"Obama done declared the war over," Kurt said, pieces of a half chomped chicken wing sticking out from his yellow teeth.
"War ain’t over ’till people stop killing each other," I replied.
"Well then, war ain’t ever over."
"Ain’t that the truth."
The waitress, all breasts and cheeks, brought us fresh beers. I smiled at her, not so much a flirtatious gesture as a reflex to her own beaming smile.
"Thanks," Kurt said.
She nodded and scooted away.
Behind me I heard the sounds of a scuffle: deep angry voices, the pop of a fist bouncing off a skull. Kurt looked over my shoulder. I didn’t hear the bullet or even the gun’s report. I saw my friend’s skull explode, blood splattered all over my face, the table, the wings, the beer, the condiments, the napkins, those stupid little laminated drink special menus… fucking everything. Blood was everywhere.
Witnesses would later say the shooter ran out the back door of the bar. The police would get descriptions and eventually arrest all involved. The funeral would feature slide projections of pictures taken from many of Kurt’s friends. I would give a touching eulogy and only break down crying once. At the trial I would admit to having not seen the killer but it didn’t matter (there were many witnesses). The verdict would be guilty for the crime of involuntary manslaughter. It wouldn’t make me feel better.
But that was all later.
In the moment I sat frozen at the table, a beer in one hand, unable to think or even to blink, I watched my friend’s thick brain blood pour from his face and form a puddle on the table. By the time the police arrived I still hadn’t moved. People, patrons and employees alike, asked me if I was okay. The police and the EMTs asked me if I was okay. But I didn’t respond. I didn’t even turn my head. Brain blood spilled off the table into my lap. I didn’t notice until later.
Eventually a female cop grabbed me by my shoulders and moved me away from the crime scene—my table was a damn crime scene; my Budweiser was blood spattered evidence. I watched someone put my beer in a plastic bag. It didn’t make sense, a bottle of beer in a plastic bag. Nothing made sense at that time.
I didn’t cry in the bar. I just sat and watched the emergency personnel rid the bar of the remains of my friend. I heard the voices of the waitress and other patrons speaking to the police but I didn’t recognize words, only notes, as if their statements were some kind of music in a foreign language.
Eventually, and I don’t remember this, I would give a cop the following statement:
"We just… we just wanted chicken wings."
The day Kurt died seven American soldiers lost their lives on foreign soil. They probably all wanted chicken wings too.
Chicken wings are fucking delicious.