No Do-Overs

No way of getting a bullet back in a gun once the trigger’s pulled. Ben knew that. The bang and flash were final; no do-overs.
Kyle stepped back and crumpled to the tile like an old blanket. Ben’s brother died on the sticky, filth-caked floor of a gas station. Ben held him until the police arrived, watching his blood mix with the soupy mess of tracked-in mud and melting snow.
The gunman fled before he could even collect his prize. Ben didn’t care about him and he figured once he turned his back, he’d be next. It never happened as the cowardly bastard took off in a trail of gun smoke and the faint smell of piss. Kyle was everything to Ben and he was taken by a scared kid with a weak bladder who didn’t even have the balls to see his petty crime through to the end.
Now the snow melted and Kyle was laid to rest. Ben, on the other hand, hadn’t rested since that night. He lost time as his days smeared together, a blur punctuated by frequent texts from his best friend Rich. Ben just text back “Still Breathing”. Barely.
When Ben heard knocking on his door, he thought he’d finally fallen asleep and was dreaming. Maybe the whole thing was a nightmare and it was Kyle at the door.
Ben jumped to his feet and nearly wiped-out on the beer cans gathered around his sofa like silver and blue protesters. They clattered and clanked as he shuffled his bare feet through their picket line.
Rich’s furrowed brow and wide-eyed stare told Ben what he already knew; he looked rough. They hadn’t seen each other in about two weeks. Rich respected Ben’s privacy and stuck to his text message check-ins.
“Ben.” Rich shook his head.
“Don’t start.” Ben held up his hand.
“Look at you. When was the last time you showered?” Rich pushed passed Ben.
“Not sure. Does it matter?”
Rich blew a few strands of sandy hair out of his eyes. Rich was the type of guy who was so upbeat he practically bounced around like Tigger. But Ben had always been Rich’s Winnie the Pooh; the glue holding the whole forest together. Ben’s metamorphosis into Eeyore, the depressed donkey, was killing Rich. If Ben crashed and burned, Rich feared he’d bring the entire Hundred Acres down on both of them.
Rich looked around the living room; it was as disheveled as Ben.
“God, Ben.” Rich shut the lid of a pizza box. Like a greasy graveyard the box held two shriveled slices and the remains of some chewed-up crust.
“At least I’m eating.” It was a frail echo of Ben’s old wit but it gave Rich a small injection of hope.
Rich buzzed around to the adjoining kitchen, rummaged underneath the sink and pulled out a black plastic garbage bag. Ben flopped down on the couch as Rich stuffed trash in the bag.
“You have to stop this, man. You look like shit. Your place stinks like ass and feet. And this,” Rich shook a pizza box, “this diet’s gonna kill you.”
“Rich, man, I’m okay with that.”
“Don’t talk like that. Do you really think Kyle—”
“Don’t.” Ben held a finger up. Ben had never raised his voice to Rich like that and Rich recoiled like he’d been slapped.
“I’m sorry.” Rich held his hands up. “Tell me what I can do for you? What do you need?”
“Couple things you can’t give me.”
Rich sat down next to Ben and put his hand on his back, rubbing it in small circles with his palm.
“You’re my best friend. You know that. You need to talk to me.”
“Nothing to say.” Ben shrugged.
“You’re being an asshole.”
“I’m being an asshole?”
“Yeah, you are.”
“Funny way of cheering me up.”
“Nothing else was working.”
“So this is the tough love part of this lecture?”
“Man, I loved Kyle too. You two were there when my parents tossed me out. You let me sleep on this very sofa. Remember?”
“I remember.”
“You also remember me crying my eyes out?”
Ben nodded.
“And you’d lie down with me ‘til I fell asleep. Letting me know I’d be okay and I wasn’t worthless like my dad said.”
Ben nodded.
“Benny, I’d be dead right now if it wasn’t for you. So don’t shut me out. Don’t leave me to deal with the death of one friend and the self-destruction of another.”
“I’m just so far in this hole. I don’t know how to climb out or if—”
“If what? You even want to?”
Ben ran his fingers through his grimy hair.
“I can’t make you. I can just remind you of what you told me.
“You said ‘Richie, you can’t let shit break you.’. If I did, every good thing that’s happened since you made me drag my ass off this couch would’ve never happened.”
A tear, silent and smooth, slid effortlessly down Rich’s cheek. The two friends sat with the whir of the ceiling fan the only indication time hadn’t stopped.
“I’m gonna get us dinner. Can we at least have a meal together?”
Ben nodded as Rich wiped his face with his sleeve.
When Rich left, Ben went to his room. He took his father’s old service revolver out of his nightstand.  He knew there was no way to get a bullet back in a gun once he pulled the trigger. It was final; no do-overs.


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