Copyright © 2012 Ryan Gielen
ɨe moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in
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Published by BĂoćxĀixxĉ
ISBN 978-0-98504-930-0
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Publisher's note:
ɨe United States Department of Defense has assured us-and requested we
assure you-there are sumcient safeguards to prevent the following from ever
taking place.
Author's note:
ɨe following is a true story.
Ncwman knclt at thc loot ol his madc bcd, and praycd to a god with
whom hc had lost touch around thc timc ol thc divorcc. Ļc divorcc
had bccn casy, thcrc wcrc only a lcw asscts and cvcn lcss moncy. Ļc
only pcoplc who suĿcrcd wcrc thc grown childrcn, but thcy had bccn
suĿcring lor dccadcs, watching two glacicrs gradually drilt apart. 8y
thc timc it was oŃcial thcy wcrc numb and grown, and ŀnc with it,
!t had bccn scvcn ycars, and Ncwman's small housc rcmaincd
a lrozcn snapshot ol thc day shc lclt. Hc clcancd thc rooms hc
uscdkitchcn, bcdroom, and bathroomand thc rcst wcrc cov
crcd in dust. Hc storcd his bicyclc in thc kids' room, and somc old
clcctronics in his study. His routinc was so ironclad hc had worn a
pathway into thc linolcum łoor, lrom thc lront door to thc kitchcn
countcr whcrc hc atc dinncr cach night whilc prctcnding to watch
thc local ncws on a small, countcrtop tclcvision.
Hc did most ol his thinking in bcd, whilc rcading lrom a grow
ing stack ol historical accounts ol Amcrican military cxploits. Ļc
lailurcs wcrc thc most intriguinglikc most studcnts ol war, hc was
cnthrallcd with thosc conlounding momcnts in military history whcn
his country did not win.
Ļc historical accounts showcd, in cvcry casc, thc tragcdy ol Failurc
was not its blunt arrival in onc massivc cvcnt but its insidious crccp
ovcr timc, traccablc in cvcry casc through thc alchcmic rcactions that
RťōŚ GŕőŘőŚ
occur whcn small crrors in carly stratcgy mct small crrors in battlcŀcld
judgmcnt again and again. ¡vcn thcn, at cvcry turn, Ncwman notcd
politicians, gcncrals, and cvcn grunts on thc ground who had opportu
nitics to prcss back against thc wavc ol crrors carrying thcm to dclcat,
but lor somc rcason or anothcr lailcd to swim strongly cnough against
brcakcrs. Hc took a littlc pridc in thinking this study ol past dclcats
would, il hc should cvcr bc callcd upon again, prcvcnt him lrom mak
ing thc samc mistakcs as thosc gcncrals who camc bclorc him. Hc
would bc a rcspcctablc lcadcr ol mcn, hc thought. Hc would win.
!t ncvcr occurrcd to Ncwman that cvcry man whosc dclcat hc stud
icd had oncc carricd thc cxact samc arrogancc around in his back
pockct, thc arrogancc ol pcrlcct hindsight. Ļanks in part to thc his
torian, who, with his distancc lrom thc pitch clcars thc log ol war
with mcticulous rcscarch and prcscnts altcrnatc paths lrom Failurc,
and thanks in part to cvcry man's undying bclicl that hc is uniquc in
somc way, pcrlcct hindsight has lcd gcncrations ol lcadcrs to cmbracc
thc uncarncd supcriority ol thc cducatcd, and thcn lail a lcw ycars
latcr. Surc as it was truc lor cvcry lailurc in history, it was truc lor
Gcncral Ncwman Gingcr: hindsight was thc starch in his shirt, thc
stiĿncss in his spinc, thc cock in his walk. !t was thc untcstcd man's
hubris and Ncwman had it in spadcs, cullcd lrom thc lalsc cducation
that only books can providc.
Hc was rusty and lumblcd through a lcw opcning rcmarks bclorc
gctting to thc mcat ol thc momcnt and asking God lor protcction
lrom whatcvcr cvil hc was about to lacc. Vhcn hc ŀnishcd hc lclt
likc thc quict school boy who raiscs his hand lor thc ŀrst timclikc
all cycs wcrc suddcnly upon him, cvcn though no onc clsc had stcppcd
loot in this housc in scvcn ycars, and in his bcdroomlor twcnty. Vas it
God's cycs upon him, hc wondcrcd, or just his own shamc at nccding
God now that causcd him to lccl so nakcd so suddcnly:
!t was a littlc altcr ŀvc in thc morning, and hc was alrcady a lcw
minutcs latc. Hc stood and grabbcd thc lramcd photo ol thc girls
lrom his drcsscr. Hc turncd it ovcr and rcmovcd thc cardboard back
ing, pullcd thc photo lrom thc glass, and noticcd thc laycr ol dust that
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
had scttlcd somchow bctwccn thc photo and thc glass ovcr twcnty
cight ycars. Hc wipcd thc dust away with a tissuc, thcn loldcd thc
tissuc and placcd it into his pants pockct, lor cmcrgcncics, hc thought.
Hc lookcd at thc photoit was gorgcous in its simplicity, his two
girls with mops ol dirty blond hair hanging ovcr thcir cycs, thcir
clothcs in thc outdatcd stylc ol handmcdowns lrom thc Ȇǿ's, sit
ting on a stoop outsidc his housc, squinting in thc sunlight. Ļc girls
starcd back at himwith politc smilcs and solt laccs, onto which hc had
always projcctcd dccp, complcx minds, and sinccrity, and wondcr, and
happincss at all thc hiddcn richncss ol lilc. !t was simultancously his
hopc and his conviction that thcy livcd with an cxponcntially grcatcr
appctitc lor thc vastncss ol this world than hc had.
