Part 6 of Tales of the Peacetime Army

[Note: this is part 6 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!]

GOING STATESIDE

I had a rude welcome back to the 191st. I had been in the Army a year, and had accumulated 30 days of leave. I was in use-it-or-lose-it territory, the S-1 sergeant warned me. I decided to go home for two weeks. She also told me that I was going to get a medal.

“For what?” I went. “What’d I do? I didn’t do anything!”

“Quit complaining,” she said. “Some soldiers would welcome getting a medal.”

I filled out the paperwork and signed it and then stole up to my quarters. A Spec-4 medic was sharing the space with me. Every medic in the Army has the same name. “What a dump,” Doc said. He was drinking a cup of coffee and staring out the window. “How’d that formation go?”

“Okay, I guess,” I said.

He leaned against my wall locker. “Fuck man,” he said. “You know I just came from division.” He meant the eighty-second airborne division. “This is a step down in life. Way down. I need the field. I don’t need this chickenshit.” His coffee mug sported an EFMB on one side, a caduceus on top of a stretcher, and a pair of airborne wings on the other. He had the same decorations on his uniform.

“Is it true about the goat?”

“What goat?”

“That in medic training, some dude will shoot a goat and you have to save it.”

“That’s got to be the most ignorant fucking lie ever uttered in the history of the human fucking race,” Doc said. “The weather ever improve around here?”

“Not that I’ve seen,” I said.

“Marvelous,” Doc said. “Two years and a wake-up.”

At formation, I received an Army Commendation Medal for my role in capturing the Brit who tripped over an overweight soldier during Reforger. I was called “intrepid” in the write-up. After the formation, everyone was forced to shake my hand. They were used to me now, so there was far less animosity than the first time I received a medal. I’d told many of them the story to great comic effect. I took the medal off my BDU jacket and studied it–a green and white striped ribbon attached to a bronze hexagon, an eagle grasping arrows on one side, “FOR MILITARY MERIT” on the other.

“I had no idea you were so hard core,” Doc said. In the subsequent year that I knew him, I never saw him stand in a formation, not once. Doc was leaning on the building near the front door, smoking a cigarette next to the firetruck-red butt can. “So what did they give that to you for, hard core? I couldn’t hear everything through the front door.”

“For being intrepid,” I said. I shoved the medal in my pocket.

A knock on my office door. “You’re on my detail,” Angela told me. The Germans looked at her hungrily, like guard dogs who’d had a hippie-flavored salami waved in front of them.

“What detail is that?” I asked her, looking up from my book. I was reading someone new. I had the feeling I was going to have to read another new book afterward, which would involve yet another special order through the Stars and Stripes bookstore. They did not like me there. The clerk I always ended up dealing with would roll her eyes and loll her mouth open like I was the most horrible person on earth when she saw me coming.

“Are you reading? Again?” Angela asked.

“Yes,” I said, closing the book. “What detail?”

“Come with me,” she said. She’d been promoted to sergeant. I had no choice. I tucked the book under my arm and followed her outside to a CUCVEE and got in the passenger side. CINCEUR had decided recently that no one could drive a military vehicle alone, so she’d picked me to tag along with her on whatever errand she’d been assigned.

I flipped my book back open and read. She was saying something to me. “Pardon?” I said, looking up.

“I said, ‘Put the fucking book away,'” she said.

I dog-earred the page I was working on and set it in my lap. She started up the vehicle and we drove over to Benjamin Franklin Village. It was an unpleasant spring day, highlighted by a little theatrical lighting to break up the monotony of gray–a break in the clouds and a streak of sunlight raining down upon the field grade officers’ family housing.

“I know I’m stupid, but you could try saying two words to me every once in a while,” Angela said. “I’m right over here.” I looked over at her. She was pointing with her index and middle fingers at her cornflower blue eyes. Blonde hair cinched into a bun, heavily calloused hands, jaw grinding teeth down to nubs.

“Hello,” I said.

“That’s one word,” she said. “Try one more.” I shrugged and went back to looking out the window. We passed the Department of Defense Dependents’ Overseas School, Mannheim. We passed the one-eighty-seventh personnel company, where my 201 file had gone to live. “Stop staring out the window,” she said.

“You’re not leaving me with a lot of options, activity-wise, sergeant,” I said.

