By Casey McAlduff
The two soldiers were sitting with their backs to the western terrain, panting and sweaty, their camouflage wrapped around them like sheets.
In their laps, their guns were filled with bullets the color of mercury, ammunition emanating heat. Urgent barrels waiting release, ready to penetrate the enemy.
“You know,” said Soldier #1. “There’s a hope in the air.” His voice was unwavering. “It’s as if all this bullshit- you know, was about to disappear. Like it never even happened at all. Like someone, like some magician is about to appear and just ‘poof!’, ‘abracadabra!’ -make the whole world vanish with one stroke of his wand.”
Soldier #2 slowly curled his leg inward, allowing his M-16 to rest lightly on the arches of his knees, its metallic sheen reflecting the moonlight on the soldier’s face. “I don’t believe in magic, really. A gun can beat a wand any day. Shit. It takes longer to say ‘abracadabra’ than it does to shoot a bullet,” he proposed, shielding his eyes from the moon’s sharp light.
The M-16 began to slide down Soldier #2’s thigh. Soldier #1 reached over to grab it quickly.
“You really have to be in command of your equipment you know. I’ve heard a few horror stories in my day. The gun slides, the trigger hits, and ‘boom!’, the bullet strikes. And then you go home with no member, no equipment. I mean even if you play it off for a Purple Heart you still won’t feel like a man. The target will come along, right- beautiful blonde. Long legs. Red lips. You know the type. You got her to come upstairs, you’re aiming for the bulls-eye and then it hits you. It’s not there. You got your Purple Heart, but you don’t have your dart.”
Soldier #2 remained silent. He looked straight ahead across the vast wilderness and stretched his leg back out across the dune, this time picking up the M-16 and placing it close to his side, keeping his right hand near the grip.
“Blonde, you said?”
Soldier #2’s eyes remained glued to the orange-red land in front of him, stroking his M-16 just slightly, checking that it was still there, ready to attack.
“And long legs right? And-”
Soldier #2 stopped speaking suddenly. In the desert’s lucid distance, an airplane’s engine rumbled, its deep growl piercing the freezing night sky.
“And red lips. I think you said that. Even if you didn’t- she should have red lips, I like them. It’s real you know? Like flesh, like this gun. Beautiful and strong at the same time.”
The airplane got closer, plowing its way through the moonlit fields, a night farmer showering seeds across the stark sands.
“Red lips,” Soldier #2 stated again, his hand now placed on the trigger. “Just thinking about them. Red’s powerful. It’s a man’s color, red is. The color of life. The color of death.”
The engine of the fighter plane approached quickly, breaking through the sky with urgency. Its propellers roared like a striped hyena.
Soldier #1 pushed his helmet over his eyes slightly, the dark shade of his visor limiting his sight to see only in shadows. “Do you think we’re going to die?” he asked, turning his darkened gaze to his comrade.
“Red’s the color of the skies at sunset when they’re melting into the coast,” Soldier #2 replied, now pointing the M-16 towards the sky. “Have you ever been to California?”
Sweat poured down Soldier #1’s face as he turned to answer his companion. “I’ve been to the Redwood Forests once, up North by Monterey Bay. I was driving cross country with my family that summer. I must’ve been six- maybe seven. I hadn’t thought about them till now. How beautiful they were, tall and sturdy. And with the sunset behind them. Just like you said, melting or burning.”
Overhead, the airplane bellowed, coming closer and closer to its target with each passing second. Its wings shadowed the moon like a winter eclipse.
Soldier #2 moved his M-16 to the left, accidentally caressing the dark thigh of his fellow combatant. “It’s getting closer,” he stated, his voice lost in the howl of the plane’s engine.
Gasping with adrenaline and fright, Soldier #1 recollected to himself, “Beautiful and strong at the same time.” Soldier #1 moved closer to his comrade, the plane now whirling its propellers so loudly that his helmet was pushed over his nose, allowing only his lips to feel the biting mid-eastern air. “Like the forests,” he said, his breath now gasping in synch with the engine’s moans. “Like the melting coast ”
The M-16 that was caressing Soldier #1’s leg now crept further up his thigh as Soldier #2 pushed closer in response to the roaring. “The color of the red dunes in this desert, like blood in quicksand like death,” he whispered close to Soldier #1’s lips, leaning in to kiss him as the plane dropped its first line of bombs. Flames exploded in the arid night air, their embers burning the crisp desert sands.
Soldier #2 howled as the two soldiers tumbled in the dunes, sweat and dust sticking to their bodies. “We’re dying!” he wept, his M-16 shining amidst the camouflage of his accomplice.
“I’m burning!” Soldier #1 panted in between breaths of hot crimson and liquid metal.
From above, emerging from the blinding stars and blazing expanse came a clear, strong voice as the bombing stopped. A beautiful herald of the sky.
“We are the United States Army,” it said. “We are giving you one last chance to surrender. Send your flare into the air if you intend to do as we suggest.” The voice was free and crisp despite the plane’s wail.
“I would rather have a Heart,” Soldier #1 decided, shaking the sand off of his body and looking at his comrade.
Soldier #2 moved quickly, removing his flare from his backpack and releasing it into the sky with fervor. Its red, white and blue sparks punctured the night sky to illuminate the plane’s sturdy wings and metallic exterior.
“We thought all of our own had evacuated these parts. It’s your lucky day, Soldier,” The messengers called from the sky. “We have room for one.”
Looking up at the magnificent plane, its engine roared overhead as the steel sheen shined moonlight in his eyes, Soldier #2 picked up his M-16 and pointed it at his companion’s heart.
“There is no place for faggots here,” he said, pulling the trigger as Soldier #1 lifted his helmet above his eyes, his body falling into the sand below, vanishing with the ginger winds.
Soldier #2 smiled. “I’m coming!” he yelled, sending his last flare into the night sky.
“The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct, or who by their statements demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impair the accomplishment of the military mission.”
– http://dont.stanford.edu/cases/shalom2.pdf (pp. 6)