Hc placcd thc photo carclully into his wallct. Hc did not knowwhy.
Ļc lramc that had hcld it was suŃcicnthandsomc and lightwcight.
Surcly it would bc hcrc whcn hc got back. Yct, somcthing told him
to kccp it with him now, closc.
8urnam carclully outlincd hcr hips, thcn crascd and rccast hcr waist
linc to acccntuatc thc curvcs bcncath hcr black pantics. Hc pauscd,
studicd his work, and crascd hcr waistlinc again. Hc dcspiscd womcn
with largc waistlincs, and squarc bodics, hc thought, hc dcspiscd
thosc, too. Vomcn should bc curvcd in all thc right placcs, only thc
right placcs, likc his mothcr, god rcst hcr soul. Now, thcrc was a
woman, hc thought.
8urnam brought thc waistlinc in on his doodlc and whippcd his
pcncil oĿ thc pagc with a łourish. Òn papcr thc pinup stood, hcr
right kncc anglcd in, hcr right hand on hcr hip, a cigarcttc in thc
othcr, tight black curls lalling lrom hcr hcad.
! should'vc bccn an artist, hc thought. Vhat docs it pay, drawing:
! bct thc womcn arc bcttcr. Just look at this onc, shc's stunning, hc
Hc imagincd bcing luckcd by hcr. Hc prclcrrcd to lic still whilc
thc woman rodc him. Truthlully, hc was usually paralyzcd by lcar
whcn nakcd in lront ol a woman, and thus had no choicc. Òncc, in
\ictnam, on a lark hc told thc prostitutc to ordcr him around likc his
supcriors did, and thc momcnt blossomcd into somcthing bcautilul
lor 8urnam.
Shc cmbraccd hcr chancc to mock him and thc soldicrs shc had
watchcd ovcrrun hcr homc, and put on an inspircd pcrlormancc bark
ing ordcrs, pacing through thc room, cvcn grabbing 8urnam's pistol
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
oĿ thc łoor and waving it around wildly, prctcnding to shoot it into
thc air to punctuatc cach command, which is how shc imagincd thc
Amcrican soldicrs approachcd thcir work. Hcr cnthusiasm lor thc
rolc allowcd 8urnam to cscapc thc tcrrilying rcality ol his nudity by
rcsponding cxactly as hc would back at thc war: by simply lollowing
Shc ordcrcd him to lic on his stomach. Vhat happcncd ncxt shook
8urnam to his corc. Straddling his barc back, thc prostitutc jammcd
8urnam's lacc into thc pillowand, without warning, shovcd onc ol hcr
tiny ŀngcrs into 8urnam. Hc scrcamcd into thc pillow. Shc pushcd
dccpcr, and a wavc ol pain shot through him and hc scrcamcd again.
8ut, hc did not roll ovcr. Hc did not throw hcr oĿ and hallway
across thc room, as hc cnvisioncd doing. Hc did not, in short, rcsist.
Altcr all, hc was a good soldicr, just lollowing ordcrs.
8urnam pantcd and bcgan to swcat, opcncd his cycs and tricd to
locus thcm on thc hcadboard, to rcgain somc scnsc ol placc and timc,
but thc prostitutc, scnsing thc slightcst loss ol control, lorgcd ahcad,
Suddcnly thc pain was gonc. Ļc surgc ol adrcnalinc and thc raw
croticism ol violating and bcing violatcd ovcrtook 8urnam, and thc
tips ol his ŀngcrs and tocs bcgan to tinglc. Hc traccd thc thin linc ol
scnsation as it raccd lrom his lorcarms, ncck and spinc, down through
his thighs and calvcs and back again.
¯You lovc mc now," shc whispcrcd, altcr a short silcncc.
8urnam drcsscd himscll quickly, lrightcncd that staying in thc
room now would somchow alcrt his lricnds to what hc had just donc,
and could ncvcr undo. Hc wantcd thc momcnt to dic, thc witncss to
disappcar, thc rcality tothrough somc strangc shilt in thc cosmos
which hc could not comprchcnd or crcatcbccomc simply an crotic
ŀction hc had drcamcd undcr a shady trcc in thc junglc.
Hc considcrcd killing hcr, but it was a łccting thought. Hc had
killcd plcnty ol gooks who actually dcscrvcd to dic, lor which hc kncw
hc was still right with God. 8ut allowing a gook to ŀngcr you, and
thcn killing hcr. How would thc 8ig Man rcact to thc doublc ol
RťōŚ GŕőŘőŚ
lcnscs ol sodomy and murdcr on thc samc day, hc wondcrcd: Not
wcll, probably.
8urnam ncvcr rcturncd, and ncvcr paid lor scx again during thc
war. His masturbation rituals, howcvcr, took on a ncw and daring
complcxity. Hc discovcrcd bcads and lotions, lcarning to inscrt and
rcmovc and lubc and rub in almost pcrlcct silcncc, lor you arc ncvcr
alonc on a military basc, cvcn whcn you arc alonc.
