The kid stood over his shot, all full of false bravado, tobacco juice dripping down his lip. The old white guy from Chicago and the tall tough black guy from Detroit nudged each other and laughed the silent laugh that city kids laugh. They knew something that the rube from Mississippi would never know.

Detroit and Mississippi were going back to Iraq. The old man from Chicago was on his way home after going to Jacobs Field to see the Indians play the Blue Jays. If you’ve ever been in a bar playing pool with people on their way to other places, you understand. You don’t even remember their names, you just remember where they came from. You wish them the best and say goodbye.

“Detroit, you need another beer?”

“Yeah. You buyin’?”

“Yeah. Put your money away. What does the kid want?”

The tobacco dribbling Mississippi Kid was still trying to line up a shot in a game of cutthroat. They were playing for a round of beers, and the Mississippi Kid had no money. The shot was important to him. If he lost the game, he was out 10 bucks that he didn’t have. He wasn’t smart enough to know that either Detroit or Chicago would tank the next shot and lose on purpose to get him off the hook.

“You gonna be anywhere near that kid when you get back in the shit, Detroit?”

“Yeah, we’re the support unit.”

“Um, in case it ain’t obvious to you, Mississippi’s on a mission from God to die over there. Think you can keep him from getting himself killed?”

“Johnny Chicago, I’m tryin’ my best to not get killed myself. You want me to watch out for that cracker? Are you freakin’ crazy?”

“Are you in the same unit?”

“No.”

“Are you deployed in the same area?”

“Yes.”

“Watch out for him, willya?”

“Why would I watch out for an idiot cracker like him?”

“Because I asked you to, that’s why.”

Men look into each other’s eyes and see things that can’t be explained. Detroit and Chicago looked at each other and understood.

“Hey guys! I missed. Your shot, Detroit.

“You guys, before this game is over, I just want to say that I feel like we’re brothers. We’ve never met before tonight, and we may never see each other again, but you guys are so cool. Where I come from, white people and black people don’t talk that much. But you guys have taught me so much. You guys have never met, but you just started talking to each other like you’ve known each other all your lives.”

“My shot,” said Detroit.

“My round,” said Johnny Chicago.

John McCarthy
Berwyn

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