Words on a Shelf
I’m wading through chapter eight of my forthcoming book. Last weekend I wrote over seven thousand words. I’m tired and my head hurts. But when I saw this picture, excitement welled up within me. I share it with you.
Peacemaking: Chapter 1-13
My family flew down to San Diego from Portland, Oregon for graduation. They watched as Sgt. Beelzebub pinned the E.G.A. on my collar. My father hugged me and said he was proud. My mother and stepmother told me how well the uniform fit. My sisters and brothers took pictures. “Congratulations, you did it,” said one of my brothers. “You’re gaunt,” said my mother. “Yeah, what’d they feed you?” “Can you kill me with your pinkie?” I had never accomplished something so difficult. Afterwards, as families from all over the western United States were milling about on the Parade Deck, Sgt. Beelzebub walked over to me. “You’ll make a fine Marine, Peters,” he said, shaking my hand. I looked him in the eyes for the first time, “Thank you.” After graduation my family and my buddy’s family went out to the Hard Rock Café, San Diego. It was the first real food I had eaten in thirteen weeks and it tasted delicious. As our families sat around the table—McDougal and I in uniform—we told them our tales of Recruit Training. We did our best to stay true to the events, but who can say with any honesty after Recruit Training that they remember it perfectly. I certainly do not. It is like war in that way. Those of us who have experienced it remember the strangest things. Like the way an M-16 feels against your cheek or the way a head looks when it is missing its back end. Before graduation, in our last week at Recruit Training, Beelzebub decided that we should join the hazing of a week-one platoon’s Black Sunday. He ran us up into their barracks and called us to attention. The other platoon’s recruits were standing next to their bunks, their gear in front of them. Beelzebub commanded us to choose a new recruit and stand nose to nose with him. We did. “Pick up their seabags, recruits,” He commanded. We did. “Turn it over and dump it out, recruits.” We did. “Now put all of it in the middle of the squad-bay, and mix it up nice and good.” We did. It was a mess; the issued gear of seventy recruits splayed across the floor. “Now, kindly remove the sheets of these new recruits’ beds.” We did. As I passed the recruit whose bed I had destroyed I whispered, “It gets easier.” I lied. I figured it would not hurt. “Get out, Recruits,” Beelzebub said, “hit the parade deck and form it up.” We did, but not before we heard the other platoon’s D.I., “Alright Recruits, I have you for twelve long weeks. I doubt you have what it takes to become Marines, but it’s my job to try. You have two minutes to sort through all this gear and make my squad-bay shiny. What the hell, recruits? Do it now, move!” We formed up on the parade deck and marched back to our barracks. “Halt,” Beelzebub said, “Get inside and get on line.” The term, “get on line,” was how our D.I.’s commanded us to get back into the barracks and stand at attention in front of our racks. Our squad-bay was on the third floor of our building. As I made my way up the stairwell I began to walk. We graduate in three days, I thought, what could they do to me now? Beelzebub saw, he always saw. “What the—Recruit Peters, are you walking?” I was caught and I was graduating in three days. “Yes,” I said. It was a poor decision. Beelzebub took me to the quarter-deck and slayed me one last time. He died two years later in Fallujah.