“I want you to acknowledge me as a human being,” she said.

“You’re a human being,” I said. I waved my hands at her, like a magician.

“Grrr!” she went. She parked in front of TASC, a sad brick bunker of a building, where audio-visual equipment went to live.

“What’s at TASC?” I asked her.

“Suddenly, he’s curious,” she said. She hopped out of the vehicle. I followed. “Get back in the vehicle. I don’t need your help.” I got back in the vehicle. I flipped open my book, but I couldn’t concentrate, so I sat watching a sparrow hop along the ground, twitching. The sky had closed back up, gone gray yet again. My door jerked open. Angela stood there with a bullhorn in her hand. She spoke into it. “I need your help,” she said, her voice crackling and distorted and horribly loud.

I went back to the building with her. Outside, two cardboard boxes containing film canisters. A film on top of mine was labeled PERSONAL HYGIENE, PART ONE. A projector sat next to the two boxes.

We loaded the audio-visual bric-a-brac into the back of the CUCVEE. “New orders from our beloved CINCEUR,” Angela said. “Five continuous hours of training every Wednesday.”

I went back and got the projector.

We drove back to the barracks.

“That battalion translator. What’s her name?” Angela said.

I shrugged.

“You sit across from her for most of a year and you don’t know her name?”

I shrugged again.

“God, you piss me off,” she said. And, blessedly, I didn’t have to hear another word out of her the rest of the ride back.

The first two hours of our five hours of continuous training involved watching Army training films. Most of them were over 20 years old. One concerned proper hygiene. Another concerned how to mentally prepare yourself for nuclear attack. Another one advised us not to drink radiator fluid, no matter how cold the weather. I dropped my book in my lap and read during the goings-on. No one seemed to mind.

The third hour of our five hours of continuous training was German class. The battalion translator, a dark-haired little German lady in her 30’s, taught the class. She had us repeat phrases over and over.

Nicht schießen! Ich bin ein amerikanischer Soldat.
Ich werde in Mannheim stationiert.
Ich bin verloren. Wo ist die amerikanische Botschaft?
Ein Bier, bitte
.

And so on.

Then she wandered off into a discussion of the greatness of German military men, to whom she added, bizarrely, Hannibal.

Entschuldigen sie,” I said. “But Hannibal was from Carthage, a city-state in Africa.”

“I think you are mistaken,” she said, and continued disseminating bum information.

I interrupted her again. “No, you’re mistaken,” I said.

“Stop interrupting her, specialist,” the CO said.

“Sir, with all due respect, she is wrong,” I said. “Hannibal was a Carthaginian general. Carthage being in Africa. My God, sir. You’re a military man. Back me up here.”

“Um, I seem to recall…”

“He is widely considered the father of strategy,” I said. I was actually angry, which I rarely have the opportunity to experience. “The battle elephants. Remember? There aren’t herds of elephants wandering around the Ruhr, are there?”

“You’re right,” the CO said, grinding his teeth. “Take five everyone. Specialist, you stand fast.” After the classroom cleared out, the CO said, “I can’t have you disrupting training like that.”

“She was wrong, sir.”

“It doesn’t matter. She’s the teacher here. Remember your military bearing.”

“Sir–”

“Military bearing.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. I stood in front of him, staring at him for what seemed to be a long time, but was probably only 10 to 15 seconds.

“Don’t look at me like that, Specialist,” he said, finally. “Dismissed.”

I walked outside the classroom into the hallway and leaned against a wall. Socrates was waiting for me. “You know why everyone hates you?”

“No, why?” I said, crossing my arms.

“Actually, they don’t. Not the brothers, anyway.”

I followed him downstairs. The command sergeant major shouted, “There he is! My man!” And he clapped me on the back, heartily. “Don’t let that white bitch tell you nothing, baby.”

“An African,” my NCOIC said, his eyes glowing. “Father of strategy.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that Hannibal’s family was Phoenician, from modern day Lebanon. It was nice to be liked.

Gary stood glowering off in a corner. After all the hoopla, he sauntered over, a hint of a smile, a dash of something else. “You haven’t qualified with either of your weapons,” he said. “What’s it been? Over a year? Don’t think I could let you go on leave without you knowing how to fire your weapons. Wouldn’t be right, would it?”

