Tony's Corner

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Tony Smithfield was an eighty-seven year-old Vietnam Veteran that suddenly becomes sure that his old platoon leader has come back from the dead. And it seems that Tony had one last mission to finish.

Submitted: July 17, 2007

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Submitted: July 17, 2007

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TONY'S CORNER

By: AUSTIN BELLO




One

Anthony "Tony" Smithfield was an old, quiet man who lived out on Shallow Creek Road all by himself.  He was a man with few needs and even fewer wants.  Every day, at about 5:30 AM, he got up and made himself breakfast and coffee.  Then, after breakfast, he would walk outside into the cool, crisp morning and pluck anything that needed plucking from his garden.  He didn't grow much, just corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  After plucking his garden, he would water it.  After that, Tony would go back inside, make himself another cup of coffee, and read the paper.  Then he would go to his corner.
His corner was actually a small stretch of land that sat atop the Shallow Creek Hill Community Park.  The entire town was splayed out below him, and he would frequently take photos of the people that inhabited the town of Shallow Creek.  Most of his subjects had no idea that they were being photographed, others did.
Almost everyone in Shallow Creek knew Tony, and not one person had an unkind word to say about him.  He was a kind, sweet, old black man that wouldn't hurt someone if they deserved it.  That just wasn't the way he operated.  Although he had served with the Marines in 'Nam, violence just wasn't in his nature.  Maybe that's why everyone was so shocked.
Two days before Shallow Creek's most memorable day, Tony woke up and went through his steps as usual.  He went over to his corner at about 7:30, his battered old Pentax Spotmatic hanging around his neck and four rolls of Ilford 125 speed black and white film in his pocket.  
The day was cloudy but bright.  Tony was actually surprised at how well he could see.  His vision had been failing him ever since 1993 or so, and he normally had to wear glasses.  His son had bought him some of those new contact lenses, but they hurt his eyes something terrible.  
So, Tony had taken a few photographs of the thick and broiling clouds before turning his attention to the town that lay below him.  He had always found black and white film interesting and beautiful.  So much so, in fact, that he had made himself quite a nice little darkroom.  
By 8:30 or so, Main Street was filled with quickly moving cars, people, and people on bikes.  Kids walked to the elementary and junior-high schools, while the high-schoolers drove their souped-up cars to Shallow Creek High.  Adults and college students--most of whom had lost interest in souped-up cars, mostly because they couldn't afford them--drove their plain old normal cars to college and work.
Tony put the veiwfinder to his eye and captured a kid riding his bike, his bookbag hanging off one shoulder, his head turned around to shout something to his buddy.  Tony advanced the film and began to search for another shot, scanning Main Street with his camera.  He passed over a man wearing Naval Whites, kept going, and then snapped back to the man in the Naval Whites.  He looked familiar.  
"No . . . no, he can't be here!"  Tony whimpered, his eighty-seven year-old mind suddenly kicking into Overdrive.  "He died back in 'Nam, during the Tet Offensive.  I saw it happen!"  Tony nearly screamed.  He was more afraid than he had been since he had served in Vietnam.  
Tony fished a bent and crumpled pack of Marlboros out of the breast pocket of his plaid shirt and then pulled his Zippo out.  The cigarettes were unfiltered, none of that sissy filtering crap for him.  If he was going to smoke, he was going to smoke, by God!  Tony lit the cigarette and watched the smoke trail off the end.  He kept his other eye on the man in Naval Whites.
He thought: Captain Matthew Johnson, you old salt.  You were the head of my platoon . . . and you're the reason only two of us lived.  How in the hell you made it back to earth--back to the land of the living--I don't know.  But I don't like it.  You took that .50 cal fire like a true man, but you didn't even live to feel the second round hit you.  You should not be here!
The man in Naval Whites was not, of course, the late and not-so-great Captain Matthew Johnson.  He was just a Naval officer on R-and-R.  He did, however, look remarkably like Tony's old captain.
After smoking three more cigarettes, Tony began to calm down.  He was still positive that he had seen his old captain, but he was also positive that Captain Johnson didn't know that he was here, in Shallow Creek.  He was safe; he wouldn't have to follow anymore immoral orders, such as the one where he had been ordered to napalm that village and kill everyone there, including the women and children.  Or . . . so he thought.
Tony finished his fifth cigarette--which was more than he had smoked in the past five of six years collectively--and gathered up his camera and walked down the hill.  His 1960s International Scout was parked at the bottom of the hill, the driver's side door open and waiting for him.
He threw himself in and started the Scout, wincing at the way he had to really crank the key over to get it to start.  He knew that he could easily afford a new vehicle, but the Scout was all that he had left of his Old Man.
Tony drove onto Main Street, heading home, but he suddenly decided that he needed another deck of smokes and maybe some Jack Daniels.  Which was odd because he hadn't had a thing to drink since the day he was ordered to light up that village and torch all those people.
The longer the day went on, the more Tony found himself thinking of that village.  How it had burned like dry timbers, how he had had to shoot that little boy that had caught on fire and come running towards him, how . . . well, never mind.  Best to just let it go.
Except he couldn't!
It stayed in his mind like a bent and rusty nail stays inside a board.  He thought about his experiences in Vietnam all the way home, hating how the thoughts chased each other around in his head like a dog will chase his own tail.  Tony hated himself for some of the things--heck, most of the things--that he had done in 'Nam.  Of course, he hadn't done them on his own, he had been ordered to do them.  Nevertheless, the things that he had taken part in were horrible.  Atrocious, even.
Tony finally pulled into his dirt road, liking the sound the car tires made as they crunched over the gravel.  He had always liked that sound.  It made him think of his childhood.  
He slammed the door to his Scout and walked up the drive.  As he was walking up the steps that led to his doorstep, he had a memory so vivid and real that he stopped dead in his tracks.  Call it a flashback.  He could clearly see Captain Johnson, his .50 cal in hand and blazing, screaming: "Do I have to do this all by myself!?  Come on, you bastards, pour it on!  Scrag their asses!"  Tony could see--actually see--the sun winking off the dull brass of the expelled cartridges from Johnson's machine gun and the other's M16s.  He could see the brass casings of his shells get kicked out of the chamber and fly into the air, winking in the sun the whole way.  Then the flashback was over and Tony realized that he was lying in the prone position in his front yard, just as he had been all those years ago in 'Nam.  As he had been the day he was ordered to waste that village.
Tony stood up, feeling quite embarrassed although nobody was around to see his little stunt.  He brushed dust and leaves off his shirt and then picked up his camera.  For one more brief second, he could hear Captain Johnson ordering them to help him, and then it was gone.  
Tony ran inside.  

