Part 4 of Tales of the Peacetime Army

[Note: this is part 4 of 8 of the complete text for John Sheppard’s book Tales of the Peacetime Army. To start reading at the beginning and for a full list of all parts, please go to the table of contents.

And if you like the story, please visit the book’s page and consider buying a copy!]

WE HUMP TO PLEASE

My paycheck was massive by Army PFC standards. I stood snapping the paper in my hands following formation, staring down at it. Three months without pay had produced a mini-miracle of instant solvency.

“Guess you can get a decent haircut now,” Gary said. “Instead of that barracks cut you have.”

I’d been using a mustache trimmer I’d been given by Vince after he’d decided that his mustache looked like pigeon shit and shaved it off. I’d traded my ration coupons for smokes, tea and coffee for it, since I couldn’t afford those things anyway. Speaking of shaving, I hadn’t used a new razor in two months. My face looked like a slab of raw meat.

“Yes, first sergeant,” I said.

“The old man wants to meet you,” Gary said.

“We have an old man now?” My boss in S-3 had been serving double duty as company commander.

“He reported in last week,” Gary said. “We talked about it in formation.”

“We did? Which one?” I asked him.

“The one we just had,” Gary said. I’d been zoning out a lot in formation. Standing at parade rest had that effect on me. Little vacations. “He’d like to meet you before he pins a medal on you.”

“Sure,” I said.

“No, seriously. You’re getting a medal,” Gary said. I noticed that Gary was the same height as I was. I’d assumed he was taller.

“What for?”

“Beats the fuck out of me,” Gary said. “Go get a haircut first.”

I had to walk over to Benjamin Franklin Village first and deposit my check at the American Exchange bank. I kept one-hundred dollars cash for myself. And treated myself to some German money, too–fifty marks. The German money was cute. All that it needed was the little man in the top hat and a choo-choo and it would be perfect.

I walked back to Taylor Barracks, crossing the little bridge over the Autobahn. I stopped and watched German cars zipping past for a while, most of them Ford Escorts and Mercedes, with a few BMWs scattered in.

At the main gate, I stopped and showed my military ID to the fake German soldier and he waved me in.

The barber shop was in the same building as the mess hall, which was right behind our barracks. Socrates called the barber “Shaky Fritz.” He was eighty, or so. His hands shook. And he always finished you off with a straight razor. You could see him in the mirror, hands shaking, coming at you with that razor.

When I entered the barber shop, I found Shaky Fritz coming after Lt. Col. Hake with a straight razor. My battalion commander had fallen asleep in the chair, head tilted helpfully forward, snoring lightly. I’d somehow managed to finish all of the OER’s he’d assigned to me, one for every officer in the battalion, but I’d forgotten about turning them in to him. One bad OER could ruin an officer’s career.

I sat down in a chair and watched Shaky Fritz scalp the good lieutenant colonel. The haircut he’d given him was reminiscent of the 1920’s. I liked it, but I doubted the colonel would. Shaky Fritz finished, dusted the colonel off, massaged some tonic into his hair, woke him up. The colonel looked at himself in the mirror, a little shocked. He paid Shaky Fritz and staggered out the door without even glancing in my direction. “Hubba,” he muttered on his way out, I think.

It was my turn. I plopped myself in the chair and said, “Mich geben, was du ihm gabst.”

Sehr gut,” he replied.

The barber shop looked like it had been around since the 1920’s. “Erinnerst du dich an die Weimar Republik?”

“Was ist die Weimar Republik?” he replied.

The blue jars filled with black combs, the ancient barber chairs, two each, the ring-a-ding cash register, the bay rum on the back of my neck after the snikking of the straight razor–it was neat-o, cool-o. At the end of the session, I looked like Morrissey.

“Sweet,” I said. I handed him a ten and told him to keep the change. I straightened my tie in the mirror by the door, smoothed out my class A jacket. “Cold steel,” I said to my reflection, attempting to describe the noumenon, the ding an sich, I was observing in the mirror, in a moment of apparent Platonic dualism. “I’m all over the map,” I told Shaky Fritz.

Tag!” Shaky Fritz replied.

I left. Money. Money in the pocket. Sweet, sweet money. We didn’t have much in my house growing up, I never had any in college, so this was, perhaps, the richest I’d ever been, save for the two or three moments once a semester after my National Merit Scholarship check showed up in the mailbox. Then, poof, off to tuition it went, never to be seen again. My mother, I thought of her for a moment, scrubbing out rich people’s houses, and me playing in the backyard with their spoiled kids.

