We head out to the night fire range. Rumor has it the presence of a first sergeant or an officer is mandatory during live fire exercises. However, on this particular eve neither had appeared. Ten pairings of rifles and helmets had been preselected for the exercise in an attempt to minimize wear and tear. Each pairing is equipped with proper night optic and accessory. A rifle jams. Drill Sergeant is unsuccessful in supplanting the jam. He throws the rifle down range and proceeds after it while live fire continues alongside him. Brass and ammo check is skipped in hopes of us being responsible drones. Some fuck wasn’t. Native gets his rifle back late as we march off. We settle into our gear expecting shuteye. A rifle discharge echoes through the trees leaving a still terrifying silence in its wake.
I wake, I shave,
I shit, I dress.
I gear up and head out.
I’m putting my gear away,
I know not what has happened today.
I undress, I shit,
I shower, I sleep.
I stood at the edge of a forest, and then I sat on the side of a mountain. I was reminded of a brief time in my youth. I was skiing in the Cascades, or rather close to them at least. Cross-country, not that downhill shit. The snow was fresh, a fine powder blanketing the hills and trees. Flickering past my point of view. I came upon an old rock quarry, where I could not help but imagine the hard laborers of this land’s ancient past. As I made my way around the edge of the quarry I crested a ridge. The Cascades. A spine of stone on the horizon. Hauntingly precious. And then I was back on that mountain with my rifle held dear to my chest.
A cool night’s summer breeze. A briar in the moonlight. Sweet smoke of Cavendish emanates, pursued by the bated breath of the hollowed one. He sucks in the evening air—almost morning now, technically—but no one really cares. Dreaming of a lost love, all the fish that got away, small pond. No one ever warns about love’s pangs—blistering sores. Roses have thorns too. The hair looks nice. A lovely young broad. A bomb breaks the silence; serenity of the moment, lost. Trouble afoot. Fuckery about. The soldier awakens. Where is the rifle? I canot find the rifle! Must shoot, but the limb is gone. A mortar of a different kind. The embers dull, ash blows underfoot as the pipe is emptied. He turns towards the concrete tower within which he resides. Sits in a chair while the metal box awaits his freight. But he sits and the doors grow tired, and he stares at the mirror. The mirror on the wall.
And then, what do you do when you find the cider in your hand, suspended by crafted glass, to be better company than the people you are surrounded by on all sides? And these people, abiding by society’s moralities…they are all so very boring. I find it quite disturbing. The naysayers surround you, but you can never say no. Because, you are a masochist and you can never reach out and take what you desire. So, your dreams go unfulfilled and you find yourself lonely. Jesus whispered in my ear, pull the trigger. Just do it for me. G-d’s minister of wrath. Kill’em all. The preacher went on and I sat frozen, catatonic. My trigger finger pulling hard and wildly. Skull after skull emptying their treasured brains. The bride and groom kissed. I needed a beer and some tits and some ass.
When the chaplain entered the bay, no man dared exempt himself from religious performance. All men stayed alert and awake to witness the bold professions regarding their trade. I sat in solace, as my mind wretched from the burden imposed by the captain’s sermon.
Soldiers, brethen queen of battle. Hear me and confide in my verse. You have been chosen, raised up by the Almighty to be His ministers of wrath upon this Earth. Go forth brave men. Brothers in arms and destroy your enemies with the vengeance of God.
“For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain! For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Fierce Infantry! Each and every one of you is a minister of wrath chosen by God before all men. You are the reaper! You are the wrath-bringer! You are the widow maker and you are the blood seeker! In the name of the Almighty, may you be victorious and smite your foes in His name!
With these words, the chaplain imparted a holy rage within his flock. This sacred fire, ignited by misguided ferocity, devoured all empathy from the hearts of men. Men who’d cry and men who’d try. Men who’d lie and men who’d die. All soon to be vanquished under heaven’s watchful eye.