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Ca haa a een een Ce him sing. All through the night. Sure, Minks became a cee ea he sings he pacifies the angels and drives the devils mad and sleepless. Before he was enlisted he taught mythology. Both him Se en ee een cates Teo en eee it turns to superstition. They were high school sweethearts, him and his wife, in love with their own story, hed said. When I stole the old letters he was reading one night I asked him where she was, “Cancer” is all he said, and then he turned over in his cot. ‘The aluminum frame holding the stretched green canvas made a «lack-clack sound on the cement floor. I put the leters back and left him alone. The only other thing he ever reads is his old book Aker Aen a eae a se eas aan eee ok myths. He was probably that one high school teacher Ce ee! “Why do you always sing before those fucking villagers hit us? ‘You know something, you fuck? What the fuck do you know, Sener ee see on clack on the floor. Pliny’ from Boston. His dad owns a brewery. Cee ee see ee ed eae eects “Hey Pliny, why don't you shut your trap and quite cussing?” Sear eet eee snr already packed and ready. He don't need no excuses” Oe ee aa ‘What's the deal, Minks? How come every time you sing we get raided?” I take my glasses off and roll my comic into a wand and shake it at Minks. “Idon't know. Itsnot the song, Its her song, Leave me alone?” he says, and then he’ back to the muttering, staring at the corner of the wooden bunker where we stacked the cots no longer needed, “She here” I can make out. “She here, washing us” “Quit looking over there, you fuck, and answer the question or your cofllbe there next.” says Pliny, shaking the aluminum frame again, Minks rubs the bony caps of his knees and smooths his red hair. He looks atthe cots again, then puts his helmet on. His shirt is too big and with the wobbly helmet he looks even lankier. “How many of them were all cleaned up?” says Minks, staring right at me, but pointing at the stack of cots in the corner. His eyes look like whiteout with a big fat period jabbed in the center. “Do you know? Their gear. Their clothes. Were they clean? Look at the buttons on his vest” says Minks, now pointing to Pliny. “They've been cleaned” Minks never looks directly at anyone else but me. I don't know what the fuck to say. We've been out here off-base for three weeks now, holding our position with one half-working radio while we wait for someone somewhere to sign some documents so we can get reinforcements and a real ‘mission, Not a fucking thread of anyone's shit is clean, “Why they always let in the crazy ones?” says Biggs, gearing up. That catch phrase of his is getting tiresome. “Come on grunts, Jesus says the day is young, Let’ try to keep it that way” Biggs is short and black and strong. He carries a photo of himself around in a white and gold suit with a purple handkerchief and a bushy white beard. He wanted to be a pastor, but his uncle ran the con- gregation and wouldnt let Biggs in unless he quit running drugs. But damned if hed do that. He lies back down, then flicks the top of his ballpoint and goes back to writing letters to a daughter who died in the womb. I steal the pen from his hand, but he grabs it back quick as @ quiver as always. Pliny tries to do the same thing, but Biggs punches him in the gut. ince the lieutenant bit it, Biggs has been in charge. Pliny yells “Goddammit” and Biggs punches him again. Then the sirens go off, shrieking in @ minor third while the whizzing bullets make ita major chord. Its night again and there's one less cot and one week less to wait for home. The bunker is silent save for Minkss snoring, but 'm hearing his song in my head. B minor. My chest feels inflated. My stomach twists. A week of lima beans and goat stock with beets, purple and green. It held its color in Pliny’s exposed stomach after he was shot. Minks never ate with us. What sustained him? What would hisinsides look ike? He barely slept, yet had bound- less energy. I don't want to sleep. I just want to listen. I Jean up and look out the window. Twenty yards away, theres a woman with long dark hair wrapped in gray cloth and I see her holding « bucket by the handle just before she drops below the horizon down the back ofthe hill. Another superstitious old women from the village. She’ gone before I can move. It’s stil again. So stil Imust have dozed off. Minks’ drawn face is right above me and his breath stinks. He’ whispering and I want to shout but Biggs'l kick my ass, “Its her, man. Its her song. Shes here, around us. The ‘washer woman. She smells of ye and potash and she knows, Can you smell her?” “Fuck you, Minks, get out of my face” “Listen to me, Donit wash. Dorit wash anything. Nothing. Or, ‘or maybe wash everything, every day. Keep it clean. Shit, I don't know. I don't know.” He turns away, brow pinched, and goes back tohis cot. I cant sleep. Minks is gone before I wake. The day is slow and the others are playing tetherball with the inflated pig stomach they tied to a string ten yards up the sirens pole. 'm too tired to leave the ‘bunker. finish the comic I've read fifty times. take Minks’ book and start flipping through. He’ got a chapter dog-eared. Its titled “Washer Woman. There's some music notation and translated lyrics, along with a note about it being the traditional song from which the myth originated. I hum the melody: Same one I hear at night. On the facing page theres a drawing of a swarthy woman with long black hair waist deep in water, naked and covered in blood, holding a metal chestplate. The caption says ‘Washing the armor of warriors before they die in battle: I flip the page to the story's loose translation: ‘A villager washes her new husband's blood-stained armor in the river the night before he leaves for battle. He looks angry bbut it too late to stop her. Never mind, he says. Never mind, He kisses her beneath her tearing eye, taking the saltwater away. He tells hera second kiss will be on her lips when he returns, but he never returns, Only an officer's armor glint like that in the sun, she hears the other soldiers say. They talk ofthe bearded man with long white hair who had glued white tufts to his chestplate before soaking it with her husband's blood. Vengeful, she sneaks away to the enemy's camp. She searches through windows and steals the armor of the man they described. She sings as she washes it in the river, her husband's blood united with his ashes, then returns the armor. The next day, the soldiers bring home the dead white haired man, but in the enemy's camp, theres talk of woman. As if ina dream, someone says, by the river, naked, covered in blood, washing the armor and kissing the irasifa ghost was kissing her back, and singing a refrain over and over. She’ trying to find her lost lover, some say. Others say its revenge, and every bloodied armor holds her lover’ own. Warnings fil from lips. She is deaths servant, marking the next. They stop burning the bodies and the ‘warnings drift down to the woman's camp. A messenger coming to warn her hears her singing and runs away. The villagers drown her that night, but she isin the river still I close the book and go seek sunshine. The bunkers dim and humid, but outside theres a breeze under the heat. Back home, its autumn in November. string a hammock out back between a lone tree and the bunker’s roof where the eastern hill dips down and leads to the water. I take a nap. hear a rustling and open an eye. Minks is coming up the hill, «hundred yards away from me, kicking the gravel and holding something in his oversized vest. He doesnt see me. No one’ ever cout behind the bunker here. I slide out of the hammock and it bunches back up and looksas thin asa clothesline. I creep around the side of the bunker. Twenty yards away, he leans against the tree, his body obscured to anyone else but me. He puts his foot up on a boulder and pulls a glass bottle out from his vest, filled with white liquid, and starts to drink. “Minks” He jumps and liquid splashes on the boulder. I lunge for the bottle but he’s quick and I miss. He stares at me with a milk mus- tache. I grab for it again and he doesn't stop me.I flick it and it dings in C sharp. “So whenid you become a thief?” “What?” “Well, ether you stole it or you've got yourself little girlfriend down there giving you presents, So either tell me whenid you be