She wanted me to be a doctor, that mother of mine, and I tried it out, too. I was pre-med for all of two days. On my final day of pre-med, all of us pre-med kids were filed into a room and made to watch a schmaltzy film about a dying patient and the valiant doctors who were trying to save her life. The lights turned up suddenly at the climax of the film, when it was apparent that the noble patient would die. Que será, será. The professor at the front of the room said, “If you have dry eyes, you should not be a doctor.”

I turned to the guy next to me to make a snarky remark, but he was crying. As was the girl on the other side of me. As were all the students in front of me. I turned and turned and found no one who shared my lack of sentiment. I shrugged. I left the room alone. I changed my major to philosophy. Three-and-three-quarter years later, I dropped out and became a PFC in the Army.

Das Ende.

Or, perhaps, not quite the end. On my way up to the company CO’s office, I was stopped by Rainier, the company postal clerk. She handed me a cardboard tube stamped REGENTS COLLEGE. I took it to my quarters, which I was currently sharing with one other soldier, a nervous truck driver who had transferred in from South Korea two nights before and who woke up in the middle of the night both nights since he’d been in the room with me shouting, “Sappers!” I popped open the end of the tube and extracted a yellow sheet of paper that announced me as the recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy. I rolled the piece of paper back up into the tube, unlocked my wall locker, and tossed the tube inside.

Jetzt war es das Ende.

“What’d you get?” Rainier asked me out in the hall. She was five-two and cute as a button.

“A present,” I said.

What I didn’t know at that moment was that she already knew what I’d gotten. She’d been opening every piece of mail that came into our unit ever since she’d reported in, panning for cash and checks. Soon enough Johnny Law, in the form of Army CID, would catch up with her.

But I’m getting far ahead of myself.

I could hear the TV blasting in the dayroom, the shrill barks of canned laughter, then cut to a commercial jingle, “I’m U.S. Army Europe, and I’m working for Uncle Sam! Yes, I’m U.S. Army Europe, and you know I give a damn!”

“Do you give a damn?” I asked Rainier.

“Huh?” she went. She smiled at me, all apple cheeks and driven-snow purity, Shirley Temple ringlets springing from her scalp.

“Have you met this new CO?” I asked her.

“He seems all right,” she said.

“That’s good enough for me,” I said. “How about a night on the town?”

“Tonight? Sure!” she said.

A butterbar was wandering the hallway, an olive drab map case slung over his shoulder, smiling like a lunatic. Down at the end of the hallway, by the CO’s office, a soldier was manning a buffer. Wub, wub, wub. I skipped out of her way just as she slammed it into the wall. Thud. The tiles were not meant to be waxed and buffed, they were supposed to be dull, but the Army did not care. The CO stuck his head out of his door. “Careful!” he advised.

“Yes, sir,” the soldier said. And she slammed the buffer into the opposite wall.

I knocked on the open door. The CO looked up.

“Permission to enter and speak?” I asked him.

“Granted,” he said.

I stood in front of his desk, saluting.

He snapped off a quick salute. “Sit,” he said.

I sat.

He squinted at my name tape. “Yes,” he went. “You’re due for a promotion to Spec-4.”

“Already, sir?”

“It was in your contract when you signed up. Didn’t you read it?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s not very bright, is it?”

“No, sir.”

He showed some teeth. I think it was supposed to be a gotcha-there smile. “Oh, and then there’s the matter of your AAM.”

“AAM, sir?”

“Army Achievement Medal,” the captain said. His tightly shorn scalp gleamed. “We’ll have a special formation this morning to pin it on you. You may want to put a spit shine on those low quarters before then.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Anything else?” he asked. He clucked his tongue. “Oh, right,” he answered. “You’re going to be the colonel’s driver for the next month. Enjoy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“That will be all,” the captain said.

I stood up and saluted him. He snapped off another salute. I performed an about-face and left the room.

“Watch out, cheese-eater,” the soldier on the buffer said. I leapt over her buffer as she swung it toward me.

“Andrea,” I said to her.

“Yes?” she went. She stopped the buffer and stood staring at me impatiently. “Well?”

“Never fucking mind,” I said.

“Same to you,” she said.

I went to my quarters. A new guy was in there dumping all his shit out of his duffel bag. “How’s it going?” I asked him.

“I’m in this shithole and you have the fucking nerve to ask me that question?” he said.

