copyright © 2006 Todd Ristau

Tell Me When It's Over

by Todd Wm. Ristau

(Two men sit at a table, perhaps in a bar. One is a FATHER, the other his SON. They have several empty beer bottles in front of them, and are in the process of adding two more.)

FATHER: Well, it couldn't have been easy.

SON: Nope.

FATHER: Your mother, she was awful proud of you.

SON: I'm sorry about that.

FATHER: Well, we were both worried too. Braggin' on you kept her from crying, I think.

SON: I wasn't doing much front line duty. There were plenty of people needed more worrying about than I did.

FATHER: I don't think there's anybody anyplace that isn't in need of some worrying anymore.

SON: S'pose you're right. It's pretty fucked up.

FATHER: (laughing, as men do) Don't talk like that in front of your mother.

SON: I won't.

FATHER: probably won't. You haven't said more than six words to her since you got back.

SON: Sometimes...sometimes it seems like the more things back here try to act like they were before I left, the less I feel like I really am back.

FATHER: Probably doesn't seem real yet.

SON: Dad...that's just it. That's exactly it. Nothing seems real. I don't remember when it did.

FATHER: Well, that just takes time. You know, after you're here a while, and after you get a job...

SON: What the fuck kind of job am I going to get?

FATHER: Hey--watch your mouth. You're not in fatigues now, you're in blue jeans and you're in my bar where all my friends are watching me sitting down for some beers with my son.

SON: Well, that seems mighty worried about what other people think of me, instead of worried what I think about anything.

FATHER: Look, you have a responsibility. People want to support you, they don't want to see you come home bitching about every goddam thing, sad sacking around, and complaining about your service.

SON: Fuck you, Pop.

FATHER: I think you've had enough.

SON: I've had enough, but I've just begun to drink tonight. What I've had enough of is you and all these other sons of bitches with W's and yellow ribbons on their SUVs being all proud as hell of what I'm doing for them...doing so they A) don't have to do it themselves, and B) Don't have to watch me do it for them because I'm doing it way the fuck over there.

FATHER: That's right. That's god damn right. Fighting them there is better than fighting them here. I don't know what the hell is wrong with you.

SON: I don't know what the hell is wrong with me either.

FATHER: (softening, fatherly) Well, just find out and then fix it.

SON: Wow. You know what I'd have given if even one person above the rank of Colonel had that thought occur to them? The only thing they know how to do is train everyone to stare at something broke and call it already fixed. The more broke it is the more fixed they call it. (laughing and taking a deep drink of beer) And I guess that makes me damned near perfect.

FATHER: (giving up and getting angry) You're right, with an attitude like that nobody is going to hire you for anything. I don't know if I'd hire you. I'm not even sure I want to finish this goddam beer with you.

SON: Nobody's going to hire me because I re-upped and I'm going back for another tour.

FATHER: No you're not. You're just saying that to be hurtful.

SON: I guess you'd know all about saying stuff just to be hurtful.

FATHER: I thought you were going to get a job here in town, your mother is talking to some people--

SON: Is Mom gonna get me a job where I can kill some towel heads for her? Is she gonna get me a job where I can kick the shit out of an 11 year old muslim kid until he tells me anything he thinks I want to hear just to get me to stop? Show me the want ad where they need someone good with dogs, jumper cables, and menstrual blood. You've seen the pictures. That's what I know how to do. That's what I'm an expert at.

FATHER: Those pictures are lies.

SON: If that makes you feel better, then believe that.

FATHER: If any of that was bad apples and they got pulled out of the barrel. You'd never do anything like that.

SON: You're not listening to me. I'd never do anything like that, you're right, so if I did do everything exactly like that...then who the fuck was I? Who the fuck am I? I'm AWOL but I show up for duty every goddam time. How can that be? How can broke be fixed? How can you be glad this imposter came home and has the fucking balls to sleep in your son's bedroom?

FATHER: (long pause) If you hate what you're doing so much, why would you go back and do more of it? It doesn't make any sense.

SON: (pointing the empty bottle at his head) Because they fixed me, Pop. When you can walk into a cell with a bucket of soapy water to wipe away where somebody wrote on the their own blood...that they killed themselves to keep you from hurting them any more...Me, Pop...When you can drive a man to kill himself and then can wash away his last words and only think how hard it's going to be to clean up...You don't come home after something like can't come home because you're not really there to come home more than the son of a bitch whose blood is filling up your sponge.

FATHER: (angry) So, what are you saying? It's all pointless? All those lives just wasted?

SON: (not looking at his FATHER, not looking at anything at all) I don't know. I'm not supposed to know. Neither are you. We find out when we're done.

(Slow fade to black as SON continues to drink. FATHER watches him in uncomprehending silence.)


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