I was the noisemaker. I would write twenty page papers about animal rights to piss off the FFA. I would send letters to the Farm Bureau about salmon restoration. It was a small farming town where the summer days coated your nostrils with the thick stench of cow shit. A town where everything you did was thoroughly discussed on someone's porch on some generic Tuesday. It was a town of nostalgic antique shops scattered across a two lane main street.
The farm kids all hung out at the cemetery in the woods. It was a tiny Lutheran church that had been there since 1934, overlooking two little hills dusted with less than twenty gravestones. The kids would pull their diesel trucks all up in a line, tires tipped up over the rock wall, each trying to show off bigger tires, thus proving a bigger dick, than the last.
Every small town seems to have a hero. Mine had one named Colt Wagner. Colt played football. He was signed up for the army before even trying on a graduation hat. Everyone loved him.
Colt was a grade older than me in school, but we shared an overlapping social group of mismatched farm kids. He liked the ones who drank bud light. I like the ones who smoked weed. Some of them did both and somehow, we ended up at the same parties. Colt and I were civil to each other out of respect for our mutual friends, but each of us would toss in some political jab over a bonfire when we thought we could get away with it.
On a night in July, the air warmed by the summer, Colt and I found ourselves drunk and stuck together once again. Colt had just graduated and received orders to serve in Afghanistan in the fall.. The beer flowed heavy that night, and Colt and I were edging our way to drunk before long, neither one trying as hard as usual to not offend the other.
"So what are you, some hippie wannabe?" he asked
"Just because I don't adhere to societal constructs, and choose to follow my artistic impulses, doesn't mean I'm a wannabe. I'm just what I am. What the fuck are you?" I replied.
"I'm a soldier; a hero. I protect this country so people like you can dance around in the daisies and make all the free love you want. I don't know what the fuck you are, but Casey Sipress told me you won't stand up for the pledge of allegiance at school. What? You don't believe in America?"
"Colt, its not that I don't believe in America. I don't believe in segregating the world into little colonies and then fighting over stupid shit. I believe in the whole world uniting and looking at bigger problems than our petty shit…Global warming, population control, sustainable agriculture..."
"So you're unpatriotic then?" He turned his lip up at me. A cocky Elvis smirk mixed with the facial expression created only after walking through your backyard to find dog shit on your bare toes.
"No I'm not unpatriotic, I'm evolved. I see a vision bigger than countries or territories. Humankind as a whole would be better working together," I said.
"Would you die for that?" Colt asked.
"The point of evolving is finding better ways to live so people don't have to die trying to live."
"Well obviously you're not that committed to your little idea if you wouldn't lay down your life for it."
That's it. "You know what you stupid hick piece of shit? Go die in your stupid fucking war."
"Maybe I will," he said, "at least I'll die a hero."
We were interrupted from our debate when my friend Jenna stumbled down the hill, crying about the fight she just got into with her boyfriend. I glared once more back at Colt and his snarky upper lip, and followed Jenna up the hill to her car, listening to her sob about him cheating on her the whole way home.
Four months later, I was sitting at my mom's house, drawing pot leaves on my homework when the phone rang. My mother, the gossip queen, picked up in the other room and mumbled only a few words before hanging up and coming into my bedroom. Awkwardly perched in my doorway, she said "do you remember Colt Wagner? He played football…"
"Yes. I hate that guy! Fucking prick! He went to war…"
"He was killed yesterday. A hand grenade in the jeep he was riding in blew up and killed him and three other soldiers with him."
Go die in your stupid fucking war.