“Any idea why we’re going out here?” Socrates asked me. “No, wait. I can answer that.” He scratched his chin, zitty. “No, wait. I can’t answer that. Someone answer me.”

I was driving. Socrates was in the back seat, leaning over Vince, fiddling with the Prick-77. Doc was riding shotgun. We all wore our helmets and web gear. In the back of the vehicle, we had a few crates of ammo for our pistols.

“You know how much we could get for that ammo on the black market?” Doc asked.

“I had to sign for that ammo, fuckmeat,” Vince said. “So nothing.”

“It’s my fault we’re out here,” I said.

“He stood up for the brother-man,” Socrates said, thumbing at me.

“Gary is a cunning fucker,” Vince said.

Lex parsimoniae,” I said. “Occam’s razor.”

“Yew shore dew tawk funny,” Socrates said.

“You should know,” Doc said. “You’re just like him.”

“I’d say he’s smarter,” Vince said, pointing at Socrates. “What do you say to that, GT?”

“Fuck you,” I said.

“Spoken like one of us,” Doc said. “The simple folk.” Doc’s attention was taken away. I looked where he looked. Two soldiers were playing around with the gate, a candy-cane pole controlled by a lever. One soldier was doing a limbo, arms spread out, back toward the ground, body miraculously parallel to the ground, bent at the knees. The other soldier popped the gate up and down. “This has disaster written all over it,” Doc said.

“Fuckin’ A,” Vince said in agreement.

I slowed the vehicle and we all watched as the pole came walloping down and hit the limbo soldier square on the nose.

“Beautiful,” Doc said. “Stop the vehicle. I must assist.”

I stopped the CUCVEE. We all hopped out and crowded around the soldier with the busted nose.

“I didn’t mean it!” the other soldier shouted.

“At ease,” Doc said.

“Yes, sergeant,” the other soldier said. He retreated to his position at the lever.

“And don’t you fucking touch that lever,” Doc said. He knelt down next to the soldier with the busted nose. “Gentleman, observe,” he said to us.

“Oww!” the soldier gurgled.

“This is what a broken nose looks like,” Doc said.

“Is it broken?” the soldier gurgled.

“Hold still,” Doc said. He reached over and pinched the soldier by the tip of his nose. Thick arterial blood, rich red, seeped from his nose. Doc moved the soldier’s nose around in a circle.

“Oww! Fuck! Oww!”

“Floats all over his face,” Doc said. “Bet that’s painful.”

“It hurts!” the soldier shouted. He slapped the ground for emphasis.

“Someone’s going to have to take you to the hospital, you fucking dumbass,” Doc said. He sighed, looking up at us. “It’s hard, my life. The life of a caregiver.”

Vince took his Prick-77 out of the vehicle and walked the rest of the way to the range, followed by Socrates. So Doc and I drove the dude out to Landstuhl.

He wasn’t the only casualty of the day.

When we returned, the range could finally be open for business. A live-fire range required a commo guy with a radio and a medic to operate. A dumb butterbar from the 23rd ordnance company was in charge of the range. He shouted instructions over the bullhorn that Angela had borrowed from TASC, his voice horribly distorted. He was a handsome fucker, though, that lieutenant, and blonde. It made Vince suspicious.

“I bet that son-of-a-bitch is the one fucking my girlfriend,” he said.

“Makes sense,” Socrates said.

He followed Socrates and me as we took the M60 out of the back of the vehicle, toted it over to one of the range positions, set up the tripod and mounted the weapon. We had enough cans of ammo in the back of the vehicle to light up a small German town. We only had five M60’s out there, one from each company, including headquarters.

Two guys from the 23rd ordnance company set up next to us. They argued about the best way to fuck a sheep. The older soldier said that you had to catch them in a barn. The younger, slimmer soldier said, no, outside was best, especially next to a rock formation. “They keep backing up on you, bucking their hips,” the younger soldier said.

“Hey,” Vince said to them. “You know that dumb butterbar?”

“That fucking dumbass?” the younger one asked. “He’s a ring-knocker. Just got in from West Point.”

“I hate him,” the older one went. “Thinks his shit don’t stink.”

“You know if he’s fucking his girlfriend?” Socrates asked them, thumbing at Vince.

“I know he’s always leaving Northpoint in his BMW,” the older one said, squinting. “Sneaking off somewhere.”

