A Change Might Do You Good

MEAT, ALL I WANT IS FOR YOU TO SURVIVE. I PUT THE HEAT UNDER YOU TO DEVELOP YOU INTO A WELL-DONE STEAK. YOU ARE ON GOD’S GRILL AND WE BOTH HOPE YOU DON’T GET EATEN BY THE SOVS. DO YOU GET MY METAPHOR, MEAT?

SERGEANT, YES, SERGEANT.

SO WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO IMPINGE MY ABILITY TO BROIL YOU INTO A WELL-DONE STEAK, MEAT? YOU ARE MINE. I BOUGHT YOU, I HAVE CARVED YOU AND MARINATED YOU; WHY DO YOU INSIST ON RUINING DINNER?

SERGEANT, THE RECRUIT IS CONFUSED, SERGEANT.

WHAT IS COMPLICATING THAT CAVITY IN YOUR HEAD, SON? I KNOW IT CAN’T BE THE INCONVENIENCE OF TOO MUCH CAPACITY.

SERGEANT, ISN’T MEAT ALREADY DEAD, SERGEANT?

SERGEANT, ISN’T HOPING FOR SOMETHING DEAD TO SURVIVE THE MOST FUTILE OF ACTIVITY, SERGEANT?

RECRUIT, YOU WILL WALK OUT MY DOOR.

SERGEANT?

YOU WILL PACK YOUR DUFF AND NOT SPEND ANOTHER NIGHT IN MY BARRACKS. IS THAT CLEAR?

SERGEANT, YES, SERGEANT.

YOU WILL BIVOUAC ON BASE TONIGHT. I DON’T CARE WHERE. I WILL NOT ALERT THE MPS OR OTHER BASE PERSONNEL, BUT IF YOU ARE CAUGHT OUTSIDE BARRACKS YOU WILL BE PUNISHED. ARE WE CLEAR?

SERGEANT, YES, SERGEANT.

I WILL PERSONALLY SURVEY THE FACILITY SOMETIME AFTER MIDNIGHT. IF I FIND YOU, THE PUNISHMENT WILL BE PERSONAL AND COVERT IN ADDITION TO PROFESSIONAL AND OVERT. SHUT UP.

IN THE MORNING, YOU WILL REPORT TO THE C.O.’S OFFICE. SPEAK TO CORPORAL SMITHSON. YOU WILL TELL HIM I HAVE REQUESTED YOUR REMOVAL FROM THIS FACILITY TO THE INTERMEDIATE TRAINING FACILITY AT FORT SILL.

SERGEANT, YES, SERGEANT.

IF YOU DO NOT MAKE THAT APPOINTMENT, I EXPECT YOU TO FALL INTO LINE AS SOON AS YOU ARE PHYSICALLY ABLE. NEED I ELABORATE, SOLDIER?

SERGEANT, CLEAR, SERGEANT. THANK YOU, SERGEANT.

DON’T THANK ME, SON. YOU ARE IN FOR A WORLD OF HURT, NOT FORT SILL. I JUST WANTED YOU TO KNOW WHAT YOU’D BE ENJOYING IF YOU’D DONE DIFFERENTLY.

It’s hard to generalize about why men serve. The desire to matter, the impulse to change, the attempt to preserve a line, tradition. The chance to test conformity and discipline as method. Because no one else will teach you. The necessity of killing, even just a part of you; pain as process.

And after the effort, what if you haven’t learned? What if you haven’t changed? What if the pain hasn’t been beneficial? What if you have dived deeper instead of rising out of the crush of the ocean, 85% of it oxygen yet suffocating because you can’t adapt, can’t breathe it? Surface tension can be tank steel if you can’t figure out how to breech it.

Can meat become living flesh again? Or does it just rot on the plate, the choice made, as finally as the cut flower in the bud vase between the two tapered candles freshly lit?

I would say that Fort Sill was beautiful at that time of year, but I would be lying. It was a dusty, hollow, dead waste.

This story is for Rob, commanding a tank pointing into the Fulda Gap at a Soviet T-72; for Matt, who became a Cavalry Scout without me; for Jeremy Jackson, who builds Marines; for my grandfather, father, and brother; and for CWO5 Smithson, who despite being an expert on Marine helicopters, died in a training accident last month. 

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About ernestwhile

I live in New York City. I built a world of Lego bricks, colorful and simple and foreign. I've been picking it apart ever since.
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One Response to A Change Might Do You Good

  1. Marian Green says:

    I love the way you write. You turn harshness and tradagy into a symphony. Teach me Ernest, teach me.

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