into the man I am today. So you're gonna pull that tarpaulin aside and take a proper look. That's what you're gonna do, whether you like it or not." He raises the gun, as if to remind me that he's got me in his sights. "Then, and only then, are you gonna bury your brother."
"No," I say, feeling a cold shiver pass through my body. "I'm not looking at him."
"You wanna join him in the grave?"
Turning back to face Joe's body, I realize that I've got no choice. I take a deep breath, before reaching down and pulling the tarpaulin aside. When I finally see his face, shattered by the bullet I fired straight between his eyes, I immediately feel blank, before a strange kind of white anger starts to rise through my body. I want to rip the world apart for putting me in a position where I had to shoot my own brother. I stare at his broken skin and at the fragments of bone that are sticking out from beneath the flesh. His eyes, dead and unblinking, are looking straight back at me, and I can't help wondering if, at the last moment, he understood that I was sparing him from any further pain. I hope so. I hope he knew, right at the end, that I was a good brother.
"Okay," the guy calls out. "Let's get this show on the road."
"Give me a minute," I reply, unable to stop staring at Joe's broken face.
"It's too late for regrets," the guy continues. "I'm just making you look at the consequences of what you've done. If that's really your brother, the only reason he's dead is because you put a gun in his face and pulled the trigger. To my way of thinking, that's a sin. Only God gets to decide when and how someone dies. Maybe God directed you and made you his agent, but somehow I think this was caused by your own foolishness. Still, at least I know that God witnessed what you did, so he'll undoubtedly deal with you when the time comes. It's going to get dark soon, though, so we need to get back to the house. Finish this mess up!"
I take a deep breath, refusing to answer.
"I said finish this mess up!" he shouts. "Or do I have to put a bullet in the back of your head and send you down there with your brother? Is that how you want to go?"
Reaching down, I grab Joe's shoulder and roll him into the pit. I watch as his body tumbles down to the soil deep below, and then I stand and stare for a moment. This is the last time I'm ever going to see him. All my life, Joe's been around, often bugging me but always a part of the world. Sure, he could be a total jerk, and there were times lately when I really came to hate him, but it's hard to believe that this is the end. I wish I could go back in time just a week and fix things, and make it so that he didn't have to die. If we'd never gone to Scottsville, and if we'd never met Clyde, things would have been different. Together, we might have stood a chance. As it stands, I have no idea where I'm going to go, even if I manage to get away from this gun-toting madman.
"That's enough standing around," the guy says after a moment. "Fill the grave back in. It'll be dark soon."
Without saying a word, I get to work. Every shovel's worth of dirt feels like it's weighed down, and at first I'm not even sure that I can finish the job. Eventually, however, I've managed to get most of the dirt back into the hole, and I'm left standing next to Joe's final resting place.
"I need to put a marker here," I say. "Something so that people know where he's buried."
"Forget it," the guy replies, "no-one cares. Get back to the house."
"There has to be a marker," I say, turning to him. "It's only right. I'll get some wood and make a cross."
"Waste of energy," the guy says. "Get walking."
"Jesus Christ, kid," the guy continues, "are you gonna argue about every little decision? I'm the one holding the gun, so I'm the one who gets to say what happens, okay? It's called democracy, and you need to get used to it. One gun, one vote. It'd be a shame to kill you when a perfectly good grave's just been filled in, but I won't