I took off my class A jacket and hung it up in my wall locker. I dug around in there and found my nearly depleted can of Kiwi Black and popped the lid off. I took off my low quarters. I dug out a bottle of water that I kept in the mini-fridge and filled the lid of the can. I pulled out my nearly depleted bag of cotton balls that I’d had since basic training and worked on my low quarters.

“Middle of the work day and you’re sitting there spit-shining your fucking shoes,” the new guy said. He was wearing mosquito wings, a private second class. He had on a wrinkled uniform he’d found in his duffel bag.

“Better not let Gary see you looking rag-bag,” I said.

“It’s that kind of unit, is it? All spit shines and creases?”

“It’s that kind of unit,” I said.

“Who’s Gary?”

“The Top,” I said.

“Fuck me. You get to call him Gary?”

“Go shake his hand,” I said. “He’ll tell you all about it.”

He was a corn-fed-looking motherfucker, the new guy. “I’ll leave you to your shamming,” he said. He left.

An hour later, we were all in formation. First, there was a quick change-of-command ceremony. The unit guideon was passed from the LT to Gary to the new CO. The new CO gave us a quickie rah-rah-I-love-the-Army speech. Then I got my new hardware slapped on. Attention to orders. The AAM was for the briefing I’d created for the command sergeant major, I found out.

Afterward, everyone was obligated to walk up and shake my hand. Most of them smiled at me like they would like to drive a bayonet through my sternum, which was oddly satisfying.

I changed into civvies after the formation. I had the privilege of taking my class A jacket over to the tailor shop and having my sham shield sewn on, a new member of the Spec-Four Mafia. It was my finest day in the United States Army, the pinnacle of my career.

I swung by the PX. Even though I’d been in country for months, it was my first trip there. I flipped through the records and was pleasantly surprised to find the Replacements’ new album Let It Be. I bought some going out clothes, sparkly pants and a shiny blue shirt that was a size too big for me. I bought a proper winter coat. I bought an all-in-one stereo.

I bought the Maid Marion at the Robin Hood sandwich shop and ate it sitting on the curb outside the PX, my swag next to me.

Rainier pulled up driving her dayglo orange BMW. “How’s it going?” she asked me.

“Dandy,” I said.

“Looks like you spent all your money already,” she said.

“It may look that way, but I still have plenty to blow,” I said.

A Dodge minivan honked behind her. “You need a ride?”

“Yes, I do,” I said.

I piled all my stuff in her trunk and hopped in the passenger side.

Rainier helped me hump all my crap up to my quarters. She had to announce, coming on to our floor, “Female on the floor!” just in case anyone had his cock hanging out. I hooked up the stereo and put on the Replacements. She sat down on my rack. Paul Westerberg sang, “I Will Dare.” I felt her up. I kissed her. She giggled.

Dour mosquito-wings-private-douche-bag came back from chow, barged in and spoiled the mood.

“See you tonight,” she sang, getting up to leave.

“See you,” I said.

“What’s that crap on the stereo?” the private asked.

Rainier drove. As day turned to night, the omnipresent drizzle became flurries lit by onrushing headlights. We passed by Mannheim’s famous Wasserturm, which looked more like a squat castle than a watertower.

Mannheim is not what I’d call charming. It’s dark and heavy, a rocky slab of a town. At night, with the snow, it seemed more so. Like Indianapolis, it is laid out on a grid. The allies bombed the fuck out of it during the war, so a lot of it was rebuilt in the 1950’s in the Socialist Modern Cardboard Box style. And because it was an industrial center, it was filled with commies.

“Relax, don’t do it,” the radio suggested. Then it went, boop-boop-boop-beeeeep. “It’s eight o’clock in Central Europe. Time now for the news from Armed Forces Radio Network.” A spec-four blathered on about Band-Aid and about how NASA crashed a plane on purpose just to see what would happen.

“Don’t you have any tapes?” I asked Rainier.

“I thought smart guys like you were interested in the news,” Rainier said.

“Nope,” I said.

“Sorry,” she said. “We’re almost there.”

We circled around a block twice looking for parking. A Ford Escort was getting towed for parking on a jagged line. Eventually we found a spot. Rainier led me down an alleyway. Underneath a tailor shop, down in the cellar, we arrived at Club Genesis. The brick walls were painted black. The dance floor was about sixteen feet square, with spinning lights and a DJ tucked in the back corner. “Blue Monday” by New Order was blasting out of the speakers. Whenever I hear New Order now, I think of Germany.

We went to the bar and ordered Mannheim’s local brew, Eichbaum, probably the worst beer in Germany.

“I gotta wee,” Rainier said. She handed me her beer and toddled off.