8urnam took chanccs, stupid chanccs. Hc oncc gaggcd himscll
at thrcc a.m., lying in his top bunk, and masturbatcd vigorously in
thc darkcncd silcncc. Lost in thc majcsty ol his orgasm, hc lorgot to
rcmovc thc makcshilt gag, and thus awokc with a tshirt ticd around
his hcad, soaking all thc moisturc out ol his mouth and throat. !t was
only by thc gracc ol God that hc awokc momcnts bclorc his scrgcant
burst into thc barracks, and hc was ablc to rip thc tshirt oĿ, and
part ol his tonguc with it. Vhcn hc tricd to scrcam hc could only
cough, and so tumblcd out ol bcd coughing blood dircctly onto thc
scrgcant's shocs. Ļc scrgcant, who had prcviously madc plain his
disgust at 8urnam's gcncral shyncss, which hc cquatcd to wcakncss,
was so inluriatcd by thc blcmishing ol his shocs hc rcmandcd 8urnam
to clcan thcm daily. Ļough 8urnam dctcstcd his ncw rolc as slavc to
thc scrgcant, it was a small pricc to pay lor thc momcnts ol glorious
solitudc hc collcctcd cach morning as hc trudgcd across thc barracks
to shinc thc slccping scrgcant's shocs.
¡mboldcncd by thc ncar lailurc, 8urnam bccamc rccklcss, mastur
bating in bathroom stalls, bchind trccs, undcr thc tablc in his lavoritc
gook calé whilc sipping jasminc tca. !t was this curious abandon that
lcd 8urnam to huddlc bchind thc jccp with a string ol bcads dangling
lrom his hand onc swcltcring altcrnoon, summoning thc couragc to
succumb to tcmptation.
Hc had ncvcr inscrtcd anything in broad daylight, ccrtainly ncvcr
whilc on patrol, but thcrc was a ŀrst timc lor cvcrything, hc thought,
and why not today: !l thc U.S. Military cxpccts mc to stay sanc during
this quagmirc, shouldn't ! bc allowcd to indulgc myscll cvcry oncc in
a whilc, hc thought: Von't that hclp mc bc all that ! can bc: !n somc
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
twistcd way, hc rcasoncd, !'m doing this lor my country. Ļis onc is
lor Amcrica, hc thought. And thus, with grcat patriotic zcal, Privatc
Valt 8urnam unlatchcd his bclt, droppcd his pants, and inscrtcd a
string ol lour bcads into his rcctum whilc on patrol just south ol thc
ȀȆth parallcl.
¡xactly thrcc minutcs latcr 8urnam hcld thc string in lront ol his
lacc, staring at thc thrcc bcads that rcmaincd. Hc could hcar his
hcartbcat rattlc through his shirt, cchocs ol imagincd gasps and laugh
tcr ringing his cars, his rcmaining months in \ictnam suddcnly bc
coming vcry, vcry loncly. Hc couldn't go to thc mcdics, thcy playcd
pokcr with thc mcchanics. Hc couldn't go to his platoonmatcs, pro
viding thc appropriatc contcxt would takc hours.
8urnam gingcrly shuńcd with thc tinicst ol stridcs back to his bar
racks. Hc clcnchcd his chccks, attcmpting to stop thc bcad's shilting,
but cach stcp lurthcr bludgconcd thc solt tissuc with thc woodcn,
marblcsizcd tumor stuck insidc ol him.
!nsidc thc cmpty barracks hc lcll to his knccs and bcgan to crawl
to thc bathroom. Hc lought back tcars and curscd this day as thc
unluckicst ol his lilc.
Acurious sound intcrruptcd his intcrnal monologuc and hc stoppcd,
suspcndcd on onc kncc and onc hand, listcning. Vas hc imagining
thc solt whimpcring cchoing throughout thc barracks, or was hc
making thc noisc himscll, thc cry ringing in his cars yct to spill out
ol his mouth:
Frozcn, 8urnam rcalizcd thc whimpcring was growing stcadily
loudcr. Now hc was ccrtain thc noisc was not coming lrom his
own mouth, though hc cmpathizcd with it dccply. Ļc mclancholy
pcrlcctly cchocd his own.
Hc dclicatcly placcd onc hand in lront ol thc othcr, pulling himscll
lorward, marking cvcry painlul notc ol thc solt crying as hc crawlcd
closcr and closcr.
!nchcs lrom thc largc, opcn bathroom now, 8urnam stoppcd. Ļc
throbbing sprcad to his cntirc hindquartcrs, thc act ol crawling on
all lours working ncw musclcs and joints that cvcn thc most rigorous
RťōŚ GŕőŘőŚ
military training had lailcd to prcparc.
Hc pcckcd into thc bathroomand thcrc, bcnt ovcr a sink and crying
soltly was thc scrgcant whosc shocs 8urnam clcancd cvcry morning
whilc hc slcpt tcn lcct away, bcing luckcd lrom bchind by a vcry largc,
vcry black privatc nicknamcd ¯Night Train" by thc othcr blacks.
And that is howonc Privatc Valt 8urnambccamc Licutcnant Valt
8urnam, thcn Scrgcant Valt 8urnam, thcn Captain Valt 8urnam
and ŀnally Gcncral Valt 8urnam. Hc lollowcd just onc short stcp
bchind thc man whosc sccrct hc kcpt as that man climbcd thc Unitcd
Statcs military's carccr laddcr. Although thc marriagc was not a happy
onc, it was lunctional. 8urnam, duc not to a scnsc ol loyalty but to
shccr lack ol ambition, kcpt Scrgcant Mchlman's sccrct lor somc Ȃǿ
ycars, and Mchlman, duc solcly to scllprcscrvation, kcpt thc sccrct
ol Privatc 8urnam's dcrcliction ol patrol duty lor somc Ȃǿ ycars. Ļcy
had cvcn dcvclopcd a sort ol ambivalcnt rcspcct lor cach othcr, two
lazy rats at sca, stuck on thc lrcightcr ol lilc, lockcd in a simplc, lunc
tional blood pact to kccp sharing thc crumbs that lcll lrom mcn, rid
ing out thcir days watching onc anothcr's backs lor swooping scagulls
or swinging brooms, with no objcctivc othcr than simply not dying
or bcing thrown ovcrboard. Ļis is how thc pcrlcctly avcragc Valt
8urnam, lromSaint Paul, Minncsota, whosc only mcaninglul accom
plishmcnt in lilc was losing a woodcn marblc in his own assholc, camc
to sit at thc crossroads ol history.
