by Kama O’Connor
1. He’s been lying on top of his cheap, cotton comforter, staring at the walls that still have nothing on them—what would he hang that won’t remind him of the life he’d given up?—for three hours now. The clock reads 12:01 a.m. He had to stay late at the office to make up for the mistake he’d made on the quarterlies. What a joke, he thinks. None of this matters—the reports that told companies where their fractions of a cent were going, and when those fractions were dropped because of a loss in an arbitrary market half a world away. His fucking twenty-two year-old supervisor, just out of college, who kept coming by his small-assed cubicle, whining about shit he’d messed up…. Sometimes three times a day he had to listen to this desk jockey spout off about the importance of these reports and not shove his fist down the kid’s throat and tell him what really mattered in this world. It wasn’t a fucking report, that was for goddamn sure. So he gets up, walks to his closet, takes down the box he doesn’t let himself open often. His old life, the life he was proud of. Would always be proud of. He brushes the dust off the box with the heel of his palm, unlocks it, opens the lid, and stares. Each piece pokes at the pale, soft man he’s become since he took this job a year ago. His retirement certificate. Twenty years of drills and deployments and killing and not dying and broken relationships and training training training with only half a pension and a piece of paper to show for it. Still, he takes it out gingerly, places it beside him, and uncovers more relics. His service medals. A NAM with a combat “V.” A good cookie—ha! He should show this to his supervisor. Afghan service, Iraq service, OIF, OEF, Desert Storm. All conflicts, wars that showed him what the world really looked like. Ugly. Painful. Unfair. Underneath the medals is his grandfather’s old service revolver. He decides to play a game. Roulette, with only one player. The thrill it gives him sends shocks of an old—almost forgotten—feeling through his veins, charges him in a way he hasn’t felt in almost two years. He smiles, digs for the case of ammunition. Retrieves one bullet. A .22 caliber slug that he places in the chamber. Spins it, locks it in place. Holds the gun to his forehead and closes his eyes, excited that this is a game he can play and win, even if he loses. Because it reminds him what matters. This feeling. This. He starts the game.