TWO

He crushed the Marlboro out and dealt himself another hand of solitaire from his greasy deck of "Bee" playing cards.  The backs were red with the classic diamond pattern.  Tony always thought that that was odd.  If Bicycle owned "Bee," then why didn't the cards have the same Rider Back design?
It was nearing 3:00 AM, and Tony had been up since 5:30 AM the previous morning.  His bottle of Jack Daniels was almost gone, and he only had three cigarettes left out of a pack that had been new around 12:00 the previous day.  Captain Johnson had been by to see him.  And it seemed that Tony had one more village to clear after all.
"Listen up, Sergeant!"  Johnson had barked.  He had stopped by at around midnight, still wearing his immaculate Navy Whites.  Tony had come to attention and saluted when Johnson walked in, but Johnson didn't seem to be worried about military regulation.  It was almost as if Johnson wasn't there, save for his voice and the faint shimmer of his image.  Of course, he wasn't there, but by the time Tony figured that out, it would be far, far too late.  
"I've got another mission for you, Sergeant.  Just one more before you retire, then you'll be done," Johnson had said.  Then he gave Tony his orders.  He was very clear.  There were to be no mistakes.

THREE

Tony woke up with a start at 10:00 AM on the dot, spraying his "Bee" playing cards everywhere.  He was running late.  He had people to kill, places to bomb, as Captain Johnson had once said.  He had better get moving if he didn't want to get chewed out.
He threw open the door to his Scout, made sure he had his credit card, and then set out for John's Hunting & Fishing Supply Company.  He was going to run in, get what he needed, and get out.  Simple.  What Johnson would have called a "no-brainer."
"Let me get that Remington .30-.06 with the scope and five boxes of ammo.  And chop-chop, too, Sparky!"  Tony demanded, sounding more and more like his Marine Corps era self than he had since he actually was a Marine.  And that had been quite some time.
"Uh, yes, sir!"  The idiot behind the counter barked and turned to the rack that held all of the rifles.  He picked out the Remington, grabbed the ammo boxes, and brought them back to Tony.  Tony had considered buying one of the Garands that the case held, but they didn't have scopes.  It would be best to just go with the easiest thing, and that was the Remington with the scope.  He didn't want to screw up his last mission, after all.
The idiot behind the counter handed Tony his rifle, which Tony snatched away.  He then grabbed the five boxes of ammo, threw his credit card onto the counter and walked off. 
"Mister, don't you want your card back?"  The idiot asked.
"No," Tony answered.  He wouldn't be needing it where he was going.
Tony threw the gun into the back of his Scout and and then clambered in himself.  He started the old engine up with one harsh crank of the key and was off. 

By the time he got to his corner, it was nearing noon and most of the people were just getting out of church.  Nobody payed much mind to little old Tony up on his corner.  Some people saw the light glinting off his scope, but they assumed that it was the sun reflecting off of his camera lense.  Assumed, being the operative word.  Silly them, didn't they know what assuming did to you and me?
Tony laid down on the highest part of the hill and peered down through his scope.  He had one quick moment of doubt, but the thought of Captain Johnson squashed all of his doubts and fears.  Tony centered the crosshairs of his scope on the chest of a woman dressed in her church clothes.  He flicked the safety off and fired, shredding her heart and killing her instantly.  To Tony, she looked just like the Vietnamese Communist he had killed all those years ago.  He honestly had no idea that he was killing innocent Americans.
Tony put his crosshairs on a man that was running to the woman he had already gunned down.  Tony blew his brains out.  Then he shot two more women and seven more men.
The last shell casing ejected itself and hit Tony in the eye.  He yelped and tried to figure out why he had a rifle in his hands.  He heard sirens and looked down at Main Street, where thirteen people lay dead or dying.  There was a connection trying to form in his head, but he couldn't get it to click.  He had a rifle, and people were dead.  He had a rifle and people were . . . and then, oh sweet Christ, it clicked.  Tony screamed in fear and threw the rifle down the hill a ways, as if it were a poisonous snake that was trying to bite him. 
Suddenly, a pair of shiny black dress shoes strode into his line of sight.  He looked up slowly and saw a pair of immaculate white pants with razor creases, a shiny black belt with a gold buckle that had U.S.N stamped into it, and a Naval Whites shirt.  He looked up even farther and saw Captain Johnson's leering, grinning, horrible face.
"Gotcha!"  Captain Johnson's ghost howled and then burst into a fit of hideous, satanic laughter.

FOUR

Later that night, eight-seven year-old Anthony "Tony" Smithfield ate a bullet as police cruisers began to crunch over the gravel of his driveway.


© Copyright 2020 Austin Bello. All rights reserved.

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