“Who’s your little girl?” a German asked me in English.

Es ist nicht dein Interesse,” I said.

He swished away.

She came back a few minutes later with a couple of tablets clutched in her fist. She placed one in my hand. “Go ahead,” she said.

I popped it into my mouth and swallowed it down with my beer. I belched and placed the plastic cup on the ground. She did the same thing. I took her hand and led her onto the dance floor.

Fifteen minutes later, by my count, I was being escorted out of the building by a large German guiding me with a not-so-gentle hand in the middle of my back. I was covered over in sticky sweat. “Don’t come back,” the bruiser said. “Ever.”

Rainier emerged from the club a few minutes later. “We should be getting back anyway,” she said. She checked her watch. “Zero-two-hundred hours,” she said.

The snow was accumulating. I slipped on a cobblestone but managed to remain upright. “Whoa-ho,” I went. The sweat was freezing on my back. I hadn’t brought my new coat. “Give me a huggy-poo,” I said.

We crawled into the back seat of her BMW and felt each other up. It was too cold.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry,” she said. She climbed into the driver’s seat and started the car up. She gunned it through the city and back out onto the B-bahn. We zoomed back to the barracks.

We came in past the CQ desk. No one was there. We ran hand-in-hand up the stairs giggling to my quarters. I dropped my keys. I opened the door. My two roomies were snoozing.

“Shhh!” I went.

We quietly took off all our clothes and nestled into the rack. I remember snapping on an Army issue prophylactic. I remember her being on top of me, and then me on top of her. We fell asleep.

Bang, bang, bang, on the door. “Alert lariat in advance!” I heard someone shout.

“Alert what? What the hell is that?” I asked her.

“Did we do it?” Rainier asked me.

“Alert lariat in advance?” I asked her. “Did I hear that right?”

Lt. Col. Hakes was wandering around the halls in his pajamas, slippers, bathrobe. Someone had gone to his quarters to get him and he’d hopped right on into the vehicle without a thought. He didn’t have a uniform in his office. “Tremendous!” he said when he spotted me.

The MOPP level was zero, so we didn’t have to wear our chemical suits. I had on my TA-50 for the first time since coming to Germany and was clinking around in full battle-rattle. I had to scrape around in my memories of basic training to figure out how to assemble it all. I was still a little weirded out. The floors were buckling and the ceilings bowing down toward my noggin. “Look at me, sir,” I said to the good colonel. “I’m a soldier.” I smelled like pissed-on cigarettes, sweat and sex.

“Draw your weapon,” Gary barked, skipping past us.

“Can do, Top,” I said. I pointed at him, winked and clicked my tongue.

“I’ll go down with you,” Lt. Col. Hakes said. It was all a grand adventure.

Rainier had decamped to the female floor. She departed seeming a bit pissed off, like I’d taken advantage of her. Maybe I had.

We trotted down the stairs. “What happens next, sir?”

He produced a pipe from his bathrobe pocket. “I have my pipe!” He clutched it in his teeth. “Marvelous!”

At the bottom of the stairs, my heightened consciousness produced a swastika carved into the black, wrought-iron handrail. I stopped. The colonel stopped with me. “Is that a swastika?” I thumb-rubbed it.

“It sure is,” the colonel said. “Wait! I forgot something.” He trotted back up the stairs. A few minutes later, he came back down wearing his helmet, alice gear and a pair of Mickey Mouse boots. “How do I look?” he asked, pipe still in teeth.

“Like you escaped from the looney bin, sir,” I said.

“Brilliant!”

We descended into the basement. It was a slow-motion beehive down there. Soldiers were drawing weapons. Soldiers formed a human chain to the basement door and up the steps outside to load MRE’s into a deuce-and-a-half, which whirred its diesel engine.

“Which side is the summer side and which side is the winter side?” a confused soldier asked us. She was attempting to roll up some camouflage netting. She looked up and saw the colonel and kind of freaked out. “Eeee!” she went. She looked around frantically for a place to hide. “Eeee!” she went again, not finding one.

“Are we going to the field, sir?” I asked.

“Theoretically,” he said. “If seventh Army doesn’t call off the alert.”

“Make way for the colonel!” I shouted.

“Make a hole, make it wide!” a sergeant shouted.

Everyone pressed themselves against the walls. The colonel and I walked through them, drew our weapons from Socrates, and left the basement. The colonel stopped on the top step. “Carry on!” he shouted.

I twirled my .45 in my index finger.

“You’re my driver, right?” the colonel asked.