“Fucker,” the younger one spat out.

That’s all Vince needed. “I knew it!”

Right then we heard a couple of vehicles roaring up from behind us, CUCVEEs, kicking up range dust. They were about 200 meters away when a soldier tried to leap from one vehicle to the other and failed. Instead, he gutted himself on an antenna mount on the vehicle he was attempting to leap into. The two vehicles stopped. The soldier hung on the antenna mount by his ribs. Two soldiers picked him up by his upper arms, lifted him off the mount, then set him on the dusty road. By the time we all ran out there, he was mostly gone. Doc pushed all the soldiers out of the way, shouting, “I’m a medic!” He had his bag with him. He dropped to his knees next to the gigged soldier.

“Am I all right?” the soldier asked Doc, his throbbing guts hanging out all around him.

“No,” Doc said.

“Am I going to die?”

“Yes,” Doc said.

Then he did.

Doc stood up. He walked over to the new lieutenant. “That’s two injuries, one fatal, on your range today, sir,” Doc said to the butterbar.

“Um,” the butterbar went.

“Better call somebody, sir,” Doc said.

The Army cleaned up its mess. It almost always does when the mess is small enough and the people are insignificant enough. The next day their injuries would be reported on page 26 of the European Stars and Stripes in a column titled, “Safety First!”

We mustered near the range and were given a safety briefing by the butterbar. He read the brief out of a dog-eared Army field manual that had seen better days. Soldiers shifted and muttered irritably.

By the time he was finished, an old sergeant first class, a platoon sergeant from the 23rd, showed up driving a rusted POV, a Ford with USAREUR plates, to take over. The old sergeant made a show out of getting out of his vehicle and slamming the door. He stomped over and got in the dumb butterbar’s face. “Gimme the bullhorn, sir,” the old sergeant said holding out his hand.

The butterbar looked for a moment like he might object, or cry, but he thought better, and handed over the bullhorn.

“Sit over there, sir,” the old sergeant said.

The butterbar wandered over to the spare ammo cans and sat down, resting his chin on his fists, his elbows on his knees, giving all the appearance of being miffed and relieved.

“Shoot up your ammo,” the old sergeant advised us. “Every fucking round.” We’d set up our paper targets downrange, tacking them on black, cardboard silhouettes with a staple gun. Into the bullhorn, “Is there anyone down range? Is there anyone down range? Ready on the left? Ready on the right? Take aim and fire.”

And we fired and kept on firing for the better part of an hour. I had to swap out the barrel twice. We blasted all the paper targets into charred confetti.

“Cease fire!” the old sergeant said into the bullhorn about two minutes after the last round went downrange.  “I want this range to look exactly like it did when we found it.”

Rakes were produced. Brass was picked up and tossed into the ammo cans, filling them back up. The destroyed targets were shoved into plastic bags. An hour, hour-and-a-half later, the old sergeant was pleased with what he saw. He walked over to me. “Follow me,” he said.

I followed him behind a berm. I thought that he was going to harm me for no good reason until his nametape peeped out from behind his web gear. I looked up at his face, which looked like mine would twenty years later. “You’re my father,” I said.

“Don’t expect me to get weepy,” he said. “And don’t you get weepy.”

“Don’t worry,” I said.

He handed me a scrap of paper with his name, rank and phone number on it. “Here,” he said. “Just in case you get sick of the bullshit your mother feeds you.”

“We’re in the same battalion. For how long?”

“For as long as you’ve been here,” he said. “Longer. I had an old buddy keeping an eye on you.”

“Gary,” I said.

“Is that what your first sergeant is calling himself these days?”

“It is.”

“Yes, young soldier, Gary says he’s been trying to make a soldier of you, or at least a functioning human being. Gary arranged for you to be in the 191st before you ever left Alabama. Old buddy of mine there was your drill sergeant. Everyone kind of recognizes the name.”

I remembered what Drill Sergeant Slaughter–my father’s buddy for Christ’s sake–said about the Army: The Army’s this big. I’ll see you again.

I shoved the piece of paper in my front pocket. “Remind me to thank Gary,” I said. My old sergeant father reached over and shook my hand. I returned the handshake. “And stop pulling strings, will you?”

“Can’t help it,” my father said. “It’s my nature.”

