Letter To Achilles- excerpt from THRIP by J.D.Brayton

Aiai! My name is a lament!
Who would have thought it would fit
so well with my misfortunes!
Now truly I can cry out — aiai! —
two and three times in my agony.

Aiee, Ajax! My name says what I feel;
who’d have believed that pain and I’d be one;
Aiee, Ajax! I say it twice,
and then again, aiee, for what is happening.

~Ajax by Sophocles


He sat in the deer stand high in an oak tree as the last light of day bathed the tops of the trees in an electric apricot orange. In the distance he heard thunder, if it rained, he didn’t care. The cold rain would help him feel something, even if cold meant alive. He wore layers of camouflage, it could be Noah’s down-pour, he would abide, sit out here all night, until the time was right, staring at the spots of dried blood on his pants from last month’s kill. Rain would never wash it out, neither would washing powder or the oily sweat of a night terror. Sitting, his back against the tree, holding his rifle, barrel aloft; the rest of his guns and knives stowed underneath him in an earthen pit reinforced with slats of old barn lumber salvaged over time, camouflaged so well that it was undiscernible as ground scrub. He built it over the past two years, a place to keep his hunting equipment and rustic gear on those long nights spent away from Deidra – an elision, an escape from routine posing as a fake- normal man, clawing through a fraud-normal existence in abnormal circumstance punctuated, linear, prevarication. Since her cancer returned, he spent far less time out here; sometimes he came out for a few hours in the day while she was working, just to smell the open woods, listen to small sounds of twee night creatures, squirrels, field-mice, wild dogs, birds, hawks or anything imminently more trustworthy than any human being. He kept his hunting license current in  rarest chance a Game Warden happened upon his makeshift stand out in this desolate stand of trees;  he rarely discharged his firearm. He usually kept his rifle un-loaded. A six-pack of Budweiser, a few joints, a couple juice-boxes and cinnamon graham crackers could hold him for 12 hours if necessary, not that he had any real appetite on this, his last twilight on Earth. He smoked a lot more weed now, since the V.A. stopped his meds because he piss-tested positive for marijuana. Government policy. Weed and beer calmed his anxiety, eased his painful headaches – maybe not as succinctly as the oxycodone, Risperidone, Xanax, Ambien, Ativan – but at least he could get up and down his deer stand without nodding out or losing balance. At least he could feel – back when he was loaded on the V.A. cocktail, before Deidra’s cancer returned, he would leave for days at a time, would always bring a strap and buckle himself to the trunk of the oak in case he passed out while perched above terra firma. The silence of the woods eased the pain in his head and the metal plate they used to rebuild his skull. The alloy didn’t vibrate or hum as badly as it did around the city –all the cars, televisions, buses, street-lamps and radios. Worst of all, he hated supermarkets. The lard cans, mush vegetables, scented deodorant soaps and candy all vibrated with the same frequency of the florescent lights. Reverse magnets. He could never focus for more than five minutes at a time. It drove him batshit. How do you explain to a V.A. shrink or a civie or your wife that you could smell and taste light? That you can hear skin? That computers and cell-phones made your skin itch like poison ivy? Beer and weed, clamped jaw and solitary hours were enough. They slowed the static hum to a passive trill. He decided long ago that he would die here when the time came. And he was here waiting for that one last sure sign that this was the moment. Maybe a hawk would circle and sound, maybe the cicadas would speak directly to him. Maybe the ghost of his parents. Maybe the ghosts of his interpreter Mazzo, Wally-O and Frany and Paunter. Hale Brook – war hero, vibrating. Magnetized. This was the night he would reflect ALL. This was the night he would review every scintilla of eidetic fear, love, anguish, pride, terror, brutality and gentle flora –the way his new shoes smelled when he was ten years old, the jack-knife Uncle Terry gave him, the teachers who spanked him, the horse that threw him, the fish he caught gutted ate. The hot orange Georgia sun slaking the salt from his skin, and the breeze after a rain that came in answer to a prayer. The scent of his wife’s skin after sex, the taste of her lips and her concupiscent breath. Also, her breasts, her stomach flat, heaving from the remains of culpable lust. DEIDRA- MY TECMESSA. Scars. Ribs. Also, his beloved dog, Commotion, a funny-ass mixture of hunting breeds, a cur with razor sharp ears and a four-mile nose, kept everyone awake all night, baying at the moon-shadows, deep into the night, hearing and sensing phantoms only dogs can understand. Commotion taught him everything about the stillness between bays, barks and whimpers – because it was in those fleet moments life was an enveloping breath, a wise silent and recondite symphony, a tease from beyond the grave that we all share just by blinking, chasing blood, shitting, laughing, touching wet air, breathing out.

Those fake people. Their guns. Their clubs. Their pretension.

None of them will ever know how close he came. Slaughter them all.

Their cows. Their sheep. Their dogs, concubines and horses.

One. Last. Time. I. Am. Ajax.

When all this was done he would whisper his love for Deidra, ask her forgiveness for his cowardice, my dearest Tecmessa; the Lord’s forgiveness for murdering his fellow man on orders of a malicious corrupt government, the creatures he killed to assuage his appetite, offer the gift his remains to carrion crows and fishing worms, stick the barrel of his rifle in his mouth and pull the silence right out of the first gentle morning star.

My dearest Tecmessa, forgive me.

It’s better this way.Abstract1

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