, one beer? I bet his stories are awesome anyway.”
“Exactly! You’ve gone through the recruitment process, you’ve been through all the phases required, dude, get his advice, he’ll definitely teach you how to survive boot camp and tell you some killer stories!” The first kid’s face went to joy, as he edged his buddy to talk to Harvey. The kid took off his blue jacket and walked over to Harvey who was at the bar alone. Like the red sea, it seemed that everyone at the counter was parted away from Harvey, as-if he was Moses.
              The kid sat across from him, who didn’t look up from his drink. The bar keep came by and asked the kid if he wanted a drink. He politely refused, then looked man, seeing his head failed to rise at his presence. The kid looked to the liquor cabinet and saw right above the sink was a photo of a young man who looked like Harvey. He wasn’t an elderly gentleman, he was in his early fifties, and he had a well chiseled face, with a very distinct beard. The young man in the photo looked the same, just with brown hair and was visibly younger. He was holding a trophy that said “1st Place Rifleman’s Competition”, and in it was several other people who all seemed excited, including a young woman in a white wedding dress. The kid paused, then turned to his friend who motioned for him to do something.
              He looked over to Harvey, and tapped his shoulder, to which he gave the kid a gravely, angry look.
“Hey, I heard you used to be a soldier. I was thinking of being one and wanted to hear your story.” The kid said in a blurry rush.
“Wipe that damn smile off.” Harvey snarled, ducking his head back.
“Shesh, I’m just curious. Our parents have stories they told us about you.”
“When I was an idiot like yourself.”
“Heh, w-what?”
“You think it’s cool being a soldier. And you’re right, it takes an idiot to wipe fear off of a man's face."
“Ehh, oh, oh, okay?”
              The kid was about to stand up and leave, however, Harvey grabbed his back and sat him down, then sat up from his drink.
“Look, kid, let me tell you something, let me tell you about me. You remind me of me, and maybe you will make the mistake I made.”
“What do you mean mistake?”
“Do you even know what it is like to kill something?”
“N-n-no?”
“You want to be a soldier and you haven’t popped a squirrel or frog?”
“N-n-n-no sir.”It’s hard killing an animal, egh, let’s start when I was around 7 years old, when my dad made me a slingshot out of the finest heart pine he had.
              I remember my dad back-then as this tall, barrel-chested man of a man with a smile on his face. He was clean-shaven with black hair, and was usually happy. The way he held that slingshot in his hands, a look of pride I’ve never seen on his face. It was a good-sized slingshot, with a thick yellow rubber band and white cloth wrapped around the grip as a makeshift cover. At the tip of the yellow rubber band, dead center was a small plastic cup for holding stones or other objects to be slung out of the slingshot.
He asked me if I knew how to use one of 'em, and you know, I realized I didn’t know how to. So, I told dad no, and well, he took over from there. Dad put it in my hands and mocked the posture and everything, helping me hold it, showing me how to draw it, load it, all nine-yards.
              I took the slingshot and pulled back on the yellow rubber band, and dad helped me, holding it as tight as he could. My hands were shaking violently from the amount of pressure he was holding, and I remember dad saying, “Very good”. He took his hand off of mine and told me to let go of the band. Boy did I do so, and that rock went flying through the air, hitting the base of the tree. I giggled because I’ve never seen anything go that fast in my life, and dad gave me another rock
“Now, you try it.” He told me, and I did without his help this time, even though he tried to step in. I hit that damn tree higher than I did last time, and it made a nice ‘thunk!’ too!
“You’re getting the hang of it!” My dad told me, hell it was the only time I remember he patted me on the back.
              Harvey stopped reminiscing, looking at the kid who looked in awe.
“Wow, so you just shot trees with your slingshot?” The kid asked, despite Harvey no longer being visibly interested, but he pressed on.
“Unfortunately, kid, I didn’t. I was a little rascal and got into trouble for shooting the wrong things. I should’ve listened to my father, I really should’ve.”
“What did you shoot? What was it you were not supposed to shoot?”
“Remember what I asked you? About killing?”
“Yeah?”
“That’s when I killed an animal and I was stupid enough to tell my best friend Rebecca, and she told my dad. Twelve-years-old and stupid is what I was.”It was this lovely sparrow, a precious creature in it’s nest. I took my slingshot and put a marble in it. I fired it at the poor bird. I hit it and killed it, and I told my best friend Rebecca that day.
