Emergence Collective · writing

Character snapshot revisited: Barney Derrick

I really enjoyed writing Barney’s Character. I wanted to make a character that you love to hate. I am sure everyone has met a person like Barney.


The sound of Barney’s boots echoed down the quiet hall with a hypnotic cadence. The overhead fluorescent lights seemed to flicker in time with his footfalls. He arrived at the lab and pushed through the door, causing it to bounce off the wall.   Drab faces looked up from computer screens at the abrupt entrance. A soldier rushed over with a handful of disheveled paperwork, trying to organize it into a manila folder before handing it off to his superior. Barney grabbed the folder out of his and studied the file briefly.  The soldier watched as he scrutinized the file, flipping pages, eyes scanning. Barney’s nose crinkled against his mustache, causing the soldier to wince.  He held the folder out for the soldier to take it, allowing the pages to slip out with a whoosh onto the floor.   

“What is this? Is this how I am going to get all of your reports? Is this how you show your respect to your country, to me?”   

“Sir! No Sir!”  

“This report is not even in order! Do you expect me to finish your work for you?”  

“I understand, Sir, no Sir, I apologize, Sir.”   

“Well–What are you waiting for?”  

“Umm …yes, sir,” the soldier said as he scrambled to collect all of the paperwork and organize it all at once.  

“Umm, yes, Sir? That’s how you address a superior officer? An umm? You Sure this is the right career for you, boy? How did you manage to crawl your sorry ass out of basic training?”  he scolded, then turned away so that he could smile without being seen. Ah that felt good, better than coffee, and I’ll never get a bad report from that kid again. He took a few steps before turning around to see the soldier standing at attention, holding the folder in his shaky hands.   

“Sir, your report is ready for your review Sir.” The Airman forced his words out.  

Barney snatched it out of the soldier’s hands. Again, the soldier watched his eyes and fingers do their work.  “That’s better, Airman. You’re dismissed.” The young Airman made his way to his desk and sat down, all the while avoiding eye contact.   

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