8urnam shadcd in thc supplc curvcs around thc pinup's brcasts
and silcntly thankcd God that Mchlman was not snoring today, lor
noisc lromonc tcndcd to drawattcntion to both, and attcntion usually
mcant work.
8urnam could not tolcratc thc thought ol bcing assigncd work to
day, or on any ol his rcmaining ȀȆ days ol scrvicc in thc Unitcd Statcs
military. A rcal assignmcnt, and all thc accountabilityordcrs, plan
ning, papcrwork, implcmcntation, morc papcrwork, ovcrsight, pro
ccssing, and ŀnally rcportingwould cnsurc his last ȀȆ days ol scr
vicc would bc cxhausting, lor, oncc you'vc bccn promotcd lor doing
nothing, doing anything is cumbcrsomc upon onc's psychc, and at
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
8urnam's agc, lowcr back and knccs.
Gcncral Colt Howcll, a carccr prick who had riscn through thc
ranks ovcr Ȃȁ ycars ol dcdicatcd scrvicc to whatcvcr mission, objcc
tivc, duty or ordcr was bcing airdroppcd lrom his supcriors around
thc world, brought thc mccting toward its closc.
¯8ung, 8orctto, gct thc JAG's oŃcc on this right away," said How
cll in thc casual stylc ol a man who ncvcr nccds to pausc lor qucstions.
¯Now, you all havc your dircctivcs." Howcll stoppcd, noticing thc
bricl, bold hcading at thc bottom ol his dircctivcs dircctivc. An irri
tatcd lrown crcpt into thc corncr ol his mouth, thc richcst cxprcssion
hc was capablc ol making.
¯Actually," hc startcd again, ¯My apologics, ! almost lorgot. Ļcrc
is onc morc systcm wc havc yct to tcst."
Mchlman snortcd violcntly and whippcd onc arm into thc air likc
a dog chasing a rabbit through his drcams. Ļirtylour gcncrals, scc
rctarics, aids and assistants turncd at oncc, startlcd by thc hystcrics
ol thc now whimpcring, shaking gcncral, who had bcgun to chasc
thc rabbit with grcat urgcncy. 8urnam liltcd his cycs slowly lrom his
crotic skctching, and praycd silcntly that all cycs wcrc not ŀxcd upon
his partncr, his mcntor, his sccrct's kccpcr. Ļcy wcrc.
Howcll's cycs narrowcd as hc imagincd lcaping onto thc tablc,
sprinting to Mchlman, scissorkicking thc groggy lool in thc nosc
and stomping him to dcath, thcn stomping his lricnd 8urnam to
dcath. Hc imagincd thc applausc, or bcttcr, thc silcnt submission
with which cach subordinatc would approach him lrom that momcnt
lorward, lor lcar ol bcing stompcd to dcath. Rcally, it would only takc
onc stomping to dcath, and hc would havc thc cntirc basc undcr his
thumb, hc thought. Ļcn hc imagincd thc accompanying papcrwork
and droppcd thc lantasy.
8urnam slid thc lcgal pad slowly oĿ thc mahogany dcsk and pullcd
it to his chcst likc a pubcsccnt girl hoping not to bc sccn shuńing
bctwccn classcs. Hc starcd at thc dcsk prctcnding not to noticc thc
dcadly silcncc, as thc hopclcss thought raccd through his mind: il !
rcmain still, pcrhaps thcy won't scc mc.
RťōŚ GŕőŘőŚ
Mchlman's panting pctcrcd out, thc rabbit disappcarcd into thc
woods, and truc, scaring silcncc lollowcd. Sincc thc outburst all
ol lour scconds had passcd, but thc burning glarcs ol Ȃȃ collcagucs
slowcd timc to thc point that 8urnam could hcar thc individual dis
dain lcak lrom cach pcrson's lrown. Howcll's lrown was thc loudcst,
and his narrowcd cycs drillcd tiny holcs into 8urnam's soul.
!n his long, illustrious carccr Gcncral Colt Howcll had massacrcd
unarmcd villagcrs, assistcd in covcring up lricndly ŀrc incidcnts, wrotc
widcly circulatcd prcss rclcascs that paintcd murdcrous rctrcats and
lailurcs as scalptaking victorics, and most rcccntly providcd lalsiŀcd
documcnts to bcttcr his nation's casc lor launching a longdcsircd in
vasion ol a small, brown country rich with oil. !n short, hc was thc
pcrlcct gcncral: a viciously talcntcd and cquivocating loyalist whosc
morality was both dctcrmincd and rcinlorccd by balancing in thc cvcr
shilting sands ol his boss's currcnt dcsirc.