              I was running full sprint to Rebecca. She was in this gorgeous green spring dress her mother sewn for her, and back then she just kinda stuck around with me because she liked me I guess.
“Beck! Beck! Beck!” I shouted to her, and she just gave me this uninterested ‘ugh’ in response. But I told her that I killed a bird and that I told my friends, Todd and Michael about it. I told her they thought it was super cool and that they wanted me to tell her about it. Well, she didn’t like that. She got so angry, so bitter. She yelled at me, and started crying. She asked me why and I told her “Because it was fun.” I wasn’t positive about my answer, but that is the answer I gave.
              Her face, she was so angry, when she got angry her cheek dimples became pronounced and you could definitely tell this girl had dimples. I swear, there were going to be two holes on the side of her face if I brought up the number of toads I knocked with marbles. She went to my dad, and he came out all angry. My mom was there too, and Rebecca was just standing there, crossed arms, crying.
“Harvey! What in the name of God!” Dad shouted at me, he was incredibly angry, and he had a belt in hand. I could see the veins in his neck throbbing. Mom just put her arms to her hips when dad snatched me off the ground like I was a pebble, threw me onto his knee with my ass held-high and lashed me ten-or-so times. He set me down and with a stern look on his face and gave me a lecture.
              Harvey paused, waving for the bar keep to bring him another beer, then he resumed his story.
The first thing dad said to me after tanning my ass was, and I’ll remember it to this day, “Harvey, you don’t kill animals like that. Especially just to brag about it to your friends. What is wrong with you?” And I was honest with him, even though I gave my half-ass answer to Rebecca, Todd and Michael, I just told dad I didn’t know. But of course, I told Rebecca it was because it was “cool”. Before dad could finish, I could tell that mom was about ready to spew fire out of her mouth, and if Rebecca’s dimples told how angry she was, when mom put her hands on her big hips, you knew you were toast. She looked at me with the sternest of looks and like a dragon, she was ready to breathe fire all over the damn back yard.
“I thought we raised you better than that! Your friend Rebecca nurtured that poor bird after the dog nearly killed it, only for you to kill it with that damn slingshot. You do this again and we’ll see how you like it when you’re shot with a marble out of a slingshot in the head!”
              Harvey’s beer came, and he looked at the kid who stared at him with shock.
“You did that to impress your friends?” The kid mumbled.
“Yeah, I did. And I only regretted it at the moment, but now, I definitely shouldn’t have done that.”
“Wow, what happened afterward? Did your dad take the slingshot away?”
“No, he didn’t. He wasn’t that kind of dad. He wouldn’t take your toys away, just belt you until your ass was rawhide leather. Kids these days don’t know what punishments are like, hehe.”
“But when did you want to become a soldier?”
“When? Ha! My dad was a soldier, so was granddad. Dad served in Vietnam, Granddad served in the second world war. Rebecca’s dad served in Korea and then Vietnam, hell, all my friend’s dads served.”
              He took a sip of the beer, looked the kid in the eyes, and went back to it.
“When I was sixteen, Rebecca was thirteen, we were still friends. She accepted my apology and were still good friends.”
“What else happened then?”
“Dad got me a BB Gun, and it was at that moment I wanted to be a soldier. It was so cool, thing was sleek, had cherry wood furniture with chrome silver plating and a very powerful pneumatic air system. It was the Porsche of BB guns if I’ve ever seen such a thing.”
              Dad gave me the BB Gun, and he showed me how to use it, normal bonding stuff. We shoot some stuff in the backyard, mostly empty beer bottles and beer cans. I get the hand of the thing, it’s pretty nifty. But I didn’t learn my lesson with the slingshot. And now with a more powerful toy, I killed a squirrel. And the dipshit I was bragged to my friends about it, and then Rebecca.
“Did she tell your dad?” The kid asked, and Harvey shook his head in negation.
