“What? You told me what? You’re a fucking liar? You tell me you’re a liar, but I’m supposed to believe it?
“I’m not trying to be funny. What I’m saying is … like, how you gonna tell someone you’ve been lying to them about all this shit, but this shit is the truth. You tell me I can believe it. ‘Cept you just told me you’re a liar. That’s a little funny don’t you think. Not funny like you were saying. That’s laughing funny. This kind of funny’s gonna get you put in the dirt.”
“And you’re … what? St. fucking Perfect? You don’t got nothing to say. Nothing to answer for …”
“One, change your fucking tone! That’s the last time I say that. Two, I never said I was perfect. I never even said I wasn’t a liar. ‘Cause I ain’t no fucking liar. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not about deny any of ‘em. What’s the point?”
“You know what I think when someone tells me they’re not something?”
“I think they fucking are whatever they say they’re not!”
He looked at his sneakers.
“So, what now?”
“What now? You fucking kidding? Did you go brain dead over night? We’re in the middle of the fucking woods. I just realized you’re so full of shit it’s coming out your goddamn ears. What the fuck you think is gonna happen?
“The fuck you mean ‘no’? ‘No’ ain’t one of your options, kid. We’d be done talking, but I keep hoping you’re going to say ‘thanks’ or something. Dumb, right?”
“You want me to thank you before you kill me?”
“Damn straight I do.”
“Um … that don’t make sense, brother.”
“Sure it makes sense. I brought you up. I thought I saw something in you. Thought I’d bring you in because Moms would have wanted it. I thought you’d do real good, bro. I was wrong. But I gave you every chance you ever had. YOU fucked those chances up. YOU got the game twisted. YOU tried to play cute and you got your feet all jacked up in the laces. You’re falling, homie. You just haven’t hit the ground yet.”
He looked at the barrel of the gun. Sweat ran in his eyes, a salty burn. It looked like he was crying, probably. Fuck!
“That’s it? Nothing I can say?”
“I just told you, motherfucker. You can say thanks. You can thank me for giving you a chance and apologize for making me look like some limp dick asshole.”
He ran the options in his mind. He stared into the hole the bullet would come out of. He thought about the times he’d been on the other side of these conversations. Worst of all, he knew Tony was right. He’d been invited to play, and he’d broken the rules.
He knew what happened to people who break the rules. The barrel was rock-steady solid. Not a tremor to be found. He looked past it to the eyes he knew so well. There was nothing in them anymore. Nothing for him.
“OK, OK. You’re right. I fucked up. I didn’t do right by you.”
“No, you didn’t. Now, thank me.”
“Alright. Fuck it. Thanks. I wish I’d done things different.”
The gun stilled every noise in the forest. Not even a bird moved. Hell, the wind fucking stopped. For a few minutes, there was just calm. The animals knew. Loud, man noise – it meant death. They could smell the blood, some of them. He looked at the body and shook his head slowly. Damn it.
No use thinking about it, though. It was done, and it needed to be done. He looked at his kid brother, already pale and leaking. His heart felt heavy … actually felt that way.