The Discharge by Gary Reilly
Updated: May 12, 2020
In The Discharge, Private Palmer is home from Vietnam. Everything that served him previously, his training, his skills, no longer applies, and Palmer flounders to make sense of “home” and what that means. The evolution from military personnel to private citizen is laborious, arduous, and problematic. At a loss with what to do with himself, Palmer wanders the streets of Denver, ambles around San Francisco, follows that inevitable movie dream in Los Angeles, but has that bleak moment where he questions all. Palmer returns to Denver, the place that never left his subconscious, to where he finally finds some sense of belonging.
The Discharge has the moody quality of a memoir, with emotional depth and moment by moment details, as if you are eavesdropping on Palmer as he shares his story over a beer at a bar with an acquaintance he hardly knows. Maybe Palmer drank too much and shared more intimate moments than intended, only Palmer wasn’t aware of it. The telling is frank and uninhibited and careens between both past and present remembrances sloshing amid tangible vignettes of memory, sensory perception, and moody interruption. Palmer’s journey corkskrews him on the quest of a man trying to find himself again after the disruption of the war and death and distance and time. Ultimately, when Palmer returns from battle he is trying to be the same person he was before Vietnam. But that is just not possible because the ends of a spiral never touch.