“No, no she didn’t. But she brought up the last incident. However, I told it was fine, and that I was sixteen and I know what I’m doing. And she made the mistake of telling me that if I want to kill things, I should just join the military. And I decided I would. So I set out to finish high school, and then join. God was I proud. A few years later, when I was like twenty-one, we started dating. But that doesn’t really matter, I killed a squirrel and thought I was cool, just like every other animal I killed. And now? Now I’m about to join the military to kill people so I look cool, and because I wanted to serve. A part of me joined to serve kid, that was really it.The kid looked in awe while Harvey just downed his beer, pausing to make sure he had some left.
“But did you ever shoot a real gun before you joined the military?”Oh yes, I did. I started shooting at eight-teen. But it wasn’t until I was twenty-five when I proposed to Rebecca I owned my very own rifle.
              She was wearing this beautiful dress, I think the woman was born in an infinite layer of dresses because I only remember her in them, but anyways, it was a long dress, and she just recently cut her black hair short. I proposed to her, and God was she excited. The marriage took a while as it does. I was officially in the military though, but I didn’t own my own firearm until after that day. So we go to the ceremony and we’re all happy, everyone is happy. Dad is happy, mom, Michael, Todd, all the kids I grew up with I don’t remember. Everyone is happy. And dad, he has this big box with him at the reception when they’re all giving out wedding gifts. I open it up and it is my granddad’s M1 Garand rifle. Back in World War Two this was the talk-of-the-town. Eight rounds fed from a stripper clip, semi-automatic in a big boy round, not the puny 5.56x45mm round America is using now in our M4 rifles, no, this was the big-old thirty-aught-six, could stop a bison in its tracks.
              This thing was worn, nasty, you could tell it was used. Not sure how my granddad kept his rifle, but he kept it. And God was it a beauty. Dad wanted me to go to a gun club he and his drinking buddies went to, and so we went. All my friends, hell, Rebecca was still in her wedding dress! We went there and it was a rifle match. Who could hit the most targets the most accurate the quickest or something like that. I was a natural shooter, then-again I was in the military, just haven’t been deployed yet. But I took that rifle, everyone is using their modern sporting rifles and I got granddad’s big boy. It hurt to shoot kid, like getting kicked by a mule. But you’d remember it, and I could only imagine how granddad felt blasting Nazi heads off back in the great war.
              He stopped, and tapped the kid’s shoulder, pointing at the picture on the back of the bar wall, with a big smile on his face.
“Heh, that is you. And your wife?” The kid asked, and Harvey nodded with a smile.It doesn’t matter what rifle your using, if your goal is to hit something accurate and fast, doesn’t matter if it’s a semi-auto or automatic. Small calibers help but being a good shooter means being able to pick a gun up, and hit your target with your skills. No gun is going to make you a better shooter kid. Only yourself.
              And that day, getting first prize? It wasn’t just the only time. I’ve gotten first prize in pistol matches to two-gun competitions. I won marksmanship challenges all the way to skeet shooting and silhouette shooting. You name it, I won it. I was the champ. And I was in the military too! I got a lot of confirmed kills, I was the soldier of all soldiers you can find. I was loyal, brave, and determined. I didn’t ask questions besides the ones that matter : Who to kill, what to kill and why I cannot kill it. I followed my orders and was a grunt in all the right ways. I didn’t see the enemy in the more nuanced ways, I didn’t care. They were trying to kill us so they were bad. I did it not to kill anymore though, but to serve. Damn proud American, I was a soldier to serve this country proudly. And let me tell you, it helps, at least for a while.
              The kid looked at Harvey, his face full of glee but that last line, it stuck on him.
“What do you mean for a while?” He asked curiously.
“Kid, there are soldiers who go through and see no issue in killing. They take issue with people who take issue to war. They see those who side with the enemy as traitors. You know, that’s normal. Because, in a way, I guess you can say there are two types of soldiers, those who don’t question, and those that do.”
“What type of soldier are you?” Harvey looked at the kid, and his face fell sour, bitter, angry.
“It’s too much for you to handle.”
“I want to know though! Everyone tells me you’re this cool soldier! Someone told me you killed a terrorist kid!” Harvey stopped, froze, and turned his head to the kid with a look in his eye that showed pain, a pain he had to burry in another guzzle of beer. He waved to the bar keep to bring him another glass, and with a sigh, he resumed another flashback.