“You’re awfully quiet,” Socrates said, looking in the rearview mirror at me. He’d volunteered to drive back to the barracks. We were about halfway back, stuck behind a Trabant straining its little engine going uphill on the autobahn. The back of the Trabant was filled with western delicacies. The Polish were the migrant laborers of Europe, hardworking, luckless, their country occupied. They were allowed to work on our side, but not allowed to bring back hard currency, so they bought the glossy bits of western life and shoved as much of it as they could in the back seats of their shitty commie cars.

“Whatever, man,” I said. I leaned my face against the window at about the same time a Smell ’em vehicle came rolling up alongside us. “Well, fuck me,” I said.

“What?” Vince said. He played with the Prick 77. A motto stenciled in black on the side read, “ENFORCE CIRCUIT DISCIPLINE.” Another read, “ALWAYS BE SUSPICIOUS.”

“Smell ’em,” I said, tapping on the window with my index finger. Soviet Military Liaison Mission. They were allowed to drive around and watch us on our side. We had similar vehicles driving around looking at them on their side. It was supposed to make us less paranoid, and thus less likely to accidentally start World War III.

“Motherfucker,” Doc said in wonder.

Our enemy drove alongside us, smiling, in their Joe Stalin uniforms, piloting a garishly appointed small jeep. Was it an Isuzu?

I waved at them. They seemed thrilled and waved back. They sped up and drove away, leaving us behind the Trabant. I wrote down their plate number.

“Were they driving a fucking Isuzu?” Doc asked.

“Must have got a good deal on it,” Socrates concluded. Socrates laid on the horn. “Get the fuck out of the way, you Polish motherfuckers!”

When we got back it was about 2000 hours. I took a shower, put on my class A uniform and hitched a ride up to Rhein Main with Socrates, who had bought Rainier’s dayglo orange BMW, which now had a 7UP green hood.

“Where’d you get the hood?” I asked him, halfway to Frankfurt.

“Rainier sold me the fucking car, then paid some soldier to pour varnish into the engine. So I bought another BMW from a CSG. That car had no suspension. It all kind of worked out. I took it over to the motor pool, paid Angela two-hundred bucks to swap out the engine. When she took the engines out, she had to take the hoods completely off. Long story short, someone ran over the orange hood.”

“Ah,” I went.

“In a deuce-and-a-half.”

“Yikes,” I went.

“So that sergeant, what did he want? Why’d he take you behind the berm?”

“He’s my long-lost father,” I said.

“Heh, heh.”

“No, seriously. He’s my long-lost father.”

“If you don’t want to tell me, your only friend, that’s fine.”

“He told me he was the one fucking Vince’s girlfriend,” I said. “You like that one?”

“I know that’s a lie,” Socrates said.

“Oh, yeah? Why’s that?”

“Yeah, because I’m the one fucking Rosita.”

I spent the night in the airport, waiting to be called for a flight home. Finally, at 0800 hours, my name was called for a flight to Dover AFB in Delaware. I took it.

The plane was a C5A Galaxy. My overseas hat blew off my head and tumbled end-over-end down the tarmac. I climbed the five stories up the stairs into the seating compartment of the aircraft. There were no windows. We sat three across facing the rear. I sat in the middle between two zoomies.

A child bounced up and down in front of me.

“He looks just like Calvin,” the zoomie in the windowless window seat said.

“Now that you mention it,” the zoomie on the aisle said.

“You smell kind of funky, soldier,” the zoomie on the aisle said.

“That’s field funk, zoom-a-roo,” I said. “Breathe it in.”

“The field! You Army guys complain so much, but it sounds like fun to me,” the zoomie at the windowless window said.

“It’s ten kinds of fun,” I said. “Maybe fifteen. You ought to reup Army and live the experience.”

“Ha, ha! No thanks!” windowless zoomie said.

About halfway across the ocean, the pilot decided to fly under radar, the plane’s belly occasionally dipping into the ocean, possibly for fun. One of the stewards said this in explanation when the mother of Calvin complained about the bumpy ride.

“Tell him to stop! We have children back here,” the mother said. She was an airman. She was the only one who’d brought a child onboard.

You tell him to stop,” the steward said, smirking. He was a sergeant.

“Maybe I will,” the airman said.

“You won’t,” the steward said. “And make sure your child is buckled in.”

“Yes, sir,” the airman said.

