After making sure the five men we just murdered were well and truly murdered, Martialla first collected up their weapons, stacking them carefully in a little pile. After doing that she searched them more thoroughly, pulling a couple ceramic canteen-type things and various other odds and ends off their dead bodies. After doing that she took a look at their strange vehicles before she turned to poking around in their wagon full of trash. At that moment I was struck by how much it reminded me of a childhood memory.
Each spring back home they’d have a scrub day where everyone could put out whatever you wanted for the trash collectors, expect paint cans, you can never get rid of paint cans. Old TVs and mattresses were common choices but there was all kinds of stuff you’d see out at the curb. Whenever the scrub day would come around so would the junk collectors who would drive around in big pickup trucks hauling big trailers looking for trash worth collecting. My dad generally never got mad, he was a mild guy, but he used to lose his mind whenever the “pickers” were out there blocking the road while they mulled over how many broken lawn chairs they wanted to pull off the curb.
I was still sitting where I fell. It wasn’t that I couldn’t move, there just didn’t seem to be much point. I dropped the gun out of my hand because guns are heavy and it was dry anyway. Martialla will probably be disappointed in me for that. Seven shots and I only killed one person? Very wasteful. I watched her for a moment, picking through the trash, and at one moment she leaned so far forward that her shirt and little FBI prop jacket rode up to her mid-back. I always thought she was kind of gangly and stick-like but now she looks strong to me. It would be wrong to say that she seems like she’s in her element here because this is no one’s element but she seems more confident, more in control. I think she would have done well in prison.
At one point she turned and said something to me but my ears were still ringing so it just sounded like “merfer-merfer-merfer” and then she climbed into the wagon to get a better look at something. I suppose she was telling me to keep a watch in case there were more of them around. That would be smart. It’s the kind of thing she would have said. By the time she climbed out of the junk wagon and crouched down by the pile of weapons to start examining them, I could hear pretty well out of one ear.
“Do you think warriors in olden times got PTSD and just no one cared back then?”
Martialla was examining a boxy rifle looking thing “Uh . . . maybe. Probably it depends on the culture you’re talking about. From what I’ve read Samurai sound like they were pretty emo. They wrote poems about death and worried about what would happen to them after they died, things like that. I read somewhere that’s why when Christian missionaries started showing up in Japan, the Samurai were the only ones who liked them. Being enamored with a redemptive religion seems like they had some remorse. On the other hand the Cossacks don’t seem like they give a shit about slaughtering entire races. So . . . you know.”
“You know what Doctor Katz would say to me?”
Her head jerked up “What? Why would you bring that up?”
I frowned slightly “Why wouldn’t I? Killing someone seems like the type of thing you’d mention to your therapist.”
She shook her head slowly “It’s just . . . I . . . Kurt loved that show is all. I hated it but he watched it all the time anyway. It’s weird that you’d bring it up now.”
“What are you talking about?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about my therapist Doctor Katz.”
She made an ugly confused face “You mean that you actually had a therapist named Doctor Katz? That was a show on Comedy Central. It had that stupid animation where it was all blurry. Sara Silverman was on it. I think Tom Snyder created it or was a producer maybe.”
“That smarmy old fuck from the Late Late Show made a cartoon about my therapist?”
“No . . . look, forget it, you were saying?”
I threw my hands up “I don’t even fucking remember what I was saying! The gist is this though, how are you okay with this? Do you have some deeply rooted personality flaws that make it so you can kill someone and be unphased by it? I’m freaking out over here.”
She looked at me for a minute “You seem fine.”
I slammed a fist into the ground “I’m not fine! Well, actually, I am kind of fine, I’m just trying to wrap my head around this. Self-defense is self-defense but it’s still killing someone. Were you a hitman when you worked for the government? Have you already made your philosophical peace with murder? Is that why you’re so calm right now?”
“I was basically a secretary Ela, you know that. Didn’t you bash cows in the skull with a sledgehammer or yank the heads off chickens on the farm? I’m surprised you’re so squeamish.”
“I grew up on a farm, I didn’t work in a slaughterhouse!”
Martialla stopped fiddling with the weapons for a moment and thought for a while before answering “Okay, I can see that you’re upset here, I want to help you, but I don’t know what to say. This is how it is now. What did your yoga instructor always say? You don’t get frustrated by things or angry about them, you just notice them and put them in your mind. Maybe in three months I’ll have a total breakdown, but this is the world. You may be struggling with it but at least you’re able to pull the trigger. I don’t know that everyone would be. You can handle it. I mean if you were surfing and a shark came at you and you bashed its head in with your board would you feel sorry for it?”
“No, but that’s different, it’s an animal.”
She turned back to examining the weapons “Exactly, animals don’t know what they’re doing so they don’t really have it coming – people do. So killing them should be easier if anything.”