              Listen kid, they’ll teach you everything in boot camp, and you’ll learn it all in the field. Except for one thing, how to deal with fucking up. It’s cliché, but you know, what do you do? What would you do if you were me?
              It was Iraq, I was clearing a base with my squad. This shit’s normal. My squad peeled back, though we tried a buddy system, we felt confident that we got ‘em all, so I went into one room alone, the lights didn’t work, and it sounded like someone was alive, next thing you know, bang! Just a loud barrage of gunfire. Nearly lost my damn head. What do I do? I light the room up again, opened fire with my M4, no questions asked. I turned on my flashlight and looked around. Counted four dead bodies. And then, one person. This young kid, maybe your age, and he looked scared, horrified. He dropped his rifle, he was shot, and I could tell in his face he was searching for mercy. And you know what I did? This young man, begging for mercy, telling me he was afraid of Al Qaida, that he was only in it for fear of his life? I took his life. I took a kid’s life because I remembered why I became a soldier, to serve my country and to look cool while doing so. What is cool about letting some kid with an AK live? Some kid I didn’t know, some kid who could be lying? After all, they’re terrorists! Terrorists that we funded, and terrorists who believe we’re evil!              The kid looked Harvey in the eyes, sighing uncomfortably.
“Do you think he was innocent?”
“No one is innocent, not even me, not even our president. No one.”
“You were doing your job.”No, no I wasn’t. I was cleared of a war crime because it was justified, somehow. But you know, nowhere it says you can snuff out some kid’s life because they’re begging for mercy. I thought I’d be discharged for it, but I wasn’t. That came later.
              A few years later we were in a village, same shit, different day. And it happened, a kid was screaming, he was almost twelve, and he was screaming. My squad kept on, but I froze, they tried to get my attention but I just, I just froze. I could only think of the kid I shot, that one kid begging for mercy. And next thing you know, I didn’t even hear the gunshot. A sniper shot me, and I went down almost instantly. I woke up a few weeks later in the hospital. My wife was in tears, so was my mom and dad. After that, it was only downhill from there.
              All my life bragging about killing, and now I’m stuck, stuck remembering that one kid, that one kid who was begging for me not to kill him. And it becomes obsessive, to the point, it’s your day-and-night. I was too afraid to go see a shrink because I felt it would make me look weak, I wanted to push the pain away, but I did so with beer. And instead of spending my nights with my wife and child, I spent it here, chugging down glass-after-glass just to blur that kid’s face. And I’d blackout, and be kicked out, and yell at my wife. I’d get angry, and throw things. I’d get scared when my kid cried, and it just took over. My life wasn’t mine anymore, and the pain, the memories? They never stopped.
              And I started to question everything, everything. My dad was tired of my bitching, he didn’t like how much I argued with him about it. He wanted me to accept the fact that I was a soldier, I was supposed to kill the kid. We cannot trust them, they’re the enemy! But you know, what if it was me? What if they came into the room and shot us up? What would someone say if it was me begging for mercy? And dad got angry, and soon enough, Rebecca was fed up. And I tried to make it up but I refused to take my medicine and we divorced. I haven’t seen my child for so long, and honestly, I haven’t seen my father since then. I haven’t seen Todd, Michael, none of them. And here I am, drowning myself in beer.              The kid paused for a minute, starring emptily for a few seconds. He tried to stand, but couldn’t, only looked at Harvey with a look of despair.
“You don’t think you did the right thing?”
“No kid, I don’t. If the roles were reversed everyone here would be talking about how ‘monstrous’ that was, and that they were barbarians. But what happens when it is your own who do it? They just silence it and tell no one of it. And those that find out have no sympathy with the enemy. But how can you not sympathize with someone who dropped their weapon and begged for your mercy?” The kid gulped, his eyes twitched and his words were agonizing gasps of air, struggling to find a point.
“I-I-I don’t know.”
“Listen, you can be a soldier, be whatever you want, so long as you’re prepared for the consequences of it. But just know, just remember, that there is a reason no one talks about what happened after my thirties, because there isn’t anything heroic about questioning how much of a hero you really were.”
 