Gcncral Howcll had onc othcr gilt that grcascd thc whccls ol as
ccnsion: hc was born handsomc. Hc had lcarncd at an carly agc that
his looksclcan and sharp, but lorcvcr nonthrcatcningcrcatcd a
basclcss trust in him, which hc lostcrcd with propcr grammar, cvcn
tcmpcramcnt, and cycglasscs. Hc could ordcr thc carpctbombing ol
an cntirc town ol civilians, or shrcd thc vcry documcnt that cxoncr
atcd said cncmy nation ol said bombing, all whilc smiling calmly and
spcaking cvcnly, in vanilla toncs and common words. Hc was most
dcŀnitcly a sociopath in that way, but a handsomc onc. Strangcrs
lound thcmsclvcs thinking, upon ŀrst glancc, ¯! likc that guy," though
thcy kncw nothing ol him bcyond thc snapshot hc prcscntcd thcm,
ol a polishcd and pious human bcing. Hc could havc bccn a vcry
succcsslul politician, but hc lackcd that ambition. Hc was pcrlcctly
happy pcaking as thc grcatcst lapdog in thc gamc: hc was salc, got
outdoors oltcn, and was always lcd.
At this momcnt, hc was considcring just howto lcast upon thc gcn
crals Mchlman and 8urnam, two worthlcss shitstacks who, lollowing
ycars ol ambivalcncc, hc dccidcd hc hatcd now.
Howcll slammcd his opcn palm on thc tablc, scnding a shockwavc
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
dircctly to Mchlman's car.
¯Lct God sort 'cmout!" ycllcd Mchlman, rcłcxivcly, startlcd awakc.
Hc liltcd his hcad and took invcntory, and slowly liltcd himscll thc
thrcc inchcs hc had slouchcd whilc slccping.
¯Morning, Gcncral," quippcd Howcll. ¯Vould you likc to join us:"
No, Mchlman thought. 8ut cvcn ȀȆ days lrom rctircmcnt hc kncw
bcttcr than to intcntionally pokc thc bcar
¯As ! was saying, thcrc is onc systcm wc havc yct to tcst, but it's a
hugc undcrtaking. ! wouldn't drcam ol giving this to anyonc but my
bcst mcn," said Howcll, as thc hint ol a cryptkccpcr's grin crawlcd
into thc corncrs ol his mouth.
Mchlman rubbcd his cycs, conluscd by Howcll's tonc and angcrcd
by thc dircct attcntion and cyc contact.
¯Ðo you knowwhat thc tcrm'Òllactory Chcmical Ðircctivcs' rclcrs
to, Gcncral Mchlman:"
¯Not a cluc, sir."
¯Ļat's ŀnc, quitc alright, Gcncral," Howcll said with laux congc
niality. ¯You'll havc plcnty ol timc to lcarn whilc you'rc administcring
thcir usagc on our voluntccr control population."
¯Sir," Mchlman bcgan to spcak but his throat was still aslccp, dry
as a bonc.
¯You and 8urnam will bc conducting thc last in our scrics ol non
lcthal wcapons tcsts, thc Òllactory Chcmical Ðircctivc, or Ò.C.Ð."
A knot slowly bcgan to tic itscll in 8urnam's stomach, pulling thc
solt lining into itscll.
¯Vasn't that dircctivc scrappcd, Gcncral:" 8urnam askcd warily,
knowing that a dircctivc, oncc scrappcd, thcn brought back, was an
unclcar dircctivc and unclcar dircctivcs wcrc ultimatcly unsucccsslul
dircctivcs, and unsucccsslul dircctivcs mcant mountains upon moun
tains ol papcrwork that would support thc military's cĿorts around
thc world and at homc in cxactly no ways, yct must bc complctcd
rcgardlcss ol thcir prcordaincd usclcssncss, in a timcly lashion, and
submittcd to thc propcr ovcrsight bodics in triplicatc, all ol which
must happcn bclorc 8urnamand Mchlmancould oŃcially rctirc
RťōŚ GŕőŘőŚ
and cnd this charadc ol a partncrship oncc and lor all.
¯Vc tricd to scrap it Gcncral 8urnam, wc did," continucd Howcll,
¯8ut Sccrctary ol Ðclcnsc Cadbury himscll scnt it back with a rathcr
strongly wordcd rcbukc, quitc lrankly, stating in no unccrtain tcrms
that pcr protocol, no mattcr how absurd thc notion, thc notion must
bc tcstcd." Hc pauscd, rcłccting upon Cadbury's irritating dccision.
¯Sccrctary Cadbury is a sticklcr lor protocol."
8urnam suddcnly rcalizcd hc had lclt his ballpoint pcn prcsscd to
his lcgal pad, and thc ink had soakcd into and ovcrrun onc ol thc
scxicst drawings hc had cvcr donc in thcsc cndlcss mcctings. !sn't
that pcrlcct, hc thought, wallowing in scllinłictcd sarcasm.
¯Vhat is thc notion to bc tcstcd:" askcd Mchlman, strctching his
tocs and clinching his calvcs, trying to scnd blood back into thc slccpi
cst corncrs ol his body.
¯As was dctailcd cxtcnsivcly in your original bricl somc months ago,
Gcncral," said Howcll, ¯thc notion to bc tcstcd is that il thc battlcŀcld
cncmy is stimulatcd cnough, hc will not bc ablc to conccntratc on his
dircctivc, lcaving him vulncrablc to our oĿcnsivc. So wc could, thc
orctically, scck to distract thc cncmy with said aphrodisiac dispcrsion
dcvicc, thc Ò.C.Ð."
¯Vhat, il ! may, sir, is an aphrodisiac dispcrsion dcvicc," said
Mchlman, conloundcd by massivc words hc was ccrtain could bc
truncatcd in somc way.
¯!t's pcrlumc, Mchlman," growlcd 8urnam, disgust dripping lrom
cach syllablc. ¯Vc spray an cncmy platoon with pcrlumc and thcy
bccomc so horny thcy losc thc will to ŀght."
