Land of the Free – Kyle Seibel
October 15, 2021
I didn’t go to Afghanistan and nearly get my shit rocked on the fucking daily so I could come home to a country where everything has a goddamn warning label, speed limit, portion control, or rulebook. I went over there because of freedom. General discharge seven years ago, long story, but I still live my life by those ideas. Freedom. Liberty. Whatever.
Like a few summers ago I went lake fishing. Some bachelor weekend needed a seventh to split the cost. Guys from the gym, but they’re softbodies truth be told, the whole group. It’s early morning, mist and all that shit, shafts of light and whatnot. We’ve just shoved off when I see something move on the banks. A black bear, swear to god. The guys are on their phones or otherwise jerking each other off so I ninja grab my rifle, a 7mm, all I brought. I sight him down and the bear raises up. Except not like you think a bear moves. Stands up from his crouch like he’s in class and someone called on him. Stares at me. Fucked me up a little. I start thinking it’s not a bear but a guy in a bear suit and then one of the bachelor boys sees me and then he sees the bear and then he says, Oh my god like he’s at the goddamn movies and the bear snaps his head away. Shit, I think. Mighta been 30 yards with a bitch ass seven mil but I crack the bear just below his ear. Blow a fist-sized hole in that fucker’s head. The guys are going on about how we don’t have a permit and what the fuck was I doing because this is a protected reserve but I’m like, Guys, I just shot a bear in the fucking grape.
And guess what, everything turned out fine. Still got the rug. Keep it in the basement.
Ran out of unemployment in Jefferson County is how I come to the roofing job. Two guys named Mike own the company. Find them on a list of businesses who hire vets. Two Mikes Construction. I know roofing from my Seabee days or at least that’s what I tell the Mikes and either they don’t check out my story or do and don’t give a shit, but they hire me on a trial basis to see how I get along with the crew.
Big happy family here, I go and tall Mike says, Yeah, something like that.
He explains that he means the Lesters. Two brothers and a cousin on the tear-off team who rub some people the wrong way.
Wrong way how, I ask and fat Mike interrupts tall Mike to say, They’re just country.
Country how, I ask and tall Mike says, I guess you could say they’re big believers in personal freedom.
Good, I say. Me too.
I get along pretty okay with the Lesters and the Mikes put me on full time. They’re country as hell, just like fat Mike said, but friendly in their own way. Robin and Carl are the brothers and Robin is the oldest, the shortest, the loudest.
Roy is the cousin, blonde ponytail and brand new teeth because that’s something Tricare used to do once you got clean. I ask him how long he’s been off it and he makes finger quotes and says, Supposedly a year.
Carl is the youngest and a world-class moron but nice like only absolute idiots can be. I end up liking Carl for precisely this reason but it also means he takes it up the ass from the other guys on a regular basis.
Carl gets lost on his way to a new job site and Roy goes, Carl, I bet that one brain cell of yours is so lonely. Carl wastes half the day fucking with the compressor when it was never plugged in to begin with and Robin says it’s like the wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead. Roy goes, Hey Carl, this is my dick and points his nail gun at the sky, shoots it a dozen times. He goes, This is what Missy does and then pretends to catch the nails in his mouth. Carl laughs big donkey laughs. Carl used to be married to Missy.
I tell Carl he shouldn’t let them push him around so much. He says, Oh they’re just tuggin my tits.
They all live together the next county over, an acreage with a little house in Douglas County which opens for doe one month before we do in Jefferson. Some uncle has a farm where they’ve got a blind. They camp out, drink beer, fuck around, shoot shit. They invite me and I say, Why the hell not.
We drive out to the place Friday after work. The plan is to stay overnight and start early on Saturday. They show me the spot they normally use and it’s a decent one. The blind is old but feels pretty stable when I climb the ladder. They don’t let Carl up there even though there’s plenty of room. Robin says he’d fall his ass off and their mom would cook his dick if Carl died, which they’re sure he would do. Carl doesn’t mind. Say he’s a ground hunter anyway which makes Roy and Robin start in on him.
Robin calls him Sergeant Fingerpaint and Roy says if Carl fell in a bucket of tits he’d come up sucking his thumb. We’re grabbing the gear from Robin’s truck and Robin points to the trailer hitch, chipped and flat gray. Look at that, he says to me. Missy sucked all the chrome off.
We make a fire and get some beers. Robin bitches about his ex parte. Roy says in the army he could do one-armed push ups, fifty in a row, switching arms every five.
No way, Carl says.
Fuck you, Roy says.
What did you do in the Navy again, Robin asks me.
Eat shit mostly, I say.
Next day, I’m up the blind with Roy and Robin. Carl takes the four-wheeler to set up in the nettles further on the property. Couple hours in I see a big body doe on my side of the blind. Take her, Robin says and I drop her with one through the bean. We go down and field dress the doe and we’re almost done when we hear a rifle crack from somewhere in the woods. Carl got one too, I say and Roy says, Missed one maybe.
I drag the doe back to camp and hang her to bleed. Roy and Robin come back for lunch and I ask if they’ve heard from Carl since the shot. Roy says it took all Carl’s brain power to shoot the gun and not to expect much more. Robin says he probably got lost or sprained his ankle or got bit by a spider or fell in the sinkhole.
Maybe he got a big girl, I say. Maybe it’s a couple hundred pounds and he can’t get it on the quad. They tell me not to waste my time, but I go looking for Carl and I find him not far from the blind. Doesn’t take me too long because he’s making quite the fucking racket. I see his orange vest between the trees and he’s dragging a deer by the legs, trying to get it onto the ATV’s rack. Really struggling with it. This poor asshole. I shout out to him, Hey Carl, let me help and I guess he doesn’t hear me approach because when I shout, it startles him and he lets go of the hindlegs and falls backward over the four-wheeler. Jesus, Carl.
I run over to help and this is when I realize that Carl tripped because his pants were pulled down to his ankles. I’m looking at him lying on his back on the ground, naked from the waist, his pink little dick sticking up in the air. We look at each other for a second and I turn around without saying anything and head back to camp.
Found him, I tell Roy and Robin. He got one.
Couple minutes later Carl arrives on the quad with the deer. He won’t look me in the face. Roy and Robin don’t notice. They’re too busy slapping him on the back.
Roy goes, Carl you magnificent asshole.
Robin goes, Carl you broken clock mother fucker and wraps him in a hug, lifts him off the ground. Let me dress her for you, oh king sniper of kill mountain. But you can tell they’re really loving it.
Thanks man, Carl says. Might go lay down for a little, actually. He looks over at me, down at my shoes. That okay?
I make him meet my gaze across the camp. Hey man, I say. Free country.