A Soggy, Godless Morning
by W. Frasure
Sometime in the night, the windstorm finally fucking subsided, leaving the advance party squad like shivering, wet derelicts who had failed to find adequate shelter. Tonight, Bravo Battery’s advance party, along with advance party squads from dozens of other combat units, has slipped into Iraq.
The squad hunkered down two to a hole and made crude roofs out of their ponchos and Army wool blankets. That is, everyone except Patterson, who simply said fuck all and literally crawled back to the FASSV on his hands and knees in the mud. He abandoned PFC Chuck who merely acknowledged Patterson’s departure with a grunt and a nod.
Patterson spent the brunt of the storm inside a sleeping bag, cursing the turret hatch that allowed a steady leak of water to drop right down on the small opening of his bag onto his forehead. After trying to ignore the leak for an hour, he gave up. He stumbled over all the shit on the floor, the metal O.D. green .50 cal ammo boxes and fuse boxes, a soggy box of MREs, some M-16 ammo boxes and clips, a few ruck sacks that someone had left in the turret for safekeeping, some empty powder canisters from last night’s shooting, Torrez’s A bag…all of it a concoction of Army O.D. green shit, swirled together in the cold mud, on the cold metal floor.
Patterson kicked and threw the shit, laughing garishly to himself in that self-deprecating way that Patterson would exhibit from time to time. He knew that although he was perhaps the platoon comic, the joke was ultimately on his black ass. No UCLA football scholarship for Patterson—no, even worse than his failure to get the scholarship was the very real fact that he had now taken his family back a step. He had regressed in the eyes of his father, Dr. Patterson, PhD, and his mother, Dr. Patterson, PhD…both professors at UC Davis.
Sitting on the little metal bench by the side hatch, his M 16 in his lap, with a cracked smile, he imagined the pained and awkward look on his mom’s face at a Department cocktail party as she was confronted with the inevitable question: “So, what is your son up to these days?
He wondered if she lied to avoid the horrid, astonished looks on the faces of all those former 1960s hippies who were now smug in the wine and cheese confines of tenured faculty life. Or, if she just told them the flat losing truth, that Patterson had gotten some Asian girl pregnant and was now serving a four year hitch in the Army, in the field artillery, and had ended up in the Gulf War.
“I’m a real loser,” Patterson says aloud to no one, smiling as the drops of water roll off his eyelids.
Grange and Campbell sit burrowed in their hole, their knees drawn up to their chests underneath a soggy army blanket with a poncho overtop it. It is supposed to be one man up and one man down, but instead it really is 2 men halfway awake and halfway sleeping. They have bayonets fixed in case any nearby Iraqis venture out in this windstorm shit and fall into their holes. At some point, the windstorm stops, and Campbell sits up conscious and awake, and wet and shivering. He lifts his head up out of the side of the crude poncho and blanket tent.
Campbell slowly raises himself up on his knees to have a look about. The perfect blackness is being cut up by American tracers a few hundred meters away. He switches the safety to full automatic on his M-16 and watches the red balls spit through the night for a few minutes and then they stop.
Minutes later, Sgt. Cole comes by to make sure that each hole has one man up. Apparently, the CAV had intercepted a lone Iraqi light truck and that was what the tracer show was all about. One CAV scout was shot in the arm, and all six Iraqis in the truck were dead.
When the first scraps of taunting light start filtering in, Campbell has all his shit on and is ready to go, ready as he ever will be. Campbell, nor anyone else on the advance party, knows what to expect this morning. They sit in their holes, most of them with headaches. They sit cold and not talking.
“Gonna be a lot of shooting, mens. Hope your weapons are clean,” Sgt. Cole bluntly whispers to Grange and Campbell down in their little pit. Grange gawks up at Sgt.Cole, his eyes the size of quarters. Like Campbell, and the rest of the advance party, he earnestly and futilely longs to be anywhere but here–even back in the gulag like barracks in Germany.
Smith also has yearning thoughts of the barracks. He spent the night in a hole with Torrez, driving Torrez mad with his incessant chatter and pointless projections of the combat ahead. He did his false praying too. Now, even Smith silently admits to himself that maybe this one is out of God’s hands, and has come to the lugubrious conclusion that God has simply left them to the devices and machinations of human concocted warfare.
God has left this field and Smith knows it as he wipes down his grenade launcher. He wonders with not a little trepidation if the thing will work, noting to himself what remarkably little training the Army has given him on the launcher. A few grenades in basic, and maybe one time he fired the launcher in Graf. Smith seems already shell shocked.
Now, more than ever, as the soldiers collect themselves together to kick this invasion off, Smith’s eyes are drenched in dumbness. It is not a pure dumbness though, as there is a tiny dint of tortured light in his eyes. A tiny hateful gleam of knowledge smoking in his pupils like a fresh, raw brand on a slave’s skin, equally as painful as dehumanizing.
W.T. Frasure served a two-year enlistment in the Army right after high school. He was stationed in the 3/20 Field Artillery battalion in Germany and was in the First Gulf War in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait for seven months. Frasure obtained a B.A. in political science from the University of Connecticut, and an MPA from Virginia Tech University. He lives in northern Vermont with his wife and daughter, and works in law enforcement.