¯Vhy don't wc just bomb thcm:" blurtcd Mchlman, ¯Vc havc a
targct, wc blow it up. !t's what wc do."
Howcll was cnjoying thc cqual parts conlusion and humiliation hc
was witncssing lrom thcsc thorns in his ass. ¯!t's nonlcthal, Gcncral.
Capturc only."
¯A pcrlumc bomb:" plcadcd Mchlman. ¯Ļis is a jokc, right:"
¯No, 8arry, it's no jokc," said 8urnam, slowly rcsigning to his latc.
¯Just a ŀnal slap in thc lacc lor thc military's lcast distinguishcd gcn
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
Gcncral Sydncy ¯8ird Ðog" Fullcr, a pockmarkcd, smoking, brick
chimncy ol a man, a shamclcss prick lor whom thc middlc managc
mcnt rung ol thc military was a havcnlrom thc wcak, lcmininc, po
litically corrcct rcal world, ŀllcd with its apologics and hugs, and tclc
visions, wcddings and popular music, and black pcoplc, cvcrywhcrc,
black pcoplc nowadayslcancd lorward, a cat with two slccpy, old
micc corncrcd and shaking. ¯Ļcy think it's a punishmcnt, Gcncral
Howcll," hc said, his Arian bluc cycs suddcnly as black as his lungs.
¯Ðo thcy, Gcncral Fullcr:"
¯! bclicvc thcy do, Gcncral Howcll," said Fullcr, warming up to thc
thrill ol bullying thcsc solt clams. ¯Now, Gcncrals, this isn't a pun
ishmcnt, you know that," hc growlcd with mock compassion, a tcch
niquc hc had mastcrcd whcn disciplining his stcpchildrcn. Hc had
discovcrcd long ago that mock compassion was thc jab that lowcrcd
thcir guards, lcaving thcm nakcd and vulncrablc to thc ncxt punch,
thc haymakcr: clcar, cutting sarcasm. ¯Ļis is a rcvolutionary pro
gram, this pcrlumc bomb!" Hc pauscd to allow thc snickcring to rip
plc through thc ranks. ¯Vc thought you'd apprcciatc thc chancc to
makc onc last contribution to your gratclul nation bclorc you rctirc.
And, may ! suggcst that contribution comcs in thc lorm ol Chancl
Numbcr Fivc: ! can't gct cnough ol that dclcctablc aroma!"
Ļc room brokc into outright laughtcr. ¯!'m gctting łustcrcd just
thinking about it!" continucd Fullcr. ¯!s it hot in hcrc:" Hc prctcndcd
to look at his lap, just undcr thc tablc, hinting that thc mcrc mcntion
ol thc sccnt had arouscd him, bclorc joining thc chorus.
SuŃcicntly humiliatcd, 8urnam and Mchlman stood, salutcd and
shuńcd out ol thc room. Ļc cchoing laughtcr all but slammcd thc
door bchind thcm.
Ncwman was Ȅȃ ycars old and worc cach ycar on his slccvc, in his
stridc, and in thc lincs and cracks on his lacc. Ļough solt around thc
cdgcs, hc worc thc samc grizzlcd cxprcssion at all timcs that hc worc
out ol thc junglc somc Ȃǿ ycars ago whcn hc was draggcd out ol Ļc
Shit against his will. Hc was not a hcro, hc did not lovc thc ŀght, and
thc dcath, and thc hcat, but hc thought hc could still bc usclul. And
it was on thosc simplc tcrms that Ncwman Gingcr's mind organizcd
thc world. Ļc ŀghting is tough bccausc thcrc is killing, thc junglc is
tough bccausc thcrc is hcat, lcaving is tough bccausc ! can still work.
As hc strodc across thc massivc tarmac an FȀȃ Tomcat howlcd
along a distant runway and Ncwman rcgistcrcd its spccd. Not its
powcr, not thc gracc with which ȁȅ tons ol stccl can cut through atmo
sphcrc, not thc achicvcmcnt ol man to cvolvc lrom closc rangc skull
smashing to bows and arrows to this gorgcous, gravitydcstroying art
lorm. No. Hc rcgistcrcd its spccd. About ȅȄǿ milcs pcr hour, hc
thought. Fast.
Hc stoppcd and salutcd, allowing a missilc transport vchiclc to pass.
Hc continucd until two supcrior oŃccrs passcd, and hc stoppcd and
Somcwhcrc carly on in Ncwman's lilc hc had thc curiosity bcatcn
out ol him. His lathcr's brutality occasionally lcapt lrom cmotional
to physical, and as a kid, Ncwman had bccn gratclul lor thc clarity
ol his lathcr's hatrcd on thosc rarc days. A bcating lclt no room lor
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
suspcnsc. !t was thc climax, and whcn it was ovcr hc could count on
bcing ignorcd lor a wcck or two, a calming thought in thc throcs ol a
As a rcsult ol living on quicksand lor ȀȆ ycars, Ncwman sought
out thc stability ol a lilc in scrvicc, whcrc thc disdain ol supcriors
was constant and largcly supcrŀcial. 8csidcs, hc likcd thc running
and thc lilting ol thc gun ovcr his hcad, and thc camaradcric with
othcr soldicrs, all ol whom sccmcd to havc bcttcr storics and much,
much morc scx, which Ncwman was intrigucd and cmbarrasscd by as
a young man.
Ncwman cntcrcd thc JAG oŃccs at ǿȇǿǿ and his mood crcpt
downward. Ļc stillncss ol thc oŃcc sccmcd to scrcam at him that
hc was guilty, and thcy kncw it, and thcy wcrc going to punish him.
