“The Twenty-Two” by Clayton Bradshaw


Photo Credit: TL Sherwood

Suicide, n.1, 1. one who dies by his own hand: I shaped the rope into a tight S in my hand before wrapping the end around it and tightening the noose with a knot;   2. one who commits self-murder: I attached one end to the base of the satellite dish on my roof, sturdy enough to not bend and change my mind;    3. one who attempts or has a tendency to commit suicide: The loop slipped over my head, a medallion of the shame of peaking in life too soon as a pawn, as soldier fighting for someone else’s war, as a soldier losing my own war, as a father losing my own son;     n.2 the act of taking one’s own life: I see how we react every time one of us takes their own life. I see how all past conflict pushes to the side in favor of honoring the good parts of memory. In death, each of us becomes the hero we could never be on the battlefield. In Memoriam, we transcend in Ovidian metamorphosis to become birds or hyacinth;     self-murder: I remember _______, spleen shattered like a fragile mason jar unable to contain the remorse constructed by survival, putting the barrel of a .38 into the soft spot of his temple, rendering his funeral closed casket;     attrib., esp. as suicide letter, suicide note, suicide pact. _______ likely laughed as the shotgun he kept next to his stack of rented schoolbooks found its way into his jawline. He always found humor in darkness, in death, and especially in his own death;     Comb. Suicide blonde, n. slang a woman with hair dyed blonde (esp. rather amateurishly), a peroxide blonde: _______ never dyed his hair, but it looked almost as white as the all 30 of the Vicodin in his system when we found him, a sharp contrast to the blonde hairs that blended into the sand on his patrol cap;     n. a clause in a life insurance policy which releases the insurer from liability if the insured commits suicide within a specified period: _______, rifleman always on my left, number two in every room we cleared, hung from the rafters in his bedroom three months after he got out, a testament to institutionalized concussions;     suicide gene n. Genetics a gene which causes the death of the cell carrying it: Maybe some defective gene drives them to it, maybe some gene implanted by military service;     suicide squeeze   n. Baseball the action of a runner on third base in running for home as the ball is pitched. Pinched between the plate and third, we never find peace at home, so we run back and forth, no escape allowed, forever implanted with the realization that the memory will never leave, but the people around us will.     v.1 to commit suicide. We are committed to a dying cause, condemned to survival unless we fix it ourselves.     v.2 trans. (euphemistically) So, I take the rope off my neck and use a pen to pierce my veins and spill our blood on the page.

 

 

Clayton Bradshaw served in the US Army for eight years as an infantryman. He deployed with 3/2 SCR to Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. He graduated from Sam Houston State University with a BA in English and currently participates in the MFA-Creative Writing program at Texas State University. His work can be found in The Deadly Writers Patrol, Second Hand Stories, War, Literature and the Arts, and O-Dark-Thirty.

 

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