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“Better drive me back to my quarters so I can get dressed,” he said.

We walked down to the motor pool. I signed for the keys to the colonel’s vehicle, a modified Chevy Blazer called a CUCVEE. It was painted olive drab. The seats were maroon.

All over Taylor Barracks, units were packing up to go out to the field. “It’s all so soldierly,” the colonel said as we drove past. He leaned his head on the passenger side window and appeared to pass out. The snow drifted down and blew in tight whorls.

I drove through Benjamin Franklin Village. In the quiet pre-dawn, house lights glowed. It could have been any shitty little development anywhere in America. I missed my country for a moment. It passed.

“Turn left here,” the colonel said, sitting up. We entered senior officers’ quarters. The houses weren’t bad. “Here it is, up here.”

I pulled into his driveway and killed the engine. “Come on inside with me,” the colonel said. “It’s time for morning inspection.”

I thought he meant me. Turned out, he meant his kids. His Army-issue wife, one each, said hi to me and handed me a cup of coffee. “Cream? Sugar?” she asked, her hair up in rollers.

“No thank you, ma’am,” I said.

“Come along, come along,” the colonel said. We went upstairs to the bedrooms. “Call attention for me.”

“Atten-SHUN!” I shouted.

His three kids were in their rooms, standing at attention next to their beds. Their shoes were lined up under the beds, toes touching an imaginary line. Hospital corners. The colonel inspected for dust on the dressers. “Super!” he concluded.

He sent me downstairs while he got dressed.

I sat with his wife at the kitchen table. “You’re the smart soldier, right?” she asked me.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. I finished my coffee and set the cup on the table.

“No modesty,” she concluded.

“No, ma’am.”

The kids came down and sat around the table with us. She served them each a bowl of cold cereal.

“Your dad really makes you stand inspection?”

“Once a week,” the oldest one said.

“I’m sorry,” the wife said. “Would you like some breakfast, too?”

“No thank you, ma’am.” I was transitioning from funhouse to queasy.

“Let’s go, soldier,” the colonel said, standing in the doorway. He was in uniform, his helmet cocked on his head like he was John Wayne. He placed the pipe back in his teeth and posed hands-on-hips.

“Oh my!” his wife said. “Don’t you look like a soldier? Look at your father, kids.”

The kids all admired their father wordlessly for three beats, then continued eating their cereal.

By the time we got back to the barracks, the alert had been called off.

Lt. Col. Hakes needed to visit the 44th ordnance company, one of our subordinate units, up in Baumholder. He assured me he knew the way.

“The snow on the ground makes it confusing,” he told me after we got lost. I drove us around in circles and eventually found a sign pointing us toward Baumholder. I followed the signs. “Once we get there, I’ll know my way around,” he assured me. Baumholder is up on the top of a hill. Up and up we went. I followed the signs to Smith Barracks. I almost drove past the 44th ordnance company. The sign out front was not a standard, Army issue sign, brown with white lettering. This one was handmade. It featured a camel with two artillery shells instead of humps, “We Hump to Please” stenciled underneath. Somewhere on the sign 44 ORD CO was written.

“That was a lousy sign,” Lt. Col. Hakes said.

While the colonel met with the company commander in his office, I sat out in the hallway watching a spec-four work a buffer. “How’s it going?” I asked him when he got closer.

“Outstanding,” the spec-four said. He stopped the buffer. “This is exactly what my recruiter promised me I’d be doing for the next four years. You smoke?” He scissored his index and middle fingers at me.

“Gave it up,” I said. I crossed my legs.

“Bummer,” he said. He continued buffing the floors.

“Hey, spec-four,” the 44th’s company clerk went.

“Yes?” I said. I stood up just in time to almost be sideswiped by the buffer. I leapt over it  as it whacked into the chair I’d been sitting in.

“Your colonel is ready to depart,” the company clerk said.

“Outstanding,” I said.

The colonel insisted that I eat at the mess hall while he shopped at the PX. The mess hall looked just like our mess hall back at Taylor Barracks. The chow was the same as our chow back at Taylor Barracks.

I picked the colonel up at the PX. He had a bag tucked under his arm. In the vehicle, he showed me what it was. “It’s a Baumholder t-shirt!” he said. “I need a nap.” He tilted his head back and fell asleep.

On the autobahn, I fell asleep at the wheel. I woke up in time to see a sign–STAU–and a line of cars. I slammed on the brakes. The colonel snapped awake in time to experience the terror of near-death.