!n truth thc oŃcc was still bccausc it was always still, thc JAG's and
thcir aidcs oltcn working quictly in scattcrshot oŃccs around thc
sccond łoor, this ŀrst łoor bcing utilizcd lor small mcctings, clcancr
bathrooms, thc vcnding machincs that dispcrscd sandwichcsactual
sandwichcs, lor only ȉȀ.ȆȄ, in a vcnding machincand storagc. Ncw
man rcgistcrcd thc sandwichcs and continucd to room ȀȀǿ, just past
thc ŀnal vcnding machinc, thc sodas. Hc wondcrcd how many ol thc
ȅȃ cmployccs working in this building utilizcd thc soda machinc on
any givcn day. Probably only a handlul, hc thought. 8ut it's always
bccn thcrc, so it probably always will bc.
Ncwman sat alonc in thc ccntcr ol thc room whilc six JAG's and
lcgal aidcs glarcd at himlrombchind a lolding tablc. ¡vcn thc stcnog
raphcr, oĿ in thc corncr, sccmcd angry at him.
!n thc ccntcr ol this thick wall ol disapproval sat Gcncral Sydncy
¯8ird Ðog" Fullcr, still high lrom thc act ol humiliating thosc two
clowns in thc morning dircctivcs mccting.
¯Gcncral Gingcr, ! havc a handball gamc at zcroninchundrcd,"
bcgan Fullcr, ¯so lct's dispcnsc with any nicctics and gct on with it."
Ncwman lclt his lacc łush. Hc was not brilliant, hc was not sar
castic, and hc was not mcan, but hc was hard. !t took a lot to brcak
Ncwman, and hc had dccidcd this morning ovcr coĿcc, two cggs and
RťōŚ GŕőŘőŚ
wholc whcat toast that old 8ird Ðog was not going to brcak him to
day, not ovcr this. Not ovcr somc piccc ol shit kid who couldn't tcll
his clbow lrom his assholc with a map and thrcc wccks hcad start.
¯! didn't havc any nicctics planncd, Sydncy," Ncwman countcrcd
Ònc ol thc lacclcss JAG's boltcd out ol his chair. ¯Hcy now!"
Ļc sccond JAG scrcamcd ovcr thc ŀrst. ¯You watch your mouth
whcn spcaking to a supcrior oŃccr, Gingcr!"
Fullcr silcnccd thcm both with a wavc. ¯Ļc young soldicr you
slappcd," hc lamcntcd, ¯his lathcr is unwavcring in his conviction that
your trcatmcnt ol his son was unduly harsh, rcsulting in a sort ol 'cmo
tional coma,' to quotc his lathcr dircctly."
¯And, who is his lathcr:" askcd Ncwman sharply.
¯Chairman and C¡Ò ol our largcst dclcnsc contractor."
Ncwman lclt his hcart collapsc. Hc had humiliatcd a vcry impor
tant luckup. ¯Vhat's thc upshot, Sydncy: Rclicvcd ol my command:
Unpaid lcavc:"
¯You should bc so lucky!" bcltcd onc ol thc JAG's.
¯Ļc boy had to rctirc to thc privatc scctor!" bcltcd thc othcr.
Ncwman sawthc vcins pop on thc JAG's ncck as hc lought thc urgc
to lcap across thc tablc at Ncwman, likc somc pit bull straining against
his lcash, most happy to bc pcrlcctly lurious ovcr whatcvcr his mastcr
told him was an outragc on any givcn day.
¯Frankly, Ncwman, on thc tablc right now is dishonorablc dis
chargc," continucd Fullcr, opting to play thc laconic Good Cop.
¯!s that Ðaddy's rccommcndation or did you comc up with that all
by yourscll :"
¯You struck thc son ol a vcry important man!" somconc ycllcd. For
all Ncwman kncw it was thc stcnographcr. Ļc laccs in thc room
had mcltcd into onc giant, scrcaming mouth, so powcrlul that cvcry
word it spokc cchocd through thc cntirc univcrsc, blocking out cvcry
thought, cvcry ray ol light, until Ncwman's brain cxplodcd against thc
walls ol his skull.
¯Hc was a sissy! A coward!" barkcd Ncwman. ¯Hc was an aĿront
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
to cvcry man that cvcr lought on a lront linc"
¯And your actions would bc a lot morc undcrstandablc," scrcamcd
Fullcr, ¯il you yourscll wcrc on thc lront lincs, Gcncral! 8ut ncvcr, in
all my ycars ol scrvicc has this happcncd in an oŃcc ol thc corps ol
cnginccrs in San 8crnardino!"
Ncwman slouchcd. Ļis boy. Ļis boy had scrcamcd at him
through tcars, and this was bclorc thc slap. Altcr having his third
proposal rcjcctcd in as many months, thc young man lclt usclcss and
unlovcd, and thrcw a hystcrical tantrum at Ncwman in lront ol thc
cntirc dcpartmcnt. Ļc old man slappcd him morc lor his own good
than as somc sort ol punishmcnt, and in all lairncss, it workcd. 8ut
rulcs arc rulcs, and in thc army, thc spirit and lcttcr ol thc law arc onc
and thc samc, not to bc parscd, so Ncwman would hang.
Slowly thc laccs rcturncd, and thcy wcrc angricr than hc rcmcm
bcrcd. ¯Òld habits dic hard," was all hc could mustcr.
