Go To A Bar, Leave With A War Poem

by | Jun 22, 2009

Fighting O’Reilly
by David Burn

It’s Friday after work and there’s one picnic table left at the bar.
But it’s not really open, because a guy is sitting there, talking to people at the next table over.
I ask him if we can sit there too.
He gets up and moves to the other table.
I say, “Let me buy you a beer.”
He says, “I’m not gay.”

I come back with his I.P.A. and the show begins.

Bobby Joe O’Reilly has fine features and pale, almost translucent skin which he covers up with lots of ink.
But there’s no ink on his face.
What’s on his face is a war movie that will not stop playing.
It stars, oddly enough, Sargent O’Reilly himself, although he’s a younger man in the movie.

The more O’Reilly drinks the louder and more obnoxious his movie gets.
“Take those damn sunglasses off, they’re bothering me,” O’Reilly barks.
Here’s a man ready for hand-to-hand combat.

“I was in Kosovo,” he says.
He pauses for dramatic effect, a habit he picked up by watching late night Westerns.
“I watched four friends die right in front of me.
A sniper pinned us down and then a ‘bowling Betty’ came rolling down the narrow street.
Boom, my friend turned to ketchup right in front of me.
Splat, another friend turned to ketchup.
Bang, another.
Shit, another.
And I told that dumb ass Lieutantant we had no business in there, but he didn’t listen.
And you know what else?
I had one fucking bullet in my chamber.
One fucking bullet thanks to the U.N.
I fired that bullet and so did my men and the sniper died by our bullets.
I went to see his body and he was a kid.
A 13 year old kid!”

“You did what you had to do,” I say.

“A 13 year old kid!” screams O’Reilly.

Later, a cab pulls up for O’Reilly.
He stumbles and falls to the concrete.
I think, “Man down!”
But he makes it.
He survives.