From Dover AFB, I caught a ten-dollar ride in a mini-van to the Philadelphia airport. Along the way I had the opportunity to look out the window at Delaware, the thrill of seeing 7-11’s and tract housing and litter. I was in my native country.

At the airport, I walked up to the first ticket station I could find and bought my flight home. I went into the first men’s room I could find and changed into my civilian clothes, a black mock turtleneck and black slacks. I left on my low quarters.

“Hi, field funk,” one of the zoomies who’d share my flight over said.

“Howdy, zoom-a-roo,” I replied.

“That was a quick change,” he said. He was still in uniform.

“I still need a shower,” I said. “Or ten.”

“Where you headed?” he asked.

“Home,” I said.

He laughed. “Where’s that?”

“That would be telling,” I said.

A half hour later, we boarded the flight. His seat was three rows away from mine. I had my row to myself. The stewardess treated him like royalty. Me, less so.

I had a Don Johnson-like growth of stubble sprouting across my face. At least that’s what I’d gathered from the latest issue of People magazine. A bad shave was all the rage.

At the airport, I called home from a payphone.

“Hello?” my mother’s voice went.

“It’s me,” I said.

“Me who?”

“Funny, mom.”

“Oh. I told you not to call collect.”

“Obviously, I didn’t,” I said. “Otherwise, there would have been the matter of accepting the charges.”

“What’s so urgent that you have to call me from Germany?”

“I’m home. Or rather, I’m at the airport.”

“I suppose you want me to come pick you up,” she said. “I have to go to work in a half-hour.”

“I’ll take the rapid transit,” I said.

“I’ll see you tonight,” she said. “If you’re up.” She hung up.

I walked with my little overnight bag over my shoulder to the rapid transit and took the train out to Valleyview Avenue. The sun, relentless, glared. I debarked and walked the two blocks home to our white, one-story, two-bedroom house with an unfinished basement. I walked to the back yard and found the house key under the cement angel. Mom hadn’t trimmed the bushes since I’d left five years before, seemingly. They were wild, wiggling with the wind, and ten-feet-tall. I let myself in through the side door next to the driveway.

My room was dusty. I picked up a pair of my underwear and beneath it was non-dusty. My typewriter, a Smith Corona manual with sticky keys left to me by my formerly anonymous father, was dusty. The piece of paper in the roller was dusty. I blew off the dust and read. “Goodbye, mom.” It was naive to think that she’d bother to read it.

I was scared when I went to college, and sad. I didn’t like college, but succeeded for the most part despite myself, except for that last semester. The last semester, I’d stopped doing anything, staring off in the middle of class, sitting in a chair for hours at the student union, sitting alone in my apartment watching my roommate’s TV.

And here, at home, with all this evidence of me, I stared out the window. There was no ennui involved. It was relief. I was no longer this person, this me. I’d become someone else.

I awoke in my bed. It was night. I walked out to the kitchen, quietly. A shaft of light shone hazy through the window and lit a note on the refrigerator door, held on by a smiling plastic banana magnet, which read, “If you want milk, you’ll have to buy it. ”

I never drank milk when I was a kid, nor do I recall milk ever having been an issue.

I poured myself a glass of water and stood at the sink drinking it in the dark.

“Do you think it’s easy, having a child like you?” My mother was sitting behind me in the dark at our circular kitchen table. I hadn’t seen her.

“I am no longer a child,” I said.

“I can’t even stand the sound of your voice. It’s like you have contempt for me. Ever since you could speak! And you could speak in the goddamned crib.”

“‘Hatred is a thing of the heart, contempt a thing of the head.'”

“Who said that?”

“Schopenhauer,” I said.  “I’d apologize to you for all the contempt, but I don’t believe I have anything to apologize for.”

“Oh? And I do?”

“I didn’t say that,” I said.

“I’m not trying to pick a fight,” my mother said. “I don’t know why you sound so defensive.”

“I’ll stay out of your way while I’m here. Don’t feel you have to accommodate me. I’ll figure out things to do on my own. Maybe I’ll go bowling.”

“Yes, please do go bowling,” my mother said. I heard her chair-legs cry out against the dirty linoleum and she got up and walked out of the room, her house shoes scraping the floor.

I finished my water. I put down the glass.

THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK

[Note: this is part 6 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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