¯So do old gcncrals," startcd Fullcr. ¯You'vc bccn a ŀnc soldicr,
Ncwman. Ļrcc tours in \ictnam. Two ycars activc statcsidc. Ļc
last twcnty lour ycars hcrc, in thc corps ol cnginccrs." Fullcr shook
his hcad lor cĿcct. ¯Ļcrc should bc a placc lor you in this army, out
ol rcspcct, il nothing clsc. 8ut lct's lacc it, Ncwman. Vc arcn't thc
mcn wc uscd to bc. ¡vcn il you had somc usc to thc U.S. Military,
how long would you last:"
Ncwman lclt thc laccs mclt away again. Pcrhaps it was his agc,
but hc had grown to carc vcry littlc about ncw laccs, ncw pcoplc, ncw
challcngcs, ncwrclationships. Twcnty ycars ago hc would'vc commit
tcd cach lacc and all thc idiosyncrasics ol thc individual participants
to mcmory, and tailorcd himscll to cach quirk. 8ut hc was on thc
down slopc, wading toward thc cnd, thc bottom, and ncw laccs hcld
no promisc or hopc ol rcbirth, so what was thc point, rcally.
¯Ļc grim rcapcr is chasing us, Ncwman," continucd Fullcr. ¯Vcll,
hc's always chasing us, but now hc's gaining ground, you scc: And
wc'rc running. Running to thc gymnasium, to thc doctor's oŃcc, to
whatcvcr lount ol youth was most rcccntly promiscd. Hoping to cs
capc, hoping to discovcr bclorc wc dic that it wasn't all lor nothing."
RťōŚ GŕőŘőŚ
Fullcr bccamc wistlul at this last word, nothing. !t anchorcd on his
lips and in his cycs, and strctchcd itscll to Ncwman across thc room,
an iron bridgc bctwccn two crumbling shorcs.
¯Unlortunatcly, so many ol thc things that drivc us in this lilc also
rcstrain us," hc continucd. ¯! can't put a ȄȄ ycarold man on thc lront
lincs ol today's conłicts. !'d gct my boys killcd." Fullcr lcancd lorward
suddcnly, thc thought ol lilc and dcath conscqucnccs, ol mancuvcrs
and mistakcs, ol battlc, scnt a surgc ol adrcnalinc through his taut
gray musclcs. Somcwhcrc in his lizard brain thc ŀnality ol dcath and
thc łccting naturc ol lilc pullcd him to Ncwman and Ncwman to
him, and both ol thcm out ol this room and onto thc pitch. Hc spokc
cxcitcdly, his lacc łushcd, his words clippcd.
¯Ļc bullcts today, thcy can picrcc tcn lcct ol rcinlorccd concrctc.
Ļc missilcs arc guidcd by computcrs in outcr spacc, thcsc things
callcd Global Positioning Systcms, and thc mcn," croakcd Fullcr,
¯Ļc boys on thc lront lincs today movc silcntly, with surgical prc
cision, covcrcd in scvcnty pounds ol body armor through thc night,
into thc dcscrt and back again."
Hc collapscd backward into his chair, cxhaustcd lollowing thc or
gasm ol prccision violcncc hc had just rccallcd lor his old lricnd.
¯Ļcy'rc machincs, Ncwman... killing machincs."
Fullcr droppcd his chin, and brought his cycs to Ncwman's. ¯Ðo
you hcar what !'m saying, Gcncral Gingcr:"
Ncwman hcard thc mcssagc, but worsc, hc lclt thc mcssagc. Vhilc
Fullcr listcd thc advanccs in Amcrican warlarc, cach idca spokcn and
cvcn thosc hundrcds that rcmaincd unspokcn had sliccd into Ncw
man's wcathcrcd hcart and withcrcd łcsh until hc was dccply cut.
Vithout lilting a ŀngcr Fullcr had succcsslully dcstroycd Ncwman
by dcstroying thc onc thing that kccps any ȄȄ ycarold soldicr alivc
and ŀghting: his hopc. Hopc that somcday thc call will comc. Hopc
that somcday hc will bc nccdcd again. Hopc that hc is somchow,
somcway still usclul. !n tcn minutcs Ncwman lclt hc had agcd tcn
¯Ļcrc must bc somcthing, Sydncy," plcadcd Ncwman with a whis
LśŢő 8śřŎ ōŚŐ ŠŔő PŕŚŗ PŘōŠśśŚ
Fullcr bcgan to shakc his hcad, convinccd Ncwman was cithcr too
stubborn or too stupid to undcrstand that this was thc cnd. Hc hatcd
stubborn almost as much as hc hatcd stupid, but stupid took thc prizc.
Vhy was hc always surroundcd by -./*#, hc wondcrcd: Ðid thc job
attract stupid, or was it drillcd into othcrwisc intclligcnt pcoplc ovcr
ycars ol scrvicc: Òr was hc just so godblcsscd intclligcnt that oth
crs sccmcd stupid in comparison: Ļc lattcr was most likcly, hc had
dccidcd somc timc ago, and that answcr camc back to him just this
vcry morning in thc momcnts lollowing his dircctivcs mccting with
thosc two barnaclcs. Fullcr saw thc answcr unlold in his mind, thc
picccs ol this tiny puzzlc suddcnly snapping togcthcr. Hc lought back
a smilc, masking pity with compassion.
¯Ļcrc is onc thing ! can think ol, lor thc old, and thc."
¯Òbsolctc:" oĿcrcd Ncwman.
¯Ycs," rcplicd Fullcr, unawarc that thc compassion in his words had
dissipatcd somcwhcrc on thc short journcy lrom brain to mouth.
¯Vhat, thcn:" whispcrcd Ncwman, rcsigncd to any latc othcr than
¯Gcncral, havc you considcrcd giving yourscll to scicncc:"

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