Editor whimsical chatterbox
<a href="/en/translator/silenced" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1423036">silenced</a>
Joined: 29.05.2019

Well done!

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<a href="/en/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Joined: 16.12.2017

Was it inspired by DDT? Touching story

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<a href="/en/translator/vladimir4757" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1407413">Vladimir4757</a>
Joined: 31.12.2018

Yes, Silenced suggested I do it. And I am glad you enjoyed!

I’ve been working on your suggestion, though I’ve been a lazy bum and haven’t decided on an outline yet ;c
Depending on when I get off of work and how much energy I have left I might work on it some more, decide on an outline and start story boarding.

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<a href="/en/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Joined: 16.12.2017

Tell me about been lazy... I convince myself every morning "you have to go and file your tax return!" Oh, well in my case you can call it procrastination Regular smile

Editor whimsical chatterbox
<a href="/en/translator/silenced" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1423036">silenced</a>
Joined: 29.05.2019

If you need inspiration and creepy / funny is your thing, you might want to have a listen to this:
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/venya-drkin-%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%82%D1%83%D1%8...
And this beautiful tribute to Bulgakov, while you're at it:
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/venya-drkin-%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B3%D0%B...

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<a href="/en/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Joined: 16.12.2017

Is French yours?
Funny, but I don't connect these songs to Мастер и Маргарита
But it's just me

Editor whimsical chatterbox
<a href="/en/translator/silenced" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1423036">silenced</a>
Joined: 29.05.2019

It's about her travel to Woland's ball, isn't it? Like the animated movie shows?
Yep, I try to translate it every couple of years, and fail. I just love that song. Regular smile

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<a href="/en/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Joined: 16.12.2017

It kinda is, and I'm starting to like this artist
And you cannot fail, c'mon

Editor whimsical chatterbox
<a href="/en/translator/silenced" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1423036">silenced</a>
Joined: 29.05.2019

It's just the way he says it. Each time I try to translate it, I can't preserve the beauty of it.
Maybe it's just me fantasizing about Russian, but these lyrics never get old.

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<a href="/en/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Joined: 16.12.2017

Russian language or Russian someone ?

Editor whimsical chatterbox
<a href="/en/translator/silenced" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1423036">silenced</a>
Joined: 29.05.2019

Formerly someone, today just the language.

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<a href="/en/translator/igeethecat" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1365086">Igeethecat</a>
Joined: 16.12.2017

I apologize, I should not say that, but back to your Russian- it's awesome! You even caught points and commas BS - this is my best compliment

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<a href="/en/translator/vladimir4757" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1407413">Vladimir4757</a>
Joined: 31.12.2018

Update on the current story, I've settled on an outline and have been storyboarding. I had to go in early yesterday morning and I will have to go early tomorrow morning for work so it won't be until tomorrow or Tuesday before the story is posted.

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