“You almost killed us!” the colonel shouted like it was the most awesome thing ever. The CUCVEE skidded sideways and came to a halt.

An hour after we got back, I was informed by Gary that I would no longer be the colonel’s driver.

In my quarters, I found yet another new private. About five minutes after meeting him, I concluded he was a CID agent.

“Why would a CID agent come to our little unit?” I asked. I didn’t expect him to answer. I was wondering out loud, mostly.

He fake-laughed, teeth a-grit, at the thought that he could possibly be a CID agent. His pupils were as big as iron skillets, looking down and to the right. “I wouldn’t go spreading rumors around,” he said.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, Mr. CID Agent,” I said.

A week later, Mr. CID Agent revealed himself to be a CID agent and, along with a few colleagues wearing MP brassards, arrested Rainier.

She became our company’s responsibility. She went unguarded. At zero-two-hundred hours, she slipped into S-1 ADMINISTRATION, typed herself leave papers and forged a signature and drove her dayglo orange BMW to Rhein Mein Air Force Base to catch a MAC flight back to CONUS, where she would presumably have gone on the lam.

MAC flights are free to military personnel. You’d think that she could have spent her ill-gotten money on a plane ticket.

The zoomie at the ticket counter typed her name into the computer and, alakazam, discovered that she was being court-martialed. The zoomie smiled warmly at little Rainier and asked her to take a seat in the lounge. A few minutes later, MP’s showed up to escort her back to our unit.

As the only two enlisted personnel in our company issued side arms–everyone else had unwieldy M16A1 rifles–Socrates and I were put on 12-hour guard shifts. Socrates took the midnight to noon shift and I took the noon to midnight.

Her window was barred shut, all implements of self-destruction were removed, down to her bootlaces. I sat outside her door until she was aroused by reveille. I sat outside the female latrine while she pissed and shitted and took her shower. I accompanied her to morning chow. Shit on a shingle. Then it was on over to her court-martial. Two days in and she had been convicted and sentenced to a reduction to E-1, a fine of $1,500 and three years hard labor at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas–and a bad conduct discharge, the dreaded BCD.

The morning after her conviction, she attempted to seduce me outside the female latrine. No one else was around.

“I’m afraid that ship has sailed,” I told her. “But thank you.”

“Oh,” she said, and picked up her towel.

On our way over to morning chow, she asked me what I would do if she ran for it.

“Ran for it?” I went.

“Yeah,” she said. “I mean, what would you do if I just took off?”

“I’d shoot you,” I said.

“No you wouldn’t,” she said.

“Oh, I would,” I said.

“I could turn you in,” she said.

“For?”

“For taking drugs,” she said. “You’d pop positive for that pill I gave you on any drug test.”

“I doubt it,” I said. “I’ll tell you what. How about I shoot you right now?” I removed the pistol from the holster, cocked it and clicked off the safety.

“What?” Her cuteness melted away like butterscotch ice cream. Tra-la-fucking-la.

“Run,” I said. “Go on. Trot away. I’ll wing you.”

“You wouldn’t,” she said. She stopped. Fear.

I aimed the weapon at her, center mass, as I had been trained to do. Then I lowered it. “Maybe I could blow off an appendage,” I said. I was very calm. Not shaky at all. And I meant it, too. I was seriously considering blasting off one of her legs at the knee. The left one. “You wouldn’t have to go to Leavenworth. You could go to Walter Reed instead. It’s only painful for a moment, until you black out.”

“No!” she shrieked.

“Fine,” I said. I placed the weapon on safe and holstered it. “Your call.”

She didn’t eat much at the mess hall. Didn’t say a word either. It was a pleasant change of pace. I walked her back to the barracks. She didn’t make a peep and slipped meekly into her quarters. I sat outside her quarters in a chair, one each, staring off into space, enjoying the level expanse of my interioricity.

Near the end of my shift, a couple of MPs brought some orders and relieved me of my charge. “You better watch her,” I said, confidentially, hand bladed to mouth. “She’s already escaped once.”

“We know,” the younger MP said.

The older one smirked. “Heh, heh,” he went.

I met Socrates halfway down the corridor. “I guess we get to turn these weapons in,” I said. “The MPs came for her.”

“What a shame,” Socrates said, taking the loaded weapon out and caressing it. “I was just getting used to mine.”


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[Note: this is part 4 of 8 of the complete text for John Sheppard’s book Tales of the Peacetime Army. To start reading at the beginning and for a full list of all parts, please go to the table of contents.

And if you like the story, please visit the